Pastor Mark’s Biography
Early religious experience
My name is Mark Mandarano and I grew up just outside of Philadelphia, PA in the United States of America. I was raised as a Roman Catholic and for the most part I attended church and was a follower of my faith.However, my faith really did not make much of an impact on my life. Although I was taught as a Catholic to obey the Ten Commandments, and to love my neighbor, I simply did not live this way. Even before I was a teenager I was involved with all kinds of mischief and rebel rousing which included blowing up mailboxes with explosives and playing hooky from school.
Despite my actions, I still remained faithful to the Catholic Church and hoped that God would help me to change my ways. I was taught that when I completed my Confirmation*, God would change my life for good. I still vividly remember a priest telling the confirmation class after being confirmed the Holy Spirit would enter into our lives and change us into godly people. By faith I believed the Priest and was really excited about this.
I was ashamed of the way I was living, I knew God loved me, and I wanted to make Him proud of me. After being confirmed I purchased all kinds of religious medallions. My peers in school asked me why I was trying to act so holy. I told them that I was confirmed and I was a new person under the power of the Holy Spirit. However my class mates just laughed at me and told me I would just be the same old Mark Mandarano. Although I was devastated about the remarks and tried to prove them wrong, their remarks proved to be true. I continued to live an ungodly life, which honestly got even worse than before. In my early teens I began to experiment with drugs and alcohol. I was drunk on a weekly basis, and on a few occasions, I was under the influence of alcohol while attending school. This drinking pattern continued through my high school years.
When I was 19 years old I attended West Chester University in West Chester, PA. I went with an attitude of cleaning up my life and staying out of trouble. For the first year or so I was able to do just that. I was attending Mass; I stopped drinking and was involved with sports. For the most part I was living a clean life. However, I soon succumbed to the temptations which surrounded a young college student. I stopped going to church and once again was living a life that made me ashamed of myself before a God who loved me so much. I tried to clean my act up one more time.
I began attending Mass again hoping this would help. I remember sitting in Mass hoping the homily given by the priest would rebuke me and my peers for the evil lives that we were living. However, instead of rebuking us, he taught us that the more we sin, the closer we would be drawn to God. I remember being indignant after that message and expressing my disbelief with my friends. They didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with the message or with the way we were living our lives. This was really discouraging to me. I saw my own sin and the sins of my friends as wicked.
Yet there didn’t seem to be anyone that thought this type of lifestyle was wrong. I also didn’t see any hope in my life changing and at this point of my life I wasn’t even sure what was morally good or what was evil. This was a very dark period in my life. I was in so much despair, and felt so lonely, that I often contemplated suicide. Looking back at this time I can clearly state that is was only the grace and mercy of God that would not allow me to carry out this tragic act.
I was in this period of despair for about a year. Then in February of 1988, my life changed dramatically. A college roommate asked me a very simple but pointed question about where I would go when I died. I told him I thought I would go to heaven because I was a good person (I compared myself to people who were more wicked than me). He then began to explain the gospel to me emphasizing that all of my righteous deeds were as filthy rags, and that I needed to trust Christ as my personal Savior. At first I resisted the things he was telling me, as I didn’t think a merciful God would send me to hell. However, I began to ponder the truth that I probably deserved to go to hell and God would be just in sending me there. Therefore, I began to ask this roommate a lot of questions about salvation. He then gave me a Bible and a booklet and told me to work my way through the two books as they would have the answers to these questions.
I immediately went to my bedroom and began to work through the Bible, guided by the booklet. Here I learned I was a sinner that had broken God’s commandments and deserved to go to hell. I also understood that the Lord Jesus died on the cross for those sins. Finally, I came to a verse in the Bible that I will never forget! 1 John 5:11-12 states, “And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.”
At that moment I realized in a personal way that I was a lost sinner in need of a Savior. I knew beyond a shadow of doubt if I died that moment I was going to hell and deserved to go there. I also recognized that the Lord Jesus was God, and He was the only one that could rescue me from hell. By faith I took Him as my personal Savior and asked Him to come into my life and make me the person He wanted me to be. I knew at that moment that my sins were forgiven, and that God had granted me a home in heaven with Him.
For the first time in my life I had a peace and contentment. I also knew that Christ was now Lord of my life and was in complete control of everything that happened to me. I now had a purpose, and that purpose was to serve the Lord. I read my Bible with great enthusiasm, and yielded all of my life to Him. I now wanted to know what He desired and was eager to do whatever pleased Him.
It was so exciting to know that I now had the ability to live the Christian life. I had desired this before, but was trying to live this life under my own power. Now I was under the power of God, and He has continued to change my life ever since that memorable night. Although the college roommate who was instrumental in leading me to Christ left the university the following semester, the Lord did not leave me alone. Through a friend the Lord led me to Bible Baptist Church. It was at this church, under Pastor E. Allen Griffith that I would learn scriptures and how to apply them to my life. It was also at this church where I would learn the importance of the local church ministry in my life. Not only was I taught the word of God but I was also edified by other believers and taught the importance of ministering to others.
The Call into the Ministry
While attending Bible Baptist Church I graduated from West Chester University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Criminal Justice. I was working in this field when some godly men from the church began to challenge me to consider the ministry as a full time job. Although I was very content in my vocation I was open to whatever God wanted to do with my life, and began to seek His will in regard to this matter. In a period of about six months to a year the Lord began to change my desires concerning my vocation. I no longer was content in this career and really started desiring to go into the ministry. If fact the desire was so strong that I knew I would not be happy doing anything else but full-time ministry. Therefore I surrendered to the call of full time ministry.
I then enrolled at Bible Baptist School of theology in September of 1990 and graduated in June 1993 with a Certificate of Ministry. Although the schooling was at times intense and difficult, I praise the Lord for what I was taught as it prepared me greatly for the ministry. 1993 was a very important year for me as not only did I graduate from Bible School, but I also married my wife Connie. I met her at Bible Baptist church and married her upon her graduation from a Christian University. I thank the Lord for my wife and her willingness to do whatever God asked of her. She has always had a desire to be involved with the ministry, and was burdened to serve in a foreign country long before I was open to it. I also thank the Lord for our four children as they are a tremendous blessing to me, and a constant reminder of God’s goodness in my life.
Connie and I began Tullamore Bible Church in January of 2004 as we saw the need of having a solid Bible believing Church in this town. We both know the importance of the local church and the impact it can make on our lives. We believe the Lord has prepared us well for this endeavour. Since being married Connie and I have served in the ministry in some capacity. I was an assistant Pastor prior to coming to Ireland for a number of years at Chadds Ford Baptist Church. I also served as the minister of outreach at Bible Baptist Church. Shortly after arriving in Ireland in April 2000, we started a church in Portlaoise. This church was started with Mike and Cathy Tardive with Mike serving as the Senior Pastor and I as his assistant. This was a great opportunity to serve with an experienced and successful church planter and gave both Connie and I valuable insight to the Irish culture.