Reggae Singer finds 'One Love'
By Randy Rudder
The 700 Club
CBN.com-“It was in reggae music that I thought I found the perfect marriage of using the drug of my choice and a music that quoted from the Bible, which is what my parents were always having me read,” says Mark Mohr, founder and lead vocalist of the Christian reggae band, Christafari.
“Reggae music is inherently spiritual,” Mark says. “Unlike so many other musics, they quote scripture all the time. Obviously they misquote scripture, but they basically say that it’s okay to smoke marijuana, and you do that in order to get close to God, or ‘Jah,’ as they call him,” he adds.
Mark grew up just south of L.A. in the 1980s, where he says he was a classic California stoner: “My early pre-teens and then in my teenage years, I became a real rebel. It started off with marijuana, and escalated to cocaine, eventually to crack and crystal meth, Mark admits. “I was growing marijuana in my parent’s back yard. I was dealing marijuana. I was a messed-up kid.”
Mark’s parents were Christians, but he says he couldn’t relate to them. “I guess I couldn’t relate to the true joy that was inside of them because I didn’t have that inside me because I was using drugs,” Mark says. “As I look back in my life, I realize that there are two crucial things that would cause someone to do drugs or to stray away. One is trying to fit in. In my case, I was trying to fit in with an older crowd; I was trying to be accepted. And the other is trying to escape.”
His parents’ efforts to get Mark into a drug rehab program were unsuccessful and often led to intense confrontations. Once Mark ran away for an entire summer.
“I started to find where the parties were, and I would spend the night at the parties, and that was easy to do in the summer, but not so easy after that,” he says. “Sometimes I would just wake up on the beach. I was basically homeless.”
Mark’s parents eventually talked him into coming home. “They told me, ‘Just come back home. We just need you back home. We want you to be safe. We want you to be healthy,’ Mark remembers. “So I accepted their invitation.” But they had a caveat: “Every Wednesday I would sit in their living room and that they would have me read the Bible with them, and share the word of God with me.”
When Mark was 16, he discovered his true passion during a family vacation. His parents came to him and asked where they should go on vacation. “Of course I said Jamaica,” Mark says laughing. “My next-door neighbor was Jamaican, and I loved marijuana. And I knew that Jamaica was well-known for its high grade marijuana.”
But pot wasn’t the only thing about Jamaica that fascinated Mark. “Jamaica was where I first got introduced to the Rasta culture and to reggae music,” he says. “And it was in Jamaica that this bug started in me to do reggae music, and eventually I would start to write songs.”
Mark’s drug use, however, continued through high school. Then one summer, his parents talked him into going to a Christian camp in northern California. There, he met a camp counselor named Marcus. “One of the things that drew me to Marcus was, we liked the same kind of music. We had the same past. We had so much in common, and it was the commonalities that made me connect with him,” Mark recalls. “Then one day, I looked at him and I said, ‘There’s something different between you and me’. What’s the difference?’” Marcus simply told him, “It’s the love of God,” Mark recalls. “It was then that I realized that he had something that I needed. He had something that I had been searching for all these years. He had hope in his life. He had a future.”
At that point, something in Mark broke. “Right after that, I heard a modern day rendition of the prodigal son. And this guy had done all the stuff that I had done. He had run away. He had done the drugs. Yet his father had accepted him with open arms. And I realized at that moment that not only had my earthly father accepted me with open arms, but my heavenly father had,” Mark says. “So I fell to my knees, and I prayed the sinner’s prayer with tears in my eyes, but this time it was going to be different. I was going to read the Bible every day, and I was going to just submerse myself in God’s word and spend time with God every day. And that was the difference.”
When Mark got home, he began inviting his friends to his house to study the Bible. He says his encounter with Marcus taught him to relate the gospel in a way they could understand. “One of the coolest things about what Marcus said to me was that he didn’t preach the Gospel to me. This was the first time when I asked the question. He gave an answer because I asked a question. And I wouldn’t have asked the question if I didn’t see a manifestation of Christ in him that drew me.”
Mark also credits the power of praying parents in his eventual turnaround. “My parents never gave up on me. They were relentless. They pursued me in love and in discipline, united as a front. They came to me with the love and compassion of Christ,” Mark says.
Later that year, Mark shared his testimony at another Christian camp, and a casual remark by a worship team leader changed the course of his life.
“I asked the worship team at the camp if they could back me and do some reggae,” Mark remembers. “They said, ‘We’ll try.’ And it was pretty embarrassing, but the bassist looked at me said, ‘So you’re not a Rastafarian anymore; you’re a Christ-afarian.’ And that was the beginning of Christafari.”
Since then, Mark and his band, Christafari, have recorded 16 albums and won numerous awards. “We’ve been to 46 states, 53 countries, played before the President of the United States, at two Olympic games, and our most recent album was #2 on the Billboard charts. We’ve had some tremendous opportunities to reach Rastas, and to see Rastas give their lives to Christ.”
During that time, Mark also met and married singer Avion Blackman, who sings and performs with him in Christafari “The Lord has done some incredible things through a vision that he imparted in me at a simple youth camp through a man just giving an answer to his faith,” Mark says. “We’re touring the world, doing a music that we love, with a wife that I love, for a Lord that I love, ministering to people that I love. It’s a wild ride. It’s an adventure following Christ. But it’s the best decision I ever made.”
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