Mark Mirek’s conversion story is really the story of three people—Mirek, his wife, Diana, and their friend Ken Knoechel.
As children of the 1960’s, they were avowed hippies—committed to partying, drinking and doing drugs. None of them believed in a loving God who died to save them. Now, 43-years later, their lives are dramatically different. What happened?
Mark was educated in a conservative Protestant Christian academy in Chicago, Ill.. Though they studied the Bible at the academy, it didn’t mean much to him.
“It wasn’t a part of my life,” he said. The notion of a devil was a big joke to me. And, if there was no devil, then God was responsible for everything that was happening in the world” he says. I knew I could do a better job than Him in running the Universe,” he laughed.
These thoughts led Mark to become an atheist, and deny the existence of God.
While living in Chicago after college, Mark met Diana, his future wife. Raised Catholic, Diana didn’t have much interest in God. She was attending college in Cincinnati, so Mark moved there to be with her. The couple often double dated with Diana’s room-mate and her Adventist-by-heritage boyfriend, Ken Knoechel.
Divorced and discouraged, Ken struggled with God. “My life wasn’t working out according to the script, so I chose a hedonistic life. I decided that if there was a God, he knew how to reach me.”
On September 20, 1973, the three found themselves sitting in Diana’s apartment late one evening, discussing the fate of the world. On the television news they had just been reminded of the Cold War, the Oil Crisis, the war in Vietnam, Watergate, and the military coup in Chile. Disillusioned, Mark turned to Ken “Why are you so interested in money and the future? With the possibility of nuclear war, the environment, and a poor economy, the world can’t last more than five or ten years!”
As Ken pondered the question, the coals of truth from his Adventist heritage—long dormant— burst into a tiny flame. “If there’s an answer to what’s going to happen to this world, it’s in the Bible” said Ken.
The room fell into a stunned silence, none more than Ken who couldn’t believe those words had just come from his mouth.
“You have got to be kidding!” said Mark & Diana. “The Bible?”
“Well, I’ll tell you what I know” said Ken, “And you can decide.” It was as if God put it into Ken’s heart to share the gospel with these two atheists. And it may have been the only way to reach them, they would never read the Bible on their own volition, or even more unlikely, step into a church. That night, Ken became a modern counterpart of Balaam’s donkey.
He spent the rest of the night revealing the plan of salvation—from Genesis, to the cross, to the final crisis. It was as if God had said to Ken, "You are the only person who could reach these two rebellious atheist hippies."
Searching the Scriptures
“When he was done, our hearts were won,” said Mark. “When Ken shared the gospel with us, it was the first time I’d ever heard the story from beginning to end,” said Diana. “I’d heard bits and pieces, but never the fall of Lucifer to the Coming of Christ—and everything in between. When he got to the part about the cross, I saw Jesus hanging there and, for the first time in my life, knew in my heart that if I was the only human being on earth He had to save, He would have gone through it all just for me,” she said of the life-transforming experience. “I knew that I couldn’t just go to church once a week and put my religion on a shelf for the rest of the week; there was going to be drastic changes in all of my activities, if this was true.”
Mark and Diana, avowed skeptics, still had questions. In an effort to prove their friend wrong, they went out and bought Bibles the very next day. They started reading them. Within three months Mark had read from Genesis through Revelation. He kept a notebook of questions and wrote down the answers as they were revealed in Scripture. Everything made so much sense. He realizes now that his old notebook held the basic fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. And Ken was testing them. He would ask questions like:
"What does the Bible say about what happens when you die? What day does the Bible set aside as the day of rest and worship?"
He would let them find the answers on their own. Ken was studying too. “As we talked about the plan of salvation, I began to see it for myself,” he stated. “For months I knew something was horribly wrong in my life. My experience with Mark and Diana, led me to Christ as well.”
Ken gave the couple copies of several books, including Uriah Smith’s Daniel and Revelation and Ellen White’s The Great Controversy. “When I read Ellen White’s book, I was hearing the same voice I heard when I was reading the Bible,” said Mark. “She spoke with the same degree of inspiration as Paul or Ezekiel.” Mark and Diana began keeping the Sabbath in their own way while searching for a church. They visited numerous churches but none emphasized the return of Jesus.
That’s when Ken invited them to visit the Germantown (Ohio) church, led by lay pastor Walter Wright. “We went there looking like the Mod Squad—with long hair and bellbottoms with patches,” laughed Mark. “But we were welcomed with open arms.”
Music was a big part of their lives, and Mark said the music at Germantown was fabulous. Best of all the congregation talked about Jesus and His Second Coming. The three friends were baptized on December 31, 1973—four months after meeting Jesus for the first time in that Cincinnati living room. “Even though it’s been over 40 years, we’re still excited about Jesus,” he says.
Knowing that salvation is only through Christ’s righteousness still inspires me today,” Mark says. Mark was a teacher at the Piqua Seventh-day Adventist School for over 40-years, retiring in 2017. Diana, once a stay-at-home mother, worked as a speech pathologist in the public school system after their daughters graduated.
“If I hadn’t met Christ, I question whether I’d be alive, contributing to society, and raising a family,” Mark said. “This Adventist message has given real meaning and purpose to our lives.” We can’t imagine life without Him.”
"I know not why God's wondrous grace, to me He hath made known. Nor why unworthy, Christ in love, redeemed me for His own."