Soulful singer-songwriter Mark Wagner releases an EP this week. NEEDLOVE is an album devoted to expressing our need for love and the type of love God offers and desires for us. The album is unique in that its available exclusively through the Mocha Club, a non-profit organization designed to help those in need in Africa. Those who partner with Wagner and Mocha Club, supporting Women at Risk in Ethiopia, will receive his album free, along with an exclusive music video, lyrics and chord charts, as well as monthly communication from Wagner and Mocha Club about how their contribution is impacting lives in Africa. Existing Mocha Club members can also receive NEEDLOVE for free simply by inviting friends to join.
Watch the sweet video below for his song “Gonna Be With You,” with footage from his wedding.
Mark was kind enough to put his thoughts on paper for us as to how his music and Mocha Club intersect. In this week’s guest blog, Mark has a story to tell you…
In 2008, along with some other friends from the Mocha Club, I boarded a plane in Nashville, flew across the Atlantic Ocean to a small town in Northern Uganda called Gulu. I remember that flight to Gulu. I remember thinking to myself, “Where in the world are we? Am I gonna make it out of here alive?” Gulu is approximately seventy miles south of the southern Sudan border in East Africa. I knew that for the past thirty years these Ugandan and Sudanese people had been ravaged by the LRA (Lord’s Resistance Army), which was led by Joseph Kony, and was most well known for murdering whole villages of people and kidnapping the children into a life of bondage. These were their stories, and as I listened to them, their message became clearer to me. These were stories of desperation and stories of hope.
For the first time in my life I saw true desperation. I met men on the street whose legs and arms had been cut off by rebel soldiers, and who had been left for dead in the burning streets of the villages they grew up in. I met women who, as young girls, were kidnapped into a life of slavery, continuously raped by young male officers in the rebel army. I met former boy soldiers who told me that as children they were forced to watch as their parents were murdered, and then they were brainwashed into believing that their mission in life was to do the same to their friends in the neighboring villages. These people were desperate to tell their stories to the world.
While in Gulu, I visited a men’s Bible study, led by an organization called Action International, called the “Men of Courage.” They shared their stories. Theirs were the stories of all who had seen the atrocities of war and had lived to tell about it. These men were former child soldiers in the LRA, and they had since been rescued from their life of slavery into a new life of going deeper in their relationship with their Creator. These men were learning the true meaning of redemption, and they had seen, with their own eyes, the face of Christ as they themselves hung on crosses of shame, and they were set free to live a new life, as new creatures. I was inspired as I listened to the stories of how they escaped, how they found a new home, and how they learned how to live again. These men had found new life and hope in Jesus Christ, and they longed for their brothers and sisters to experience this same hope.
I returned to Nashville two weeks later and began to re-evaluate some things in my life. Why do I write songs? Why do I sing? I found my answer sitting at a men’s Bible study in Gulu, Uganda. Those men had found hope in Jesus. They had experienced new life, and they had lived to tell the story. Now, my job is to keep telling that story. My job is to keep telling the story that Jesus Christ lived, He died, and He rose again so that my friends in Gulu, Uganda can experience new life. Jesus lives so that we can all experience new life. I must keep telling the story. –Mark Wagner