A member of Penobscot First Nation, Mark grew up in Maine, the oldest of four children, enjoying extended family, the outdoors, and sports. But by his teen years things changed.
“The things of the world and friends meant more than family,” recalls Mark. He moved to New York City for art school … “lost in a philosophical maze, searching for real meaning in life.” While away, an uncle began witnessing to his family. One by one, they received Christ. Soon Mark, too, searched the Scriptures and found Jesus as the missing piece.
At Bible school in New Brunswick, Mark committed to serving the Lord “anyway and anywhere.” His desire for ministry was heightened by visiting missionaries. Also, Mark’s dad worked at a First Nations Bible camp one summer. The following year the whole Dana family joined him. “God sensitized my heart to the unique history and social condition of First Nations people,” Mark says. He followed up with some of the youth after camp in their New Brunswick community, and joined NCEM to continue that work.
It was at missionary candidate training that Mark met Ruth Anna. Ruth Anna was a younger child in a large family from Oshawa (ON). Her childhood memories include lots of time outdoors, and an after school neighbourhood Bible club where, “Mrs. Lainson’s exciting Bible stories brought me to the understanding of my need for forgiveness from sin,” she recalls. The following year her family separated, and Ruth Anna and her mother and two younger sisters moved. “Knowing Christ brought stability to my life,” she says. “The Person I could always depend on was Christ.”
In sixth grade Ruth Anna gained an interest in First Nations people. She knew from then on that she wanted to be a missionary. As a teen she met a First Nations boy in foster care, and it was his life story that prompted her to join the North American Indian prayer group when she enrolled at Prairie Bible College. That’s where she learned about the various missions working among First Nations, and met Art & Martha Tarry, who were recruiting for NCEM’s summer program.
She spent two summers with NCEM, which helped her to make a career decision. “By this time I knew several missionaries and was impressed by their dedication and enthusiasm,” she says. It was 1981 that Mark & Ruth Anna joined NCEM as single missionaries. After their wedding they began ministry together in New Brunswick.
A visit from NCEM founder Stan Collie in 1985 sparked an interest in ministry to French-speaking First Nations. They made a decision to move to Quebec in 1992. Language learning has opened many doors in ministry, they say. “It has laid the foundation for solid ministry, and a clearer understanding of the people we work with.”