by Richard Berry
When serious knee injury ended Mark Braunack's ten-year Aussie Rules football career he could have given in to despair or resentment, but he chose to see it as an opportunity to move into something else. Although change can often be unsettling, now, with many years of hindsight, Mark's present situation is a combination of thinking back in appreciation and looking forward in anticipation.
"I am not worried about the future," he says confidently, knowing life is full of changes. "Because I know how God has led my life in the past."
Mark was brought up in the church, in a warm Christian home, situated in the picturesque Barossa in South Australia. He sees that sort of childhood as a solid launch pad for a successful life.
Mark made a personal commitment to Jesus as a child. "I can honestly say I have always felt close to the Lord. Sure there are times when God seemed distant but He was not the one who moved!"
Mark sees the jobs he has had as practical expressions of his love for God. "It's all based on that relationship," he encourages. "You must meet the Lord for yourself [in order to make sense of your life]."
After the football injury, Mark became a boundary umpire, then a field umpire with the South Australian Amateur League competition. He is still adding to his 550-game career.
Professionally, Mark worked first in rehabilitation with those in hospital for extended periods.
Since then he has spent 14 years working as an activities co-ordinator for a home for the intellectually disabled in Adelaide. "They are some of the loveliest people you could ever meet," he says with fondness. "I was lost at first, asking God 'how do I relate here?' but He gave me His love for them."
One of the activities he started was a weekly Christian fellowship meeting, at which he found "the residents' understanding of spiritual teaching, amazing".
Mark says that one of the best changes in his life was meeting and marrying Janet, whom he met in church youth group. "Janet is a real strength, together with my two lovely daughters of whom I am very proud," he enthuses.
"I cannot imagine now not being a Christian. Looking back, I realise [all along, through all the changes] I was fulfilling God's plan for my life. Plans to give me a hope and a future, as the Bible says in Jeremiah 29:11, and I often wonder where the path leads now. It's a matter of trust.
"Faith in God means the world to me," he concludes. "It makes sense of my life – whether I'm looking forward or looking back."•