I first met Rob at Elon in the spring of 1993. Rob was a freshman then, and he began coming to our worship service that we held on campus. I loved his sense of humor and his accent. We spent a lot of time together over the next three and a half years. Rob and his new girlfriend, Amy, would come to the Fox house to have a meal, play with our kids and just take a break from schoolwork. Then, one of the highlights for me in our relationship happened June 29, 1996, when I was able to help officiate their wedding. They said “I do” and the Lord planted them in northern Virginia and later in Maryland, where they still live today.
But the miles couldn’t keep us apart. There have been many times over the past 17 years when Rob and Amy, with their two children, have driven down to see us. There have also been three times when Rob and I have been on the mission field together. The first happened in 2006, when Rob was going to meet our team from Antioch in Nairobi. And we didn’t show up. It wasn’t on purpose, but a delayed flight in Raleigh caused us to miss a flight in Boston — which made us a day late getting to Nairobi. With a nod to David Platt, from whom I first heard a variation of this comment: “God is sovereign (when it comes to delayed flights or anything else). But American Eagle was responsible.” So, Rob arrived in the Nairobi airport right on time, only to find that there was no one there to meet him and all he had was the name of the guest house where we would all be staying. Even though Rob is a federal agent who apprehends criminals and carries a gun, this unnerved him a little. He went outside and tried to ignore all the people who wanted to carry his bags (for a fee), and was able to find a taxi. When he made it to the Methodist Guest House, they had no idea who he was because the rooms were in my name. He convinced them that, yes, he really did know Mark Fox and no, he had no idea where I was, and could he please take his bags to his room? It was about that time that Cindy was able to get a call through from Burlington and let Rob know what was going on. I told Cindy that I wish she had called Rob and said something like, “Mark heard that you went to Nairobi THIS week instead of next!”
The second time we went to Africa together, Rob insisted that we meet on this side of the ocean and travel together. We did, and had a great time of ministry in Zimbabwe. Then in January of this year, Rob and his daughter, Meredith, met my family and others from our church in Miami, where we flew to Colombia for 10 days of ministry on the island of Bocachica.
We talked about all of that last week as Cindy and I, with two of our children, were able to go up to Maryland for a visit with our good friends. What a blessing to spend time in their home, worship with them on Sunday morning and see the impact they are making in their community.
The Bible says Christ came to “purify for Himself a people for His own possession who are zealous for good works.” You could put Rob and Amy’s picture right there.
J. Mark Fox is the author of “A Faithful Man” and the pastor of Antioch Community Church on Power Line Road in Elon. You can Tweet him @jmarkfox and can find all of Mark’s books on Amazon or other online sellers. Email Mark at firstname.lastname@example.org