Twenty years ago, when the Bank of Parrish changed ownership, Mark Wilson was facing unemployment. In the process, he learned to face his fear, trust, and do what God was leading him to do. He started a bank.
Words by Terrell Manasco | Image by Blakeney Clouse
C.B. Wilson was a senior in high school when he began his banking career in 1937. Two weeks before his 16thbirthday, C.B. went to work for Daisy Colvin Walker, manager of the Bank of Parrish. Mark Wilson, C.B.’s son, joined his dad at the bank full-time in 1969 after earning his degree in finance and business administration at the University of Alabama. Father and son worked alongside each other for 21 years until C.B. retired in 1990.
Although the Wilsons managed the business, they were not the owners. When the bank was sold in 1999, Mark, then 55, was haunted by the specter of unemployment. Wracked with worry, he was troubled with frequent stomachaches. For three months, he could not sleep. Fear consumed him.
“It’s important here for me to say that what followed was not because I was or am a great Christian,” Mark says. “On the contrary, I am a sinner, just saved by grace, falling short every day of what God requires of me.”
Having been active in church all his life, Mark turned to his Bible for comfort and guidance. One morning as he sat reading around 2 a.m., something got his attention. “I read a verse that said, ‘Cast your burdens on the Lord and He will be faithful to take them,’”Mark recalls. “I was so distraught and devoid of hope that I said, ‘Okay, Lord, I trust Your word is true. I give this burden to You. I cannot handle it on my own.’ For the first time in my life, I actually gave it to Him, fully, completely, and totally.”
Mark woke up a few hours later, still in his chair. He got dressed and went to work that day as usual, not knowing if it was his last day on the job. That evening, he came home and had dinner as he normally did. Later, he went to bed.
The next morning, Mark woke up feeling very different. “Something had changed,” he says. “I first realized that I had slept all night for the first time in three months. I no longer had a gnawing, aching stomach. The second thing I recognized was, I did not know what was going to happen with my job or with my life, but I knew that I knew that I knew that it was going to be alright. Clearly, the ‘peace that passes all understanding’ had been poured into me by a merciful God, something only He could do.”
Months went by. Mark continued his routine of going to work every day, confident that all would work out somehow. Still, he had questions about his future. “Even though I knew it was going to be alright, my question became, ‘Okay, Lord, I know it’s going to be alright, but what am I going to do?’” Mark says. “He let this steep in my pot for several months before actually revealing it to me. Here’s what He said: ‘I want you to do what you do best—get back in the banking business, but not a bank that you get credit for. Give Me the total credit.’”
Mark had no idea how to start a bank. What he did know was that undertaking such an epic task would require him to cast aside all his doubts and take a giant leap of faith.
“I replied, ‘Lord, I’ve worked in a bank all my life. I don’t have a clue as to how to start one, but if You lead, I will follow,’” Mark says. “I gathered my son, Walker, by my side and we began to follow. We are today following, failing, getting up, asking forgiveness, but always trusting His mercy and grace, knowing that in this life on earth….it is about trust and obedience. Getting to that place of trust and obedience is hard, but He is more than capable.”
Five years later, the Bank of Walker County opened for business in March 2004. Mark says his experience taught him a valuable lesson. “I learned that God cannot move until we get out of the way. We’ve got to quit trying to control everything and only trust Him,” he says.
Today, Mark is no longer plagued with sleepless nights. Worry has been defeated. Fear has lost its grip on him. “Sometimes we can only look up when we are flat on our back,” he says. “God doesn’t care about my bank any more than any other. What He does care about is our trust and obedience. Glory to God, He is faithful. When you are gripped with fear, just call on the name of Jesus to deliver you. If you get out of the way, and truly turn it over to Him, He will not fail you.
“My job is to tell the story,” Mark adds, “and so I am.” 78