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Gary DeVaul Writings

August 2003  |  September 2003
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January 2004

Friday, October 3, 2003 2:46 AM CDT

Greetings all on this, the second day of October, and what feels like the 5th day of winter for us in the East! I woke up in Pittsburgh this morning to 29 degrees! I trust that the brutal Southern California winter will not be too harsh on you all.

Mark is, of course, busier than ever. He is learning new ways to manage his energy, since he has less of it than before. He is even more disciplined in "getting the task completed" now that he has a limited amount of time and strength at his disposal. The calendar is full, the emails keep coming, and Mark loves every second of it. Here are a few highlights of the past week: An organ concert with friends Pam & Les Barnhart (see the new pictures of them) at The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, where surprisingly our friend Kemp Smeal was the organist! (Kemp also accompanied their daughter Amy for her senior voice recital at Vanguard.) Errands to the bank, Target, the grocery, and Vroman's bookstore; replacing the gym bag lost in the accident; lunch with friends Ed & Martha Elliot; appointments with the his Primary Care Physician; dinner with John West; dessert and meeting with organist friend Weston Harris; bill paying; writing of Thank You notes; laundry; dinner at Conrad's in Pasadena on Thursday nights with fellow church musicians from the area. Whew! I'm already tired just thinking about it all. This is everyday life, is it not? For Mark, and of course for us all. 'Busy-ness' indeed. Let's take a moment to pray for Mark in this area. Pray for his time and energy management, that he not overdo himself, yet be able to accomplish the things that need to be done. That he is able to fully utilize his rest time and that God would strengthen Mark to continue ministering to those around him, in more than just musical ways.

Last week there was a meeting of the Trust Fund committee. Let me take a moment to introduce them to you, just so you know who is managing the contributions to the fund: Paul Bandy, Lois Dalke Williams, Leigh Trenham, Lois Bock, Marilyn Fontana, John West, Judy MacLeod and Fred Swann. Fred was unable to attend but will be visited by Mark in Palm Springs sometime this month. These are the individuals to collectively direct the spending of the money and coordinate responses of gratitude to each of you who contribute. Please pray for them by name, that God would show them how wisest to support the ministry of Mark with the tremendous resources that have been graciously provided by so many. The committee also wishes to express their appreciation for the hard work and efforts of Gary DeVaul, John West, and Jeremy McElroy for their wonderful writings on the website and especially to Alicia Steinhaus for her generous offering of time and expertise as the webmaster.

As most of you know, is a not for profit organization. The ability to bring our community together would not have been as effective without this site. Mark wants you to know that he will be making a contribution to He encourages any of you who might feel so led to do the same. Please see the link at the bottom of this page for more information. Also, feel free to take a moment and experience some of the other people's stories that has made possible. We have been in the process of conceptualizing a new website, something like While nothing is set in stone as of yet, it looks like we may be able to get this project moving very soon. God has provided a gracious financier for the project. God has provided the skills and technical expertise necessary. Mark will, of course, be the final one to determine the content. Please pray for this endeavor. Pray that we take the project in a direction that is pleasing to God, encouraging for Mark and beneficial for all of you.

Our final area of prayer need this week is for some specific health issues for Mark. He is SO grateful that his phantom pain has decreased significantly. The medication he takes for it has virtually no side effects, but he would like to be taking less. Just a day ago, his dosage of Neurontin was reduced from 1000mgs to 600mgs. Please pray that God will wean Mark off the medication soon. Also, he has an appointment in Orange County very soon about a major next-step: a prosthesis! Obviously, this is something that will be very significant. Please pray for the doctors' wisdom and for Mark's peace of mind. We will let you know soon what the next step for that will be. Of course, in typical Mark fashion, he would like the dial-a-tan version so that he could appropriately match the color of the prosthesis with that of the tan on his right arm!

Also, Mark would like you to know that driving with just his right arm is nothing new. You see, as a Californian, he had to pass the test where you drive with the right arm whilst talking on your cell phone with the left! So driving with no left left arm is old hat for him! The only things different are that he plans the day to avoid as much rush hour traffic as possible and he never parallel parks!

That's all for now, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. If you would like to send something to Mark in the mail, perhaps a simple card or bag of freeze dried chocolate ice cream (you know, so he can take it with him and eat it anytime!) please use the address found on this page for the Trust Fund. His little mailbox at home is just too small!


Tuesday, October 14, 2003 12:31 AM CDT

I am sitting here looking at a pamphlet of something I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be looking at. It is the Otto Bock Health Care pamphlet titled "Premier Solutions for the Art and Science of Myoelectrics Prosthetics". Talk about a title! Well, I'll get back to this in a minute... for now let's talk about the last couple of weeks.

Sunday morning September 28, Mark went to Bel Air Presbyterian in Los Angeles and was very warmly received at 8:30 by the choir. This is a church he has been associated with for many years on a substitute for Sunday services as well as memorials and weddings. In fact in the year 2000 he considered taking the job as a permanent position. As he was standing in front of the choir following their warm-up he was near the point of tears. The moving moment was shattered by me patting him on the part of his back closest to the shoulder where he lost his arm. This specific place causes shooting pain to be felt. And by then he was then able to have a short conversation with the choir without bursting into tears. :-)

The entire service seemed so well geared towards Mark's situation. From the Prelude [Rhosymedre one of his favorite pieces] to the hymns [Great Is Thy Faithfulness and Amazing Grace], through the text of the anthem [Be Thou My Vision since the numerous problems with his glasses from the accident were finally completed that week]. He also saw so many wonderful people plus a couple he went to Europe with in 1980! The pastor also welcomed Mark during his welcome time and throughout the morning he met many not in the choir who were also praying for him. He left fulfilled and energized!

From there he traveled to All Saints Episcopal Church, Beverly Hills to meet Gary DeVaul's son, Phil. They attended the 11:15 worship service there, grabbed a bite and then headed up to the home of the Dean of The Los Angeles Chapter of the American Guild Of Organists. William Beck was hosting a party for folks who give above the membership dues range of the Los Angeles Chapter and it was Mark's first chapter organized event back amongst his peers. He asked Phil and I to stay close, but literally after about 10 minutes he was running about without us greeting everyone he had not seen and going through all the events and emotions of the past 7 weeks. One unexpected and interesting thing that happened was a producer of a documentary on the organ talked to him about being the narrator. So now he will be able to add another ability to his resume - voice over artist.

After 3 hours of chatting and filling everyone in, it was time to head out and home, but not before running into James Buonemani, Music Director at St. James Episcopal Church. It was the first time they had had a chance to speak and another hour flew by. Eventually he got home that evening after an extremely full day.

Monday the 29th was a day of rest after giving an organ lesson. Still there was much to do around the house, so it was half rest and half organizational.

The next day Mark's friends who attended school with him at Central Bible College in Springfield Missouri met him for lunch. Rick and Sue Miller, who now live in Seattle, took him to the Huntington Ritz Carlton where he dined in style and leisure. Following that they took a short walk and then drove to The Church of Our Saviour, another place where Mark had substituted many times and was considering that position as well. There he saw many of the staff and again was indulged with love and prayers - the other two great healers outside of laughter [thanks for reminding us Gary]. He returned home to a call from the Doctor's office and the Prosthetic Office about the prostheses. His next appointment was Thursday. More about that towards the end on this entry. That evening he again attended Paul Bandy's Bible study which is becoming a regular source of inspiration for him, as well as an ever expanding family to him.

Friday October 3rd was another day of settling back in, with errands and a visit to the auto shop. Here he learned what we all have - that which was expected to be $50 turned quickly into $1100. [I keep forgetting to ask him about his steering wheel ball and if he ever got one]. Needless to say this was a disappointment but he is thankful that he can still even drive. Lunch and errands with his unfailing personal assistant Amy Tan and dinner with long time friend Paul Neumann.

Saturday was a fairly uneventful day after breakfast and shopping with cousins Joyce and Mark Pryor and their daughter Christy. He would need the afternoon and evening to rest since the next day he would attend the Crystal Cathedral. Without a doubt the place that is the most defining church experience of his life to this day and the most emotional reunion experience of this ordeal.< p align=justify>For those who do not know, Mark was assistant Director of Music and Organist at the Crystal Cathedral for 18 years. This day was going to be filled with so many emotions he was grateful for a good night sleep prior. He left his apartment around 7:00 and arrived in Garden Grove around 8:00. The ever capable Barbara Todd, his former assistant and who still works in the music department there, had everything well planned starting with a conversation with Albert McNeil and the Jubilee Singers. Mark became familiar with this group many times while working at the Cathedral.

From the Cathedral sanctuary they walked to the Robert Schuller Center where he met Ed and Martha Elliott [parents of Christian Elliott who now plays at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church] who took him to their Becomers Sunday School class where he spoke briefly.

Anne Waltz then showed him the new Visitor's Center, which includes the Book Center for Possibility Thinkers, where he delivered piano and organ CDs. Then Anne took him to the Homebuilders Sunday School class, which meets in the Art Gallery. He thanked them for their prayers and was able to stay for some of the lesson taught by Dennis Davis, former president of Northwest College, Kirkland, Washington.

Then off to meet cousin Karen, a friend of hers, plus dear friends Jan and Shelby Askman. Barbara Todd arranged to have reserved seats so they could visit with the Cathedral Choir downstairs in the choir room and then have a seat in the main sanctuary.

After they enjoyed a spectacular prelude with the Jubilee Singers, both Robert H. [senior] and Robert A. Schuller warmly welcomed him to the service. It was an extremely moving experience as the younger Schuller talked directly to Mark in his welcome while reminiscing back to his high school years. Mark was very surprised and honored when Robert A. used him as an example in his message on 'Mountain Moving Faith'. Then there was the powerful moment when Robert senior, on the verge of tears and remembering his own daughter's amputation experience] used Mark as a real example of turning his 'scars into stars'.

Also that morning he was also able to talk with Don Neuen and Johnnie Carl, co-ministers of music, as well as Christopher Pardini, senior organist, who dramatically played Mark's setting of Hyfrydol for the postlude. All in all a powerful welcome home.

"But wait, there's more......"

Following the service a gala luncheon was to be celebrated over at the local watering hole, Hof's Hut with around 30 people in attendance. Prior to Mark getting there he was assailed by many well wishers of the church who told him how meaningful the articles written by Gary DeVaul have been to them. As many of you know, Gary used to work at the church and that is how he and Mark came to know each other. But the crowning touch was having an unexpected and private prayer moment with Dr. Schuller. It is a moment and a time he will not soon forget.

The luncheon was exuberant and heartfelt filled with old friends remembering memories and stories. Nothing could have been more personal and pleasurable for Mark. Their time together ended about 3:00 and after driving back to Pasadena, Mark fell into bed; not to be heard from or seen for the rest of the evening.

As I said at the beginning of this update, I have before me a pamphlet on prosthetics telling me things that I never really wanted to know. But it does give me quite a bit more insight & thought into a lifestyle I would not have chosen to learn about. Mark has had 2 appointments and discussions with his doctor and the prosthetic office, both on the last 2 Thursdays. He also has continually been in touch with the insurance to see what is and is not covered. He has had tests to get an idea of the strength of his muscles that are in his shoulder that would normally operate his pectorals, biceps, triceps and scapula as well as hands, arms and fingers. Those muscles still receive direction from the brain and they can respond. These are the ones that he will use to manipulate his new device assuming they are strong enough. Should that not be the case then the muscles needed would be the ones on the upper back. These muscles would need to be trained for that job which would be more arduous, so we are hoping that he has the strength and flexibility of the shoulder ones. He has taken a few tests and is waiting on results.

Last Friday he went to a convention at the Renaissance Hotel at the Kodak Theater Complex in Hollywood where he saw and learned the different options. It was fascinating. There are things he saw that he would not ever have imagined, for example a hand he would wear at home for everyday work, a hand he would wear in social situations as well as a hand he might use for playing simple chords. Three different hands! As I look at these different devices called Microprocessor C-Hands and Greifers and ErgoArms, I cannot do anything but thank God that this is available to him. The magic of the 21st Century is VERY real.

Very real, available and very expensive. It looks like the range expected will be around $40,000 - $50,000. This kind of technology comes with a high price. It has not been ascertained whether his insurance will cover the prosthesis, although there is possibly a small amount of cash available from one insurance company for loss of limb. So for this option to be exercised The Trust Fund may need to kick in a significant amount in cash. But what a great gift to such a good friend and colleague! We can do it, and with your help, we will!!

That same Friday evening Mark went to the Chapel Series at Lake Avenue to see our Webmaster, Alicia Steinhaus in performance. He was intent upon getting there to honor Alicia since she has given so much time to the web site. He was accompanied by good friends Marilyn Gabriel, Paul Bandy, Janelle Grose and Bob Gunn who had dinner with him prior to the event (along with me). Of course Mark ordered a big, greasy, juicy hamburger! And about all these dinners, lunches and breakfasts, all I can say is very soon Mark, you and I are going to start exercising. I have seen how this man eats and it is not without it's toll. A truly healthy person is one who is healthy mentally, spiritually and physically. Soon it will be time to work on the physical part, so chow down while you still can!

Until next time know that our friend is doing well, getting rest and being empowered by your love, support, prayers and yes, laughter.

John West

Tuesday, October 28, 2003 6:05 PM CST

Hello friends and family,

Mark has been a busy guy, of course, so pardon me if I just get right to it! Today is Sunday, 26 October, and here are Mark's musings from the past couple weeks:

Two weekends ago, Mark had an appointment with his optometrist, Dr. Scott Anderson, who also happens to be an organist friend. They discovered that Mark's vision has changed slightly from the trauma of the accident, so he is getting new glasses. In the evening, he was able to enjoy some time at home watching the Hour of Power on TBN. Of course, we can't help but wonder now what exactly he did watch, given the fact that his current glasses are below par! That evening our friend and Mark's former colleague from Vanguard, Kemp Smeal, took him to dinner. Kemp is now the organist at La Ca–ada Presbyterian Church.

On Sunday, Mark attended Mission Hills Community Church with Les and Pam Barnhart. Mark's former roommate, Larry Ahl, is one of the pastors. His daughter Amy is a Vanguard graduate and former organ student of Mark's. She designed and led a beautiful time of worship in music that morning. Afterwards, they were joined by Mark's cousins, Karen and Dean, for a lunch consisting of... hamburgers of course! And speaking of dining, God has given us an opportunity for ministry: I think we should just dump tons of vegetables in front of Mark for every meal, sprinkle them with hamburger tasting seasoning, and grind them up to a hamburger consistency. We could slop some between two buns, and he would never know the difference! At least, not until he gets his new glasses!

Many meals and fellowship filled up this past week: Fred Swann, John and Steve, Dave Pickett, Fran Johnston, and Jannette Carouther (who helped Mark re-organize his CD and video library) with Craig at Disney Studios, just to name a few. His chiropractor appointment went nicely. He attended a meeting for the American Guild of Organists Program Committee for the 2004 national convention.

On Wednesday, Mark participated in the music department Chapel service at Master's College. There, he was interviewed by Dr. Paul Plew. During the service, the students gathered in small groups and prayed for Mark. His friend Josh also laid hands on him. Mark was so blessed by the outpouring of love and support manifested by the background chorus of audible prayers, each being lifted to the Throne of Grace for Mark and his future ministry. To top it off, they even received an offering. Truly, a day that he will never forget.

Frustratingly, the week also held another day he will not long forget: A Saturday spent with food poisoning. He missed a meeting of the Trust Fund Committee as a result. Our friend Julian brought 7-up and chicken noodle soup. John West and Jim Vallequette arrived in the evening to attempt dinner. Mark only made it a few blocks before John had to take him back home. Thankfully, this was only for a day and on Sunday, he was well down the road to comfort and recovery.

On Sunday, Mark worshiped at St. Andrew's Presbyterian in Newport Beach, where he enjoyed the ministry of the Vanguard University Concert Choir, an ensemble Mark used to accompany. A highlight of the morning was the terrific 100 rank Casavant organ. Most of you probably know that the organ Mark used to play at Lake Avenue is a larger Casavant. He was delighted to hear those familiar tonalities and colors that are unique to the Canadian built instrument. Lunch afterward was with dear friends Marilyn Fontana, Rosemary Jackson, and John & Dona Leverett. He attended the evening service at The Crystal Cathedral and had a great time afterwards with friend Darlene Feit.

This past week was spent mostly in Stockton with his mother and other family members. Cousin Diane picked him up and dropped him off at the airport in Sacramento. AGO board member Jason Perez was Mark's ride upon returning home to Burbank Friday evening. Dinner was at one of my favorite places: Green Street Cafˇ in Pasadena, home of the famous Diane Salad, which I'm SURE Mark had...

This past weekend was a very special time for Mark at Lake Avenue where Dr. Gordon Kirk interviewed Mark in three different worship services for about 30 minutes!

I am very excited about being able to come home and visit Mark this week. Look for an update next weekend on our adventures together!



For years, I sat in the pew and marveled at the glorious sounds coming from our organ. Truth be told, it was the organ, and the music, that was the biggest drawing card when I started going to Lake. It's a wonderful Casavant instrument with pipes and sound that only begin to display the vast depth of our God; from sweet, tender loving whispers to great blasts of righteous anger. He so wonderfully reveals Himself to me in the organ, yet I know it is but a glimpse. Sunday after Sunday Mark would lead us in praise and reflection, encompassing every imaginable emotion in-between.

What he did for us on the organ during services was only the tip of the iceberg, of all he did for us at Lake. For many he was the encourager that kept us going through the discouraging times. He encouraged the young musicians to persevere. Truly a world-class musician, he was never proud or arrogant, but down-to-earth, kind and loving. As wonderfully gifted as he is, he never once let anyone feel their gift was any less than his. When he felt God was calling him elsewhere several years back, I was sad. I knew he would not be gone from my life, just gone from my weekly worship experience.

This fall, Dr. Gordon Kirk has been leading Lake Avenue Church in Pasadena through a series entitled 'Loving Community'. For seven weeks we have been exploring the commandment that we 'love one another' as He has loved us. Last weekend, was the first part of exploring comfort, God's compassion and comfort of us, and ours of each other. This weekend, the second part, we saw first-hand through a 'life experience', an example of our study in comfort and compassion through Mark's story. LAC welcomed Mark back with open arms; arms that greeted him with stirring standing ovations as we praised God that Mark once again stood in our midst, and we audibly showed how much we loved Mark! Saturday night and two Sunday morning services, each of them unique, each of them individually blessed with an overwhelming evidence of God's love and comfort and it's earthly embodiment in those around us, as Dr. Kirk led us through Mark's story.

There was moving video of Mark playing and directing; everything from the Crystal Cathedral, our own services at Lake, to a fantastic Christmas production at The Church on the Way. It did a great job of introducing Mark to those unfamiliar with him and his ministry. Thank you, Tom Lenton for your apt video editing! There was a clip from the service at Crystal Cathedral when Dr. Schuller greeted Mark; a very poignant moment as he reflected on his daughter's loss of her leg as a runner and now Mark's loss of an arm as an organist. He was choked up, yet he stated with confidence that our faith was bigger, and Mark's scars WERE being turned into stars ALREADY; he has become the world's most famous one-armed organist! There were pictures of the Toyota 4Runner, the nine monkey butlers from Julian, and friends that stood close by Mark, literally, in those difficult days close to the accident.

But most of all, there was the testimony of a man who has faced some of the darkest moment's life could ever hold with strength and grace that evidence a divine comfort administered through earthly angels of compassion. When the chips were down, the promises flooded back Š 'Day by day and with each passing moment, strength I find to meet my trials here. Trusting in my Father's wise bestowment, I've no cause for worry or for fear.' When he could hardly stand on his own without toppling over, it was 'Jesus is all the world to me, my life, my strength, my all. He is my strength from day to day, without Him I would fall.' As he stood alone, unsure of his balance, at the top of a scary flight of stairs, as only Mark can say, 'Okay, Jesus, here we go!' he showed us all how those familiar, comforting words became so VERY real.

He eased listeners into talk of his 'new arm' with it's multiple hands, explaining one would be his utility, 'hold the bucket' hand, yet another would be his 'party hand' with a sensor in the thumb to alert the four fingers if a glass being held needed to be grasped harder when it was being filled. He even told of his 'keyboard hand' and how it will allow him to play a fifth! And as you might expect, his humor was intact throughout as he stated he would carry them in a 'handbag' and would now truly be able to offer anyone 'a hand'!

Always in the forefront was the reality that Jesus IS strength in weakness, even when our heart is breaking, He is our comfort. Hallelujah! What a Savior! Hallelujah! What a friend! Saving, helping, keeping, loving; He is with us to the end! We sang in the opening hymn, He is our Mighty Fortress, a bulwark never failing! The choir finished off the message of hope with 'He's Never Failed Me Yet', one of the most powerful music moments yet this year. Lastly, in a particularly moving moment, we all listened in wonderment to Widor's Toccata as Julian shared the majesty of God through the Casavant organ.

As I stood at the CD table in the lobby, people commented on how moving the service was. What they had expected to be a very hard, very sad time was one full of hope, promise and great joy! One person even left a note saying they had seen God's glory in Mark's eyes that morning. He was in his truest form, full of grace, well-rounded with his famous wit. He totally engaged each service as he shared how God was with him through each step and has only just started, the best is definitely yet to come!

The weekend came with plenty of 'God—incidences', as Renee Bondi so adequately calls them, which brought big smiles to Mark's face. Such as the fact that the first piece in Joyce Jones set of hymns/gospel songs for one hand and two feet, was just mailed - 'Sweet, Sweet Spirit'. It was in the service on Sunday morning. Or, as Mark read the scripture Dr. Kirk sent him, 2 Corinthians 1:3-11, Mark immediately thought we needed to open with 'A Mighty Fortress is Our God'. What was the opening hymn in the first service on Sunday morning? You guessed it!

And of course there was an extremely fun meal on Saturday evening, after the service, with Dr. Kirk and his wife Patricia, their son, Jonathan, Pastor Jerry Johnson, and friends Julian Revie, Janelle Grose, Neal Norlag, Jeff and Alicia Steinhaus. It was NOT the usual hamburger and chocolate ice cream - it was an absolutely fabulous meal at Panda Inn full of every type meat and vegetable you can imagine! The finish? Not chocolate, but Green Tea ice cream, unless you ordered the vanilla with chocolate syrup, which of course, was Mark's choice! (Having tasted both, I can guarantee the Green Tea is the best!)

But the obvious theme throughout all the events of the weekend - God is not through with Mark Thallander yet! If you thought what He did with him before was amazing and unbelievable, well, you'd better hang on tight because the best it really yet to come and it promises to be the ultimate 'E ticket'!

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