A meeting that occurs by chance can have a big impact, especially if it is followed by a hand extended in friendship. Mark Naser can testify to that, as can Jack and Rogene McCawley, a Pratt couple he refers to as Dad and Mom.
Naser, a student at Pratt Community College in the late 1970s, has kept in touch with the McCawleys over the years and visited them last week.
When he was seven years old, Mahmood Nasserhosseini told his Iranian parents he wanted to visit the United States. They said no. He repeated the request during the next several years, and they always said no. When he married, his parents thought he had given up the idea. Not so.
“I told my wife, I’m going to go, even if there’s only one day of my life left,” he recalled.
After selling everything they owned, he came to the United States in 1976 and Gloria joined him in Pratt in 1977.
A couple of months after arriving, she became ill and was hospitalized at Pratt Regional Medical Center. Her hospital roommate and her sister, who was visiting, invited the couple to come to church.
Naser said he would visit different churches, but his wife “wasn’t a church person.” Still, on Sunday, after being dismissed, she asked if he remembered what church the women attended, and if they could go.
As they were “peeking through the door” at the Nazarene Church, they were greeted by Jack McCawley. After the service, the McCawleys invited them to come to dinner. Their culture dictates that one never accepts the first invitation. McCawley invited them to come back to church that evening for music, and then for ice cream afterward. They couldn’t say no again.
After Gloria Naser was hospitalized again, the couple was down to their last $100. McCawley offered him a job at Doskocil’s Das Smokhaus, a business established by his in-laws. He was put to work doing carpentry, a job for which he had no experience. McCawley liked his work and his attitude and gave him a raise and paid his health insurance. He later asked Naser if he wanted to make sausage.
“Sure,” he said. “I was making sausage like there was no tomorrow.”
There’s a point to this story.
“God uses people when least expected,” Naser said, explaining that the two ladies, whom they assumed were staunch members of the congregation, only came to church at Christmas and Easter. “Their hearts were there,” he said.
Of the McCawleys, he said, “they loved us, they cared for us, they really never left us alone.”
He found acceptance also at Pratt Community College, and good teachers who gave him a sound foundation for later studies.
After graduating from PCC in 1979, he transferred to Wichita State University, but that experience was less positive. They moved to Utah, where he graduated from the University of Utah with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. He earned a master’s degree from Indiana University and has worked in Pennsylvania since 1986, where he is a senior level civilian engineer for the U.S. Navy.
Getting his first job, however, required a change.
When he called about a job that had been advertised, giving his Iranian name, he was told it had been filled. When he called back, with the shortened version, he was invited to interview.
When he became a U.S. citizen in 1986 Mahmood Nasserhosseini officially became Mark Naser.
“You pick what is suitable for the environment,” he explained.
He has other bits of philosophy that guide his life:
“Never question God.”
“Whatever life dishes out, you have to take gratefully. Change is inevitable, but a lifetime of misery is optional.”
And, as a joke, but very true: “I’m completely monogamous — one God, one wife, one kid.”
The college and the Pratt community got it right in 1977, the perfect solution to immigration, McCawley said.
“We loved him. Now he’s one of the top scientists at the Navy shipyard. That was a worthwhile investment in education.”