When I met started attending Pastor Mark Batterson’s church in 2006, it had two locations and I don’t believe he had yet written a single book. Fast forward to 2018 and he is an accomplished author of many popular books, a sought after speaker and incredible Christian leader across the country.

Many readers are already aware of why I prayed for the pastor of National Community Church — my home church for nearly 10 years when I lived in Washington, DC — to write the foreword for my book, “Leaving Cloud 9.”

The moment I was asked to think about who might be a good person to write the foreword, his name was the one and only that came to mind. NCC and Mark’s leadership played an invaluable and divine role in our lives — and specifically Rick’s choosing to turn his life over to Christ.

Mark’s book, “The Circle Maker” (if you haven’t read it, READ IT.) is pretty well-known these days but we got one of the very first copies when it came out because the Battersons were so generous and offering a free copy to all church members. We’ve since read it multiple times and given it away to many people as well. Our new church in Indiana is now reading it together for a “Circle Maker” series.

While getting your foreword written by such a reputable, respectable name and fellow author is incredible, it’s weird because you don’t see the quotes or the words from them on the outside of the book or in reviews. I even asked the book company if we could put a quote from Mark’s foreword on the cover and they said no. So…it seems its hard for people to even see that he wrote it!

That’s why I wanted to share the foreword with you today. It meant the world to me that he agreed to be a part of “Leaving Cloud 9” so please enjoy this foreword from Pastor Mark Batterson:

I have always known God was in the redemption business, but reading about the miraculous healing in Rick Sylvester’s life confirmed it once more. Ericka Andersen’s graceful deep dive into her husband’s traumatic life story is a heartbreaking account, but reveals the hand of God watching over us in even the darkest of times. 

When I started pastoring National Community Church two decades ago, I had no idea the way God would use this ministry to impact the lives of the most broken among us. Ericka and Rick attended NCC for a number of years when they lived in Washington, DC but I didn’t know that our church was the first church Rick had set foot in for over a decade — or that my book, The Circle Maker would be part of his redemption story. I’m incredibly grateful, but not surprised, because God works in strange and mysterious ways!  

While Rick’s life was shaped by a multitude of painful factors as a child — from his father’s abandonment to his mother’s addictions — Ericka writes of that cast of characters through a graceful lens, never letting readers forget that every person is a beloved child of God. And no one is without hope if they build their lives on the foundation of Jesus Christ.

The book’s focus on the power of prayer is compelling, and I know from personal experience, that it’s the key to transformation. Prayer was the catalyst in Rick’s life, even in the midst of his struggles. As he dealt with depression, anxiety and other disturbing effects from his childhood, he discovered only one thing that felt like solid ground — and that was faith. It took faith to continue going back to prayer, time and again, even as he stumbled. This book showcases how God is fighting for us, even when we don’t realize it — and that He honors bold prayers. 

Rick’s persistence and faith led him to the transformational healing that truly broke the chains of his past. This book so beautifully demonstrates the tangible presence of God as our Father, even when our earthly parents fail us. It shows the power of how God uses individuals to work in the lives of their loved ones. And it leaves no doubt as to the signs of the Father weaving together a life story in which His overwhelming love would prevail.

I believe everyone can benefit from reading this book, a story that reveals God’s ability to restore, renew and replenish — not to mention fulfill one’s wildest dreams. Rick’s dreams were simple: happiness, love, family. He’s living them out each day by the grace of God, and that’s a hope everyone can believe in. 

Mark Batterson
New York Times best selling author of The Circle Maker
Lead Pastor of National Community Church
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