Mark Folk – Class of 1980
Founder and Executive Director, New Wilderness Adventures, Inc., Shelby, NC

The ministry can take many forms other than the conventional role of pastor, and Mark Folk is an excellent example of how spiritual guidance and Christian leadership can be practiced in special locations. “I serve as founder and executive director of New Wilderness Adventures, a national ministry to men,” explains Mark. “I am responsible for advancing NWA's mission and vision to reach men for Christ. My duties include administration, personnel relations, program development, and personal ministry to men.

“I am also the lead fishing guide for Pastors Monday in North Carolina, a ministry designed to curate fly fishing experiences every Monday for pastors.

“What I find most enjoyable about my job is the daily interactions with men from all over the country who actively pursue a daily walk with God and are committed to being the best husbands, fathers, and leaders they can be. I enjoy planning and taking part in ministry adventures and guiding men on wilderness excursions.

“This role as director of a non-profit ministry comes with many challenges, the greatest of which is obtaining funding for operations. Other challenges include time and resource management; however, I have enjoyed working with others to develop creative ways to advance the mission of NWA, even with limited resources.

“The rewards of my job are numerous; I travel all over the country, witnessing and discipling men in exciting wilderness environments. I also am rewarded by seeing men I have trained over the years work in different parts of the country to continue NWA’s mission.

“My experience as Executive Director of NWA has been challenging, but it has been truly the greatest job I have ever held, and I am thankful that God has allowed me to continue in this role for 23 years.

"Throughout my life, I've had the opportunity to work in various roles and businesses, each contributing to my professional growth and shaping my future endeavors.

“The summer after I graduated from high school, I served as a missionary with the International Mission Board, helping plant a church in New Jersey. On returning home, I served as a music and youth director in two churches in Hickory and Taylorsville, NC.

“I attended Gardner Webb College from 1982 to 1985 as a sacred music major, and during the summers, I attended Cleveland Community College to study business. In 1985, I became the owner/operator of Chick-fil-A in Shelby, NC. In 1990, my brother and I opened a dry-cleaning business, Folk Cleaners, in Shelby, and in 1991, I left Chick-fil-A to open our second store in Forest City.

“After ten years in business, I felt led to full-time ministry and founded New Wilderness Adventures. Every job or position I have held has been essential as initiation and preparation for the position I hold now. My time in New Jersey as a church planter gave me the boldness and confidence to share my faith personally and through a ministry. My many years in business prepared me to develop ideas, to be an administrator, and to find good people to advance a vision and mission. I have certifications as A Wilderness First Responder from Stone Hearth Open Learning Opportunities and multi-skill certificates from Outward Bound of North Carolina.

“Several mentors have offered invaluable advice and wisdom, starting with my father, Dr. Aubrey Folk. His encouragement and lifetime support for all my endeavors and pursuits gave me the confidence to take action when I had dreams and ideas. Another mentor and great encourager was Miss Debbie Leonhardt. Debbie was my youth leader in my early teens and recognized my talent for singing and music. Later in my years as a Chick-fil-A operator, Tom Ellington, the owner-operator of the Chick-fil-A in Gastonia, was a vital mentor in business.

“While a student at East Burke, I played in the band under the direction of Miss Kathryn Siphers and sang in the Chorus and Chamber Singers directed by Mr. Jim Williams. Being involved in the music programs at East Burke led by these two special teachers helped me to understand what excellence meant.

“I played soccer in my senior year at East Burke and dated Sheri Warlick. She and I have been married for 43 years and have two children.

“My future goals with New Wilderness are to develop a national training program for men who desire to minister to other men using their passion for the outdoors. Currently, we have 11 men from across the US in training.”

The following links can provide more information about the program:

Published May 2024

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