A SPARK IGNITED
After growing up in a Christian home and in a rural Methodist church, I (Zack) attended WV Wesleyan College to study Christian Education with aspirations of becoming a pastor in the United Methodist Church. That all changed, however, after two months in Zambia, Africa, in 2005. That summer, a spark ignited in my heart for the people of Africa. Since then, I've traveled to Cameroon, Kenya, Chad, Tanzania, Zambia, and now Malawi each time asking the Lord "Is this where you want me? What about here?"
I genuinely believed I'd be in Africa somewhere directly after graduating college in 2008, but then along came a girl.
Carly was also raised in a Christian home with Methodist roots, and when we met in 2006, she already had her sights set on medical mission work from all of her experience in Haiti. It didn't take long for us to figure out we made a pretty awesome team. After two years of dating/engagement, we were married in May of 2010 - just weeks before Carly started medical school at Marshall University in Huntington, WV.
2010-2014 was a blitz! Carly cranked through medical school while I was a part of the staff at a newly planted church in Teays Valley, WV - River Ridge Church. Those four years were certainly full of growth, sharpening and some incredible relationships.
In 2012, I helped lead a mission trip with River Ridge to partner with Young Life in Kenya. Little did I know that taking that trip would end up being the first step of many toward being on Young Life international staff. It has been an amazing journey and we can't wait to see how things unfold.
In Malawi there are just over 18 million people; roughly 75% of them are under the age of 24 years old. The high schools across the country are at maximum capacity and there is a very real spiritual battle going on for the souls of adolescents in Malawi and around the world. Not only will we be part of the Young Life team in Malawi to reach those 13. 5 million students across the country, we will be specifically focused on international schools in the city of Blantyre, where there are six different schools averaging about 800 students per school. International schools are an entirely different mission field. These students come from prosperous Malawian families or from families who are living in Malawi for political, business or military purposes. These 4,800 international students in Blantyre often come from non-Christian homes while some of them are even from countries where it is considered illegal to follow Jesus. These students are also are driven to be the best of the best.There is not much in their lives that isn't designed to make them more successful. For a lot of them, their childhood has been robbed from the by their parents' aspirations for them.
Our hope is that we can break the cycle of striving and achieving. By reaching these 4,800 students at the international schools, we will be reaching future business leaders and politicians, and hopefully changing the course of entire countries across Africa and the Middle East! By leading these students to Christ, we will gain access to parts fo the worlds where there may not be any other gospel presence. We believe that God will use these students to see the world turned upside down!