What we learned in 2008

Naomi and Mercy with the Zook family in Sunyani Ghana
Naomi and Mercy with the Zook family in Sunyani Ghana

It has been a lot of fun and very encouraging for us to see how many people have followed our time in west Africa last year on this blog.  What we experienced and witnessed has helped us deepen our understanding of what God has called YLI to be in the world.   In other words, our small, but specific part of his Big Picture.

Preparing for our trip last spring I thought that the hard part of taking our family to Africa would be having our family in Africa.  The pre-trip fears started with malaria, heat, food issues, safety on African roads, 24 hours of air travel with small kids, and then grew from there.  I lost some sleep.  You get the idea.  On the other hand I thought that the ministry aspect of the trip would be relatively easy and relaxed.   Now looking back I see that our actual experience was the opposite of our expectations!

Our entire family (especially Carrie and the kids) did exceptionally well.  Katie and John Mark have taken more sick visits to the doctor since we returned than during our entire stay in Ghana!  They slept well, had lots of friends and were never in danger.  Even the air travel wasn’t so bad (or maybe we benefited from some fatigue-induced memory failure!).  Of course, being married to my particular wife made the whole process so much easier.  Living in Ghana was some of the best family time we have ever had.

The ministry experience was very good as well, but at times much harder!  There were some decisions and changes that God led us to make in our mentoring and conference activity, and in our leadership structure in Ghana.  Leading through change is always hard.  Although the need for adjustments was clear, we needed a lot of faith.  The right decisions became clear, but the future was not immediately visible.  It reminded me of how Jesus asked the disciples to leave everything they knew,  without telling them where they were going, what to expect, or what was going to happen.  He only asked that they follow him.

Looking back over the last year we see that God was strengthening the foundation for the ministry.  In October we began a 12 month process of holding the entire ministry along side of the values that Jim Moye modeled and taught:  listening to God, living incarnationally in the world and taking the risk of going deep with a few.   Through this process we are being reminded that only as a relational ministry can we engage fundamental brokenness in the different and varied cultures of Ghana and other african cultures.  

Of course, as we grow it will not be effective to franchise an identical ministry into different cultures, which is why our focus must continue to be local; investing deeply in carefully selected, catalytic young men and women, who will be also faithful to entrust that which they have heard into the lives of others.

There are some very exciting specifics that I am looking forward to sharing with you all over the next few weeks.  Thanks for your friendship, prayer and financial support!

Author: Ash Zook

Executive Director Young Leaders International PO Box 1088 Carrollton, GA 30112

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