In memory of Bruce Genter

Bruce and Joyce Genter with Katie and John Mark Zook
The Aburi Botanical Gardens, Ghana 2014

On February 19th, we lost Carrie’s father, Bruce Genter. Bruce and Joyce were incredibly supportive of YLI and our family’s involvement — even when we would take their grandchildren to Africa for long stretches. It was a difficult sacrifice for them, but Bruce and Joyce didn’t let the distance stop them, traveling to rural Mali to visit Carrie south of Timbuktu in 2000 and our family in Ghana in 2014. Bruce, known by the kids as “Big,” is already dearly missed, but we know that for Bruce death does not have the final word. His eternity is in God’s presence.

I will always be grateful that Bruce allowed me to marry his daughter and supported our decision to join YLI and make West Africa a part of our family’s story.

Joyce has asked that in lieu of flowers YLI accept donations in Bruce’s memory, so YLI’s work with young leaders can continue to lead people to the Jesus he loved and served. If you would like to honor Bruce in this way, click this link and select “Bruce Genter Memorial” from the fund drop down menu. Click for the full obituary.

Ash Zook

YLI Executive Director and Big’s son in law


YLI is 20 years old in 2022!

A message from Executive Director, Ash Zook.

I just returned from Ghana in late November, and my excitement level was almost as high as when I first joined YLI. Over the past 13 years I have either lived in Ghana with my family or have taken four trips each year. But since 2019, I have only been to able to travel to Ghana three times. This is the reality that we all have endured since March of 2020.

It is humbling to think it was almost 20 years ago, in 2002, that I stumbled upon Jim Moye’s phone number at a friend’s house. I had not seen Jim since 1994 when I was in a his discipleship group at Eastern College. I reached out to Jim and Fran and we met for breakfast during which Jim told me about a vision God had given him and Fran to start a discipleship work in Ghana, and that the Lord had given him the word picture “Coach” to describe the heart of this ministry. The surprising thing was the night before I had a dream that I had been hired to coach a team of young Africans. A couple months later I was on a plane to spend a month with Jim and Fran as they were starting YLI.

The vision God gave Jim and Fran was to start a discipleship movement with young leaders in Ghana’s Christianized south who would then move north into Ghana’s Muslim world and into surrounding Muslim countries. Jim did not live to see this vision realized, but today YLI is based in Ghana’s largest Muslim city. And YLI leaders are working in northern Nigeria’s dangerous Muslim dominated regions.

Last month was the first time our entire group of disciples had been together in Ghana in almost two years.  When I arrived home I was amazed but not surprised. Amazed at what YLI has been doing during my absence, but not at all surprised by God’s faithfulness. YLI has multiplied more through the pandemic than any other time since 2002.

YLI’s 20th anniversary is a time of celebration and thanks to God. Please read on about 2021, but keep in mind the African proverb, “If we stand tall, it is because we stand on the shoulders of our many ancestors”. Or as Hebrews 12:1 says, as we run the race before us, “we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses”. And although we grow older the discipleship race we run results in a prize that will never perish!

In Christ,

Ash Zook, Executive Director 

Ash Zook and Jim Moye in Ghana, 2002.

Love through Food and Clean Water

We call it “Love Evangelism” and its key to discipleship!

Our leaders stayed at home more this year, but led with their lives in very practical ways. In YLI we simply call this Love Evangelism and encompasses 30% of YLI’s Basic Training. In summary, we Christians might have great evangelistic fervor and the best technology, but if we do not lead with a loving lifestyle, all of our preaching and witnessing falls flat. When we train disciples we say, “Love is the missing jewel in the crown of the church.” Its convicting to the teacher and the students every time!

One team of YLI leaders went to four new villages in 2021 to begin discipling and to plant churches, and then were able to install clean water in each community. It is a unique ministry approach in Ghana. Many organizations plant churches, many provide clean water, a few disciple people. YLI’s approach is different in that we always lead with discipleship, but we also make sure we back up the message of the Good News with actions that demonstrate God’s great love for the people. As the Father sent the Son, YLI leaders send themselves out of love.  

Edward was project manager for all four projects. He was discipled by Zach seven years ago when Zach came to his own village, planted a church and installed clean water.



Your opportunity to join in! 

Zach, the YLI Coaches, and the seven Interns have proposed an exciting 2022 plan. The growth in both Ghana and Nigeria means that next year Zach will be traveling more to Nigeria and he will be delegating more of the Ghana leadership responsibility to Jonah, David and Simon, a YLI Intern. 

Each of the 12 Basic and Follow Up weekend trainings listed below will cost on average $400 and will serve between 20-45 leaders per event. The two Leadership Development Summits will cost approximately $1500 each, and the Coach and Intern retreats, which are international in that leaders attend from both Ghana and Nigeria, will cost $2500 each. I am grateful that our model allows us to impact so many young people at such a reasonable cost.

An urgent transportation need

Zach travels a lot in his leadership role with YLI. Up until now he has traveled via public transportation or on the motorcycle we purchased for him several years ago when he was focused just on rural village ministry.  In August, Zach had a serious accident on the motorcycle and spent a full month on his back in the hospital in after undergoing surgery. We are grateful God preserved his life. In order for Zach to keep up his travel pace, we need to provide him with a safe and reliable vehicle. I am trying to raise an additional $10,000 to $15,000 to purchase a used pick up for Zach to drive for his YLI ministry around northern Ghana. If you would, please pray about an additional gift to help us with this purchase! 


Naomi Awuni, 1965-2020

Dear Friends of Young Leaders International,

November 19th I heard from Sharon Awuni that her mother and our Coach, Naomi, had died suddenly. My friend Naomi was just 55 years old, and joined YLI the same year I did. She was a close friend and a great encourager during some difficult seasons of leadership. We will miss her dearly.

Naomi crowned herself “YLI Queen Mother”. She was the joyful heart of our ministry despite being widowed when her children were young, and the death of her 16 year old son King in 2015. She leaves behind Sharon and an adult son, James, who lives with his wife and baby in Poland. Also mourning with the entire YLI community are the teachers and 130 children at her school, the King James Educational Complex, which she founded in 2015 for the children of migrant farming families.

Over the last 12 years there have been many posts about Naomi on this site, and I have linked a few of them below. Her’s was an incredible life of great faith. May her life remind us that life is best lived with deep love and radical discipleship to Jesus.

This quote from Francois Fenelon captures what I observed in Naomi over the years as her friend and co-laborer for the Kingdom.

Open yourself to God without measure. Let His life flow through you like a torrent.
Fear nothing on the road you are walking. God will lead you by the hand.
Let your love for Him cast out the fear you feel for yourself.

In God’s endless love and wisdom, He would not create a world that did not include Naomi Awuni, and for that I am grateful.

In Christ,
Ash Zook, Executive Director

YLI at year 20 

We’re getting older, but YLI is still a ministry of young leaders!

When I arrived in Ghana in 2002, Jim Moye told me how much he wanted to introduce me to Vincent Asamoah. Jim was obviously very excited about this Vincent guy. He was the director for the Ghana Baptist Convention with a busy travel schedule, so we had to catch him one night when he was at home. After it had gotten dark, Jim drove me to visit Vincent’s family and we spent a short time together. That was the only time I got to spend with Vincent in 2002, but I knew it was important to Jim that we meet. None of us knew just how important that introduction would be years later after Jim had passed away, when Vincent became my co-laborer in YLI and one of my closest friends. Vincent is also one of the most effective developers of leaders I have ever known. 

Twenty years later, Vincent and I show the predictable signs of aging! This past June, we held the memorial service for Naomi Awuni, our dear friend and Coach. Afterward the service, Vincent, Jonah Manyan (who Jim also introduced me to in 2002), and I were lounging like in my room.  We were the old guys. On the floor below, the younger Interns and Coaches were making noise and goofing off the way we used to do.  We used to be the young leaders. Those  days are gone, but I was reminded that YLI is still young. 

Discipleship is the only investment that will never perish. Discipleship just keeps reproducing life. 

YLI is 20 years old, but showing no signs of age because it’s not about YLI the organization. Anything we buy, build or grow eventually fades, even from memory.  There will probably even come a time when no one alive on earth will know that an Ash Zook, Vincent Asamoah, Jim Moye, or Young Leaders International ever existed, yet the work that any of us put into intentionally investing in discipling young people will never fade away.

Discipleship growth in universities

God wastes nothing, not even a global pandemic!

For the last two years, YLI West African director, Yakubu Zachariah (Zach) and his top Nigerian leaders, Abraham Shuaibu and Peter Iliya, have not been permitted to travel and gather for many training events due to COVID restrictions. Instead they’ve focused their discipleship efforts on students at their local universities. 

At Tamale Technical University (TaTU), YLI functions as a college ministry.  Zach just completed a three year Agriculture degree there, and each year has started YLI’s discipleship process with new students. Zach is still providing oversight, but one of his disciples from the beginning, David, is a senior and is leading YLI at TaTU. 

YLI’s discipleship work in Nigeria started when Ghanaian Coach, Constant Adzomoni, moved to Nigeria as a student for two years of missionary training. As is the YLI way, when Constant got settled he began to disciple other students. By the time he returned to Ghana in 2019, a YLI Nigeria began with two of his disciples, Abraham and Peter.

Abraham is a graduate student and is employed by Nasarawa State University. He has spent two years training university students with YLI’s material. Some students who graduated this year, as they have taken jobs in different regions in Nigeria, have started YLI’s discipleship process in their own new towns and cities. To use Biblical imagery, handfuls of seeds have been scattered across multiple new fields. It reminds me how my discipleship from Jim and Duffy Robbins influenced me as I moved over a thousand miles away to start my career in another city and state. Throughout mission history the Church has always grown through natural events of diaspora.  

Peter Iliaya was an undergraduate student when Constant began to train him. Currently Peter works as a field officer serving persecuted Christians, assessing need and then mobilizing food, water and safe shelter, as well as trauma counseling and widow and orphan care to victims of religious persecution and terrorism.  

College ministry is incredibly strategic if it is based upon intentional discipleship not just social events. Over a four year period, students who are committed to growing as disciples of Jesus are trained, and then scattered wherever their career opportunities take them. It’s leading to incredible spiritual multiplication.

Today, recent graduates of Nasarawa State University, are YLI leaders in six different new regions in Nigeria. They are continuing to grow in their discipleship training with YLI with Abraham and Peter.

YLI Intern Addison continues  Naomi’s work with displaced children in Sunyani

Addison is a YLI Intern who was discipled by Naomi Awuni, who we lost to liver disease in November of 2020. Naomi’s King James School was started after she visited makeshift villages of displaced people living in the forest outside her town and saw they were not receiving education. As part of Naomi’s hands on discipleship training approach with Addison, she would take him to visit the villages with her to share the message of Jesus, and help alleviate some of their suffering.  

None of us expected that Naomi would die last year, but Addison knew what to do to continue the work she had started. He has continued to visit these villages and when he is able he takes food for them. He told me that on one of his visits he met a young orphaned teenage girl. He learned that she, who had no education or family to provide for her, had been sleeping with men for food and shelter. Addison shifted into action and found a Christian family to take her in, and using his own money he enrolled her in school. In Ghana, like in the US, few people will associate, much less personally sacrifice for a girl in her situation, but Addison in his quiet way is living as Naomi taught that disciples of Jesus live.

Learning how to hear God’s voice (and why).

It is subconscious most of the time, but we American Christians tend to have an inflated sense of control over our lives (and others). If we let down our levers of control, and instead enter into a conversational relationship with God, everything changes. It is how life is supposed to be lived for every follower of Jesus.

We have created a 24-hour discipleship retreat on Hearing God’s Voice for 15 young adults (ages 18-28) who have a desire to grow in intimacy with God. We will dive deep into how the Holy Spirit speaks to us through the Bible, other people, our circumstances and other ways we may not realize.

Bill Job, Daniel Moye, and Ash Zook will be facilitating.

Location: 77 Old Camp Church Road, Carrollton, GA. 30117November 13-14 starting at 5pm on Friday and ending at 5pm on Saturday.

Register: https://forms.gle/vaU4bgVAjfQneVkDA

Cost: Only your full engagement during our time together. It’s not invitation only, but we are intentionally pursuing people who desire to integrate hearing God’s voice into their daily life.

Email retreats@yliusa.org for more information.

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