hengst-2Calvary Church Newsletter’s Cookie Jar Chronicles is a special column dedicated to highlighting church members who ‘get caught’ doing something good for the church, others or the community, both locally and abroad. It’s meant to surprise. So, keep doing the good you’re doing…because you never know who is watching. If you would like to submit someone to be featured in this exclusive column, please send e-mail to news@calvarywyncote.com.

Evangelizing eleven nations in eleven months equals one changed young man.

Such has been the experience of Calvary’s own Mark Hengst, who spent the greater part of the last year entrenched as a team member of the World Race, a ministry of renowned missions organization Adventures in Missions geared toward exposing 21-35 year olds to exciting missions opportunities with a focus on discipleship and caring for the poor.

Mark’s adventure kicked off in Johannesburg, South Africa in September 2012 and ended in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica in July 2013. In that time, he visited four continents comprising of eleven countries, including Zimbabwe, South Africa, Swaziland, China, the Philippines, India, Romania, Ukraine, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.

And while Mark set out on the World Race last September, his journey to the mission field began in 2010, in a rather unusual way.

“I wasn’t necessarily interested in specifically being away for a whole year before I came across the World Race,” he said.

Rather, it was around late winter or early spring of 2010 that Mark had a “random desire” to go on a mission trip.

“So, I simply went on the Internet and searched in Google for “mission trip opportunities,” and Adventures in Missions was the first result in that search,” he explained. “I clicked on the link and browsed around that Website a little bit and then I saw the link for the World Race.”

When Mark clicked on the link that led to the World Race’s homepage, he described what happened next as having an epiphany.

“As soon as that window popped up on my computer screen, there was an instantaneous ‘YES!’ that came from my spirit man,” he said. “I knew right then and there that God was telling me to apply for this.”

And two years later, Mark and about 60 other young adults from across the U.S. and two from Canada set out to share the Gospel, in both word and deed, to communities across the globe.

While on the mission field, one of Mark’s primary duties included performing manual labor, something he admits as being an area of great contention for him.

“As far as labor is concerned, this was a hard ministry for me because, prior to this trip and about three-fourths of the way through, I had a bad attitude about physical labor that caused me to hate it intensely, especially if I wasn’t being paid to do it,” he said.

Mark further shared that performing manual labor caused him to see where his character needed shoring up.

“A lot of pride was welling up inside of me to the point where a few times I decided I just wasn’t going to participate,” he said.

He continued, “So, I guess you could say that God used me for my own benefit—to put all my most severe character flaws on display. That those areas would be addressed and repented of so that I would experience growth in that way.”

But, when it came to working with children and evangelizing, Mark experienced tremendous joy in both areas.

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“In Swaziland, the kids at the orphanage were my favorite and there were two, particularly, that stole my heart,” he said. “They were the most adorable three- and five-year-old little boys I have ever seen and I absolutely fell in love with both of them.”

As a result of working with these and other youngsters on the mission field, an unlikely flame was lit in Mark’s heart that hadn’t been there before.

“Without a doubt, if I was able to bring them home with me, I would have,” he said. “I’m confident that God used that to birth in me a supernatural desire to adopt children, from both America and abroad, to the point now that it’s non-negotiable. It will definitely happen.”

In addition, Mark’s excitement and passion for evangelism bubbled over when he spoke of the countless opportunities afforded the team in India, which was his favorite memory of the entire journey. It was in this part of the world that Mark said he discovered he feels most alive “when I’m preaching the Gospel to the lost and unreached of the world.”

The pure, unadulterated and unchanging message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just good news or even great news. It’s the best news I’ve ever heard in my life!

“We did village ministry and that included evangelism, which is what I am so passionate about,” he said. “The pure, unadulterated and unchanging message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is not just good news or even great news. It’s the best news I’ve ever heard in my life. I can’t help but tell it to everyone I know and don’t know. That was what made India so incredible!”

And Mark said his love for and faith in God has grown exponentially as a result of this experience.

“What surprised me most on the mission field was how ridiculous—and by that I mean awesome—God is,” he explained. “Honestly, for someone who has a difficult time believing what the Bible says is absolute truth, just look at His sovereignty. He has all of His chosen people—the Church—and everything in our lives, held together in the palm of His hand. Nothing and no one can escape Him.”

Mark, who has been a member of Calvary Church since October 2009, would not let the opportunity escape him to thank his church family for helping to make his experience over the last year possible.

I want to take advantage of every opportunity I have to publically thank my Calvary Church family for their relentless love, prayers and financial support while I was away!

“I want to take advantage of every opportunity I have to publically thank my Calvary Church family for their relentless love, prayers and financial support while I was away,” he said. “I don’t know that I would have made it all the way through, had it not been for God demonstrating His generosity through them.”

And although the race is over, Mark said he is still working to pay off his remaining $2,100 debt to Adventures in Missions. He encouraged anyone who is interested in helping him meet his financial goal to visit https://www.adventures.org/give/donate.asp?giveto=worldrace&desc=For%20Mark%20Hengst and make a donation using a debit/credit card or an electronic check. Personal checks may also be mailed to Adventures in Missions, P.O. Box 742570, Atlanta, GA 30374-2570. Please be sure to include “Mark Hengst” in the memo line. All donations are tax deductible.

While Mark doesn’t foresee himself participating in the World Race again, he is open to other ways God may want to use him on the mission field.

“I definitely would love to organize and lead a group on a similar adventure,” he said.

He also said he developed a burden for two of the nations he visited and is open to what God may want to do with him there, as well.

“I also know that India and Nicaragua are two countries that my heart broke for. And how God will reveal to me what His will is for me, concerning those two parts of the world, I have absolutely no idea. I would go back to either of those nations in a heartbeat, but as for right now, I will continue to be in prayer for direction and wisdom in regards to my future.”

And, Mark sees his future as bright because God is in it.

“In terms of my mind, yes, I have been changed,” he said. “I am learning and applying—slowly—what is the more Christ-like and biblical example of a godly man. And as I continue to look to Christ and His Word and as I abide in Him, He will cause those changes in my heart to take place.”