A Heart Transformed: One Senior’s Story

Like most of the Class of 2020, graduating senior Ellie Zeller has her sights set on the future. Of course, that’s a relatively typical thing for a senior to do, but perhaps not to the extent it’s happening this year. On a normal year, the month of May has seniors focused on graduation and parties, time with friends and family get-togethers. Since stay-home orders and quarantine fears have eliminated those opportunities in 2020, seniors find themselves reflecting, but also looking ahead – anxious to get started on the next steps in their journey.

So, like her classmates, Ellie spends her time remembering her years at Valor while also looking eagerly toward what’s next. Unlike most of her fellow seniors, Ellie won’t be headed to college in the fall. Instead, she’ll pack her bags for nine months of service, an adventure with World Race that she started dreaming about years ago.

Ellie was first introduced to service through missions as a sophomore, when she traveled with Discovery to Honduras to assist World Gospel Outreach with their efforts in Tegucigalpa. That experience changed everything, from her faith in God to her heart for others. She remembers the week vividly, and marks it as the start of her faith journey.

“My trip to Honduras marks the week that I became sure of God,” she reflected recently. “I fell in love with Him, but I also fell in love with international ministry.”

That passion for ministry was stoked the following year, when Ellie traveled to Thailand. It was there that her faith became real, and the World Race seeds were planted.

“My trip to Thailand with Valor was the most impactful and formative two weeks of my life. It completely transformed my life for Christ, allowed me to understand the nature of God and the sacrifices that Christ made for me, and made me confident in my decision to pursue international ministry. Jesus radically changed my heart for His kingdom. I was baptized and made the decision to devote my life to Christ there. Since then, my life has looked drastically different. I started going to church consistently, found myself a community of believers, and made the biggest decision of my life which was to sign up for the World Race gap year.”

Ellie reflects back to a specific conversation she had with a missionary while distributing Bibles in Thailand. The woman’s journey to full-time missions began with the World Race.

“I asked her about her journey as a missionary and she told me it all started on the World Race. As she began to tell me about it, I remember my heart feeling so physically and overwhelmingly excited, and in that moment, I knew Jesus was telling me to go.”

So, in a few short months, Ellie will embark on an adventure that will take her around the world, to countries she’s never dreamed of seeing, and places she’s longed to see again. Alongside a group of students her age, she’ll serve in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Thailand and Swaziland. The group will serve in ways that include food outreach, education, construction, ministry and relationship to refugees, orphans and at-risk women and children.

“I’m not sure that there is anything about the Race that doesn’t excite me! I’m the most excited to see how the Lord works through me, see what He has in store for me, observe His faithfulness, develop relationships with so many amazing kingdom-minded people, and lastly have my own heart softened and changed even further. My biggest hope for the experience is to glorify and expand the kingdom of God.”

From her very first experience in Honduras – one Ellie admits to signing up for with the intent of gaining a cool travel experience and a chance to play with some cute kids – to an all-in commitment to service and selflessness, Ellie’s story is one of transformation. Hers is a life that has been marked by God and changed in remarkable ways.

“I want to live like Christ did. For me, this means laying my life down for others, through service and ministry. I believe my purpose is to physically and spiritually take care of others that need it the most.”

For more information or to follow Ellie’s experiences on the World Race, bookmark her blog – www.elliezeller.theworldrace.org.

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