By Mark Ellis
After working for a couple years in West Africa, Zack Woolwine and his wife, Anna, began to seek the Lord about their next mission assignment with Youth for Christ. They returned home to Ohio, but after a year they were ready to go back overseas.
Zack grew up in Florida and attended college in Hawaii, where he was able to nurture a passion for surfing. As he and Anna researched countries, the island of Tonga continued to grab his heart.
Was he drawn to minister in a place where could also ride a few waves? he wondered.
“I have a heart for remote places, but I always thought I would work in North Africa or the Middle East,” he recalls. Zack says he was willing to serve in a restricted country where his life might be at risk.
When Tonga continued to grab his heart he wondered if it was just “his flesh talking” or God’s leading. Over the next few weeks it became an internal struggle as he fasted and prayed unto the Lord.
One morning Zack sat in the front row at church and poured his heart out to God. “If you want me to go to Tonga, I’ll go to Tonga,” he told the Lord. “If you want me to go to the Arab world, I will go to the Arab world.”
That morning the church had a guest speaker – someone who had never met Zack. In the middle of the man’s sermon he stopped abruptly, looked at Zack and said: “God has already shown you what you need to do. You need to start preparing for it.”
The following week, a woman approached him at church and said, “I had a dream about you last night. You were on an island and it was really green and you were riding these waves. It was the Holy Spirit and it wasn’t a big effort. You were enjoying yourself and you had a big smile on your face.”
Zack was amazed as he listened. With one confirmation after another, Zack and Anna landed in Tonga.
Initially, they established a youth center on the outer island of Vava’u and were slowly building some momentum when they got an unexpected letter from the Bank of Tonga, informing them they were delinquent on the mortgage for the property. They were paying rent to someone they thought owned the property, but apparently, that individual was pocketing their rent money and not making payments to the bank.
They closed the youth center and sought the Lord about their next moves. At the suggestion of his former boss in West Africa, Zack began to read T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution by Steve Smith with Ying Kai.
Zack got more and more excited as he read the book. “If this stuff is only half true, this is what I want to do!” he exclaimed.
“I finished the book, but I still didn’t know how to actually do it,” he recalls. He sent out emails to his ministry contacts, asking if someone could recommend some curriculum. He was amazed when his former boss said he located a T4T trainer in Australia who would fly over to help them.
The T4T approach had never been tried in a Polynesian context. During the training, they sent several young men out on ‘homework’ assignments, sharing the gospel, and the first day 14 people accepted Christ.
“People started coming to Christ like crazy,” Zack reports. In 2014, there were 275 who began to follow Jesus. Then 175 who accepted Christ went through the discipleship training and began to disciple others.
A young man named Carter, who works full-time at the bank, caught the vision and at one point was leading 17 groups. Carter began to train his girlfriend living in the capital of Nuku’alofa by phone.
Due to the overwhelming response, Zack and Anna decided to move to the capital and start T4T there. When he made contact with Carter’s girlfriend, he discovered she was already leading six groups.
What is going on here? he wondered.
Zack met with the leaders of four denominations and they all wanted to go through the training. He is receiving invitations from Fiji, Tahiti, Samoa, and New Zealand to share about what he’s seeing the Lord do on Tonga.
God has supplied a wave of the Spirit that goes beyond any surfing adventures he could have imagined. “I’ve thought back on that prophecy numerous times,” he says. “It’s like we’re riding along and God is bringing the stuff and doing the stuff and we’re not even doing it.”
“That’s exactly what she prophesied and exactly what’s happening.”