Unlikely colleagues

This is the personal story of three alums, Aaron Arnold '09, Tim McDaniel '08 and Justin Hanneken'12, who came together to work in global youth ministry because of their time at Huntington University.

It all started when I met Aaron Arnold in 2007 in Atlanta. We were taking Dr. Terry Linhart's "Qualitative Research" class through HU's Graduate School. I approached him after class one day and said, "Why do you talk about missions so much?" He shared with me about his ministry in Chile and that sparked my interest in missions. He asked me, "Why are you asking me these questions?" I said, "Maybe I'm supposed to be a missionary some day." I'll never forget his response: "When that day comes, I want you to call me." Little did I know, this conversation would change my life.

In 2006, Aaron Arnold, Tim McDaniel and I didn't even know each other. None of us had heard of Andrew and Grace Maina, global youth workers in Zambia, but that would soon change. Today, we all promote and facilitate global youth ministry together with YouthHOPE, a youth missions organization based in Florida, and our three paths crossed at HU.

My first class in the youth ministry program was taught by Dr. Marv Penner. It was a three-day intensive in Fort Myers, Fla. One of the four students in class was Tim McDaniel, and we quickly became friends.

Tim started taking classes on and off at Huntington in 1996. During that time, Tim met Aaron Arnold, but over time, lost touch.

A long-time youth minister, Aaron started at Huntington in the fall of 2003 in the YML graduate program while back on furlough from Chile.

In January 2009, he graduated with his master's degree. A few months before (after 10 years of doing youth ministry in Chile), he started YouthHOPE, a ministry of New Mission Systems International. YouthHOPE, based in Fort Myers, Fla., exists to transform the lives of global youth by equipping the church to meet their holistic needs. One way YouthHOPE does this is through training and equipping dozens of global youth workers, like Andrew and Grace Maina.

In 2010, I felt the call from God to resign my position in youth ministry in Maryland. In January 2011, God hit me with a vision of Aaron and the conversation we had four years prior. I hadn't talked with him in years, but I found him on Facebook and asked what he was doing. He told me about YouthHOPE, and it was a perfect fit.

Joining the team was tough work, especially raising the funds, but God made it clear and possible.

In the past year, I've done global youth ministry in Myanmar, India and Mexico. In February 2012, Aaron and I, along with 10 other youth ministers, rode our bicycles 300 miles to Key West, Fla., to raise awareness and funds (more than $7,000) for a youth ministry outreach in Bulgaria. This year, we will ride for Zambia to provide clean water initiatives through Active Water; provide relief meals through The Hunger Strike; and provide for global youth ministry through the Mainas.

In May 2012, I completed my culmination research project from Huntington with a focus on global youth ministry. A few months ago, God brought Tim McDaniel (a 2008 HU alum) back into my life. Moving to Fort Myers, I found out that he was now serving as worship leader at Southside Christian Church. Being a youth ministry veteran, Tim joined our team at YouthHOPE. He jumped right in, taking over our Phone4HOPE campaign. He's an exciting addition to our team because his passion for global youth just flows naturally.

We all look back on our time at Huntington as the catalyst that God used to bring us together. We are amazed that three very different people from different parts of the country get to serve Jesus together in Fort Myers, Fla., and throughout the world.

Do you enjoy cycling? Pray about joining Justin and his team March 9-14, 2013, as they ride from Fort Myers to Key West (300 miles) to transform communities for youth in Zambia, Africa. For more info, visit www.youthhope.com/get-involved/endsoftheearth.