Soon after my son, Zack, was paralyzed from a rare spinal cord stroke at age 16, he felt a calling from God that his future would be in some sort of ministry. The months and years following his paralysis proved quite difficult and, yet, there were obvious signs at every turn that God had plans to use Zack’s situation for His glory. The Holy Spirit was very much at work in Zack and most everyone noticed it, in one way or another. Zack set off for Cincinnati Christian University after graduating high school. Hindsight tells us that it wasn’t the best choice for him, considering that the university is very old and sits on a large hill – meaning not all that wheelchair accessible. It was a difficult time. He had to withdraw from school after the first year in order to participate in a clinical trial study which required a commitment of eight hours per day, five days per week at Frazier Rehab. He showed much progress during the study and was able to continue physical therapy for several years. Life continued moving on, with Zack getting married and starting a family. Just when it seemed that his dream of obtaining a theology degree had faded away, things started happening which allowed him the opportunity to start back to school. It hasn’t been easy juggling school around work, a wife, two babies and another one on the way, and extremely tight finances, but he has persevered. He recently accepted a position as the Youth Minister at Westport Baptist Church, where he is working with middle and high school-aged teens. He showed me the church’s last newsletter, in which he had written a message to the congregation, communicating his goals for the church’s youth. What an emotional experience it was to see Pastor Zack Murphy, there in black and white!
Three weeks into the job, Zack went with more than 60 teenagers to Youth Camp for a week. His wife, Stephanie, wasn’t able to go due to the fact that she was eight months pregnant with their third child, so I stayed with her and the kids while Zack was gone (and prayed she wouldn’t go into labor before he returned!) . During the Sunday worship service upon their return, the church’s senior minister told the congregation how impressed he was with the fact that, despite only being in the job for three weeks, Zack had already developed such a strong bond with the youth, mentioning how the teens stood in line for their turn to have Zack pray with them over issues in their lives. He told of how he had gained a new understanding of the challenges one faces when confined to a wheelchair as he watched Zack manage often difficult circumstances in getting around the camp. He commended Zack for the fact that he never once complained or became frustrated, regardless of the challenges, and how determined he was to fully participate in all activities with the youth. At that point, all of the teens in the congregation stood up and began applauding, whistling, yelling, and whatever else it is that teens do to demonstrate their appreciation for Zack’s commitment to ministering to them. Zack and Stephanie were both in tears as they witnessed this outpouring of love.
Zack has before-school Breakfast Club meetings with the teens at locations near their schools a couple of times per month, as well. The purpose of these meetings is to pray and to motivate the kids to stay strong in their faith and resist peer pressures at school. He and Stephanie work together with the Youth Group activities on Sunday evenings, and they’ve even done teen praise and worship, with Zack playing guitar.
Another one of Zack’s responsibilities is to preach sermons to the entire congregation on Sundays when the senior minister is out of town. He preached for the first time in August, and did awesome job! He is scheduled to preach again in October and in December of this year. Can’t wait to hear those sermons!
Zack has answered the call into ministry, and his wife, Stephanie, has answered, as well, to assist him in doing such important work in the lives of these young people. They both have amazing testimonies as to how God has worked in their lives, and He is blessing their faithfulness. I am a grateful mom!
UPDATE – SEPTEMBER, 2016: Zack was ordained on January 30, 2016. It was an incredibly uplifting and emotional ceremony. He and his wife, Stephanie, now have four beautiful children – three boys and one princess!