Lake Norman & Mooresville

Leading by example, sharing the gospel

Her senior year in high school, Jaclyn Loftin wasn't sure what do with the next phase of her life.

She applied to several colleges like most yong adults her age, and like many other 17- and 18-year-olds, she still didn't know what to do even though the acceptance letters were rolling in.

Nothing felt right, the now 19-year-old, 2009 Mooresville Christian Academy graduate said.

So her mind went back a year earlier when a fellow student, a year older than her, was graduating early to go to Scotland and join Youth With a Mission, an international, interdenominational Christian organization that serves Jesus across the world.

Even though Loftin rejected the idea then, she gave it serious thought.

It seemed to make sense - she loved to travel and loved to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

"I thought it would give me six months to figure things out and be able to go to Australia," said Loftin, who lives stateside with her parents in the Cherry Hill community of Mooresville. "And since it was mission work, my mom couldn't get mad."

Youth With a Mission (YWAM) gives young people the opportunity to share Jesus and demonstrate his love to the whole world.

For recently graduated teens like Loftin it was the opportunity to join a six-month program called Discipleship Training School, DTS. Loftin decided to go to DTS in Australia, a country that had always fascinated her.

The first three months of her six-month schooling were spent in a YWAM base in Gold Coast, Queensland. She heard speakers on different topics, such as hearing God's voice, spiritual warfare and Bible study. She also worked with the homeless and helped teach religious education.

Loftin then spent the next three months in Papua New Guinea, which Loftin said she had never heard of before, where she ministered in the prisons, hospitals and orphanages.

It didn't take long for her to fall in love with the place and the people.

One of her most memorable experiences was her second trip to Papua New Guinea, to the Pukari Village of the Kaipi Tribe.

Loftin and her group traveled all day through the jungle and via boat to get there. Upon arrival, they were greeted by nearly 5,000 people. A welcome ceremony included a walk way of leaves and flowers, singing and a village tradition of rubbing white powder, which Loftin compared to baby powder, on their faces.

"They welcomed us even though they didn't know us, and treated us like family," said Loftin.

Loftin graduated from DTS in March 2010 and . decided to join the staff of YWAM in Australia, a two-year commitment.

She counsels the new students through homesickness and cultural differences. She guides them through questions about the lectures and monitors their progress.

She's now a leader on outreach phases, which took her back to Papua New Guinea. She hopes to go to Cambodia or Thailand this year with a group of students she'll help lead.

"Even before Jaclyn was born, her dad and I prayed that she would be strong and independent, always willing to go where God would lead," said mom Cherie Loftin. "We had no idea that meant Australia. Even so, we are comforted to know that she is doing incredible things and is exactly where she is supposed to be. As parents, we couldn't be more proud or at peace knowing she is doing exactly what she was created to do."

The younger Loftin says she gets her energy and passion from her mother. Loftin went on her first out-of-country mission trip in 2007 to Slovakia and Hungary with her mom. She enjoys the challenge that comes with sharing the gospel overseas.

"Because cultures are so different, you have to find different ways to share," said Loftin. "It's like a puzzle or mystery to figure out how to tell people about it."

Loftin credits her love and passion to help children from growing up with three younger brothers and her early babysitting experience. She was a nanny for three families from age 13 until she left for Australia.

"Jaci has always been a pleasure to work with," said Tracey Smith of Main Street, Mooresville.

Loftin has watched Smith's children, ages 11, 8 and 3, during the last six years.

"The entire time over the past year that she was gone, my 3-year-old constantly was asking when Jaci was coming home," Smith said. "When she leaves, her momma cries, and I cry too."

Loftin's six-week break ends in mid-June, and she'll go back to Australia for another year.

Then she'll volunteer with YWAM in London during the 2012 Summer Olympics where she'll work with the athletes. Loftin is currently fundraising to attend the volunteer mission.

Her 10-year plan - a trait she gets, along with singing, from her father, Scott - includes opening an orphanage. She'd like to work with the railway children in India.