Our Gap Year graduates are not just alumni, they’re family to the Impact 360 community. Being family, we love to follow the stories of what our past students are up to post-Gap Year Commissioning. Just like watching your younger cousins grow up, it’s really cool to watch and see where they ultimately land and what path the Lord takes them on.
This year, Mark Heath, from the very first Gap Year class of 2006, is taking the life lessons he learned during his nine months on campus (and honed through his years as an insurance broker) to the South Carolina State Senate as he runs for political office for the very first time.
Mark says, “I first started campaigning when I was in high school, for a state senator who is now president of the College of Charleston. Then when I was in college, I ran for student body president and won, and that’s kind of where my political interest began to soar.”
Mark attended Gap Year prior to his stint as student body president, where he says he learned a huge range of lessons about a life guided by faith. Some of our students say the leadership training they received at Impact 360 has a big effect on them, while for others, getting to be surrounded by like-minded believers motivated to build their faith stands out. But for Mark, what stood out was the chance to turn what he knew about his Christianity on its head.
“Dad was a southern Baptist minister. My granddad was a retired Baptist pastor. So as I was coming through youth groups in middle and high school, I knew that I wanted to follow God. I knew that I wanted to do his will. But just because of my thinking at the time, I thought that if you wanted to do God’s will, that meant you either go to the mission field or to seminary. But God began to tug on my heart in a different vocational direction.” It was during this time that he found Impact 360’s Gap Year. “Gap Year changed the way I think about ministry. I had the understanding that being in the center of God’s plan meant that you were doing ministry or missions. When in fact, the New Testament really paints a different picture.”
Mark’s story isn’t just about him carrying the lessons he learned during his time at Impact 360 into the political world. It’s also about the relationships he’s taking with him. “I met my closest friend in the world at Gap Year,” he says. “He might as well be my brother. He’s my partner in business, my partner in politics. Not a day goes by that Jonathan and I don’t talk.”
Despite how well his time here turned out, Mark says that before he came, he had wrestled with whether he should go straight to college. If you’re facing a similar dilemma, Mark says, “I would tell you to do the same thing I did—lean into the decision and look for peace. I was graduating from high school, and thought I was going to a certain school, but I didn’t have a peace about that. And when I came upon Impact 360 Gap Year, as I prayed through it, I had an incredible amount of peace about doing the Gap Year program. So that’s what I’d suggest people think about—What do you have peace about?”
Since there are only two candidates running for Mark’s Senate seat, and both are in the same party, the primary election will determine whether Mark gets to make his mark on South Carolina politics. That happens on June 14. Whether or not he is ultimately elected won’t phase him, because Mark holds that his life’s success criteria is based on a Biblical view of what’s important, not the world’s. And wherever Mark’s career path takes him after that, we’ll always be rooting for him as his Impact 360 family.
If you want to join our family of mission finders and world changers, you can start the process by scheduling a campus visit today.