Mark Barrett is from Richmond, Virginia and the youngest of five kids. Mark’s Dad, David Barrett, was one of the first people to help brainstorm what would later become IMPACT 360 Gap Year with his friends, John and Trudy White.
“My father was chairman of the Christian Children’s Fund, as well as Trinity Episcopal School in Richmond,” Mark said,“so he made a pretty quick connection with the White’s, and they became very close.”
Mark says he was adamant that he would never go to a place like IMPACT 360 Gap Year: “I was always more concerned with what people thought of me than I was about school or even my faith,” he said. Mark’s parents encouraged him to consider IMPACT 360 Gap Year, but he wanted nothing to do with it. “In high school, lines began to get blurred for me, and a tension began to build between what was right and what was ‘cool’.”
He says he wanted nothing more than to be the popular kid; the class clown; the guy who would do anything to make people like him. “And it worked for a while. I was a pretty popular guy, and everything was going exactly as I had planned… but I wasn’t completely satisfied with my life’s direction.”
Mark was kicked out of school his freshman year of high school and spent the next two years at military school. “You would have thought that I learned my lesson,” he said, “but I went right back to drinking and drugs and running with the wrong crowds as soon as I could. I made ‘popularity’ my god, and ‘fun’ my religion. I was directionless and headed for disaster.”
One Sunday morning, Mark went to church with his parents and something clicked for him for the very first time. “It was a message that I had been hearing my whole life, but it wasn’t until then that I ‘woke up‘ and saw clearly that I was living in darkness, and was going nowhere fast.”
After confessing to his parents and praying for God’s forgiveness, Mark immediately thought of IMPACT 360 Gap Year. “It was weird because I had always been so sure that IMPACT 360 Gap Year was not the place for me, but suddenly I actually wanted to go.” Mark applied and got accepted to IMPACT 360 Gap Year, and that’s when he says everything changed. “I had no idea about what to expect, but as soon as I got on campus, I had the desire to learn and grow. I was never a good student growing up, but something about the way IMPACT 360 Gap Year teaches and the incredible truths they bring to light made me crave learning.”
And that’s not all. Mark dived in with both feet and began to understand that the popularity he always wanted could be found in the Father’s love for him. My biggest desire became to know God and to make Him known to others.”
After being commissioned by IMPACT 360 Gap Year in 2010, Mark headed off to Columbia International University where he studied Humanities and Bible.
Today, he works with the director of the Chamber of Commerce for the state of Virginia. He travels throughout the state meeting with business leaders and politicians and determining new and different ways to help them flourish. It has been quite a turn-around for Mark over the past few years, and he attributes a lot of the reason to his time at IMPACT 360 Gap Year.
“The rigor of the classroom combined with true and authentic Christian community allowed me to grow up and see that I was made for more than myself. I began to see and be seen for the first time in my life…”
“My heart has been burdened for the people in my life who have rejected God but purely on the basis that they think Christianity is foolishness and superficial. It is my life passion to winsomely show outsiders that there is a lot more to being a Christian than they have been led to think.”
When asked about the most significant thing that happened for him at IMPACT 360 Gap Year, Mark smiled and said, “It was on the very first day of class. John Basie spoke to our class and said something along the lines of, ‘all truth is God’s truth,’ and that caused an awakening that has guided me every day since. God used IMPACT 360 Gap Year to wake me up and show me things about Himself and His people that I would have never discovered on my own. I am extremely grateful for IMPACT 360 Gap Year.”
For more information about IMPACT 360 Gap Year and to learn more about Mark’s story, visit: impact360institute.org