From Student to Staff
June 05, 2012 | Apple Delight
By Whitney Hale
At the NICS Home Office, you will find several offices filled with individuals who served overseas with NICS—teachers, directors, and business office personnel. These staff members have spent years personally investing in the lives of young people in order to see God exalted in their lives. But in the midst of the home office, there are also a couple of individuals who are direct products of the organization. These alumni are living testaments of the schools and their impact on the next generation. They know very intimately how their positions can impact the lives of young people, for they have experienced it themselves.
Blake Weaver considers himself a true vagabond. He was born in Memphis, Tennessee, but because his father is a pastor and church planter, he moved every 5-7 years. When Blake entered the 10th grade, he attended a large private school in the Memphis area, was involved in athletics, and enjoyed a close knit group of friends. At the end of the year, his parents decided to join the NICS staff in Uijongbu, South Korea, and Blake spent his last two years of high school at NICS’ International Christian School (ICS). The timing of this move was traumatic for him, and Blake recalls:
I felt like I was being ripped away from a perfectly good environment, and moving to Korea was the very last thing that I wanted to do. Arriving at ICS was a shocking experience. The school was ¼ the size of my previous school, it was filled with many Koreans and other foreigners, and I instantly inherited the nickname of “Whiteboy” because I was the only Caucasian in the entire high-school. I felt incredibly vulnerable, out of place, and completely bitter toward my parents. Needless to say my first few weeks in Korea were definitely the lowest moments of my adolescence.
Fortunately, the teachers at ICS quickly took special interest in Blake and began to pursue him and encourage him. Blake says:
[My teachers] asked about my transition to Korea, they engaged me in my interest in athletics, and they challenged me to take on leadership roles at school, even though I was a brand new student. Whether they knew it or not, my teachers did not allow me to wallow in my own self-pity, for many of them were open with me about their own challenges of living in a foreign country. Therefore, I sensed that they could relate to me and my struggles.
During his time at ICS, several teachers impacted his life, but Blake recalls two relationships in particular:
One was my high-school science teacher named Duane Jobe. My first year as a student at ICS was also Duane’s first year teaching overseas. We instantly connected because we shared many of the same cultural challenges. Duane challenged me to turn to the Lord for comfort during those times, and he was always quick to share what God was teaching him through his same struggles. Duane also challenged me to share what I was learning in my faith journey with other guys at the school. This helped me in my ability to better articulate my faith.
The other impactful relationship that I experienced was with my high-school history teacher and cross-country coach named Brian Olling. I doubt he realized at that time, but Brian’s “no nonsense” approach to life challenged me to get over my self pity of living overseas. Brian taught me incredible discipline through my participation on the cross-country team. He found a way to make me dig deeper in my studies, athletics, and leadership roles at school.
Blake went on to graduate from ICS in 2001. He then moved to Lynchburg, Virginia, where he received an undergraduate in Business Finance from Liberty University and met his wife, Christi, whom he married right after graduation. Blake and Christi moved back to the Memphis area so that Blake could begin a career in the banking industry. During this time and by God’s providence, Blake managed some of NICS’ banking business and met often with Joe Hale (NICS’ President). Blake was not only a professional contact of Joe’s, he was also a close family friend, and Joe recognized the potential and gifts that Blake possessed. As a result, Joe asked if Blake would consider joining the NICS Home Office Staff as the Public Relations Director (a new position which involved heavy fundraising). Despite Blake’s promising bank career, Blake says that the proposed position was “especially appealing to me…it seemed like a dream to work for the organization that had so profoundly impacted my life.” Christi and Blake prayed through the decision together, and Blake joined the NICS Home Office in March of 2008.
Joe continues to work very closely with Blake and says of him, “There’s no greater testimony this organization can have than to see our ‘product’ thriving! Blake Weaver brings a perspective to this organization’s home office that is much more than ‘look what NICS does,’ but rather ‘see how NICS has changed my life.’ Blake sums his perspective up:
My overseas experience has really helped me understand the perspective of both of our teachers and students. Although I have never taught in a classroom, I have closely observed NICS teachers as a former NICS student. Therefore, I know how important our teachers are in this organization’s ability to accomplish its mission. The role of the teacher is the most important position within this organization, period.
As a former student, I can also relate well with NICS students. I understand many of the challenges that our students face, especially since most of them are Third-Culture Kids (TCKs), which means they are living in a culture that is different than that of their parents. I empathize with the relational struggles that TCKs encounter. I love the opportunities that I get to speak to students throughout our organization about my experience, for I know that they can relate to my struggles.
In 2 Timothy 2:2, Jesus says, “And what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Both Duane Jobe and Brian Olling did not know that by their vulnerability and obedience to Christ in their relationship with Blake, many future NICS students would also be impacted. But the impact that a few teachers at ICS had on Blake’s life are still multiplying as Blake possesses relevant perspective in his position, understanding of the students, and an appreciation of the teachers who are serving overseas.