Who Are You?

Will Penner

“I am Malala.” These words were spoken by a young Pakistani girl in response to the armed Taliban militant who had pulled over the school bus on the children’s way home from school. After she spoke, the man shot her in the head three times.

malala_white_trees2 copyMalala Yousafzai

The man shot Malala because she had spoken out against the fundamentalist regime, which had been shutting down schools that dared to teach girls how to read and write. Religious leaders in the region were preaching that girls should remain at home and be taught only how to serve men. After all, they had no need to learn anything academic; in fact, they had no reason to come outside without being completely covered (except for the eyes) and being escorted by a male relative.

Malala disagreed, so she voiced her beliefs on television and wrote about them in Internet blogs, newspapers, and magazines. Despite death threats, she continued to speak out, even though she was only a teenager. Malala miraculously survived the school bus attack; and after many months of learning how to speak and write again, she continued her activism, publishing a book entitled I Am Malala (a fantastic read!), raising money for girls’ education, and becoming the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

Zach Hunter

zack_hunter copy“Working together we can end slavery in our lifetime!” Fifteen-year-old “modern day abolitionist” Zach Hunter penned these words in his book, Be the Change. When he learned that people all over the world continue to be bought and sold as slaves, he launched a campaign among his classmates to raise awareness about modern-day slavery and to raise money to assist people in slavery. His Loose Change to Loosen Chains movement spread to include many schools, churches, and organizations; youth groups started talking about sex trafficking, slave labor, and other forms of indentured servitude.

The 2006 movie Amazing Grace was about an eighteenth-century abolitionist named William Wilberforce and his campaign to rid England of legal slavery. It also featured John Newton, former slave-trader turned born-again Christian, who penned the words to the world’s most famous hymn, “Amazing Grace.” Movie producers and Zach Hunter joined forces to raise awareness and money through a global campaign called The Amazing Change, continuing the legacies of Newton, Wilberforce, and young Hunter.


Malala Yousafzai and Zach Hunter are examples of young people whose work to raise awareness of global issues will make a difference for generations to come. Today, more than ever, youth have an opportunity to make a difference in powerful ways. When young people are motivated to think more about others than about themselves, to speak up and to act on their desires for justice and liberation, they are practically unstoppable. The question is, “Are you?” Perhaps, a more fundamental question asks what kind of person you want to be and what kind of change you want to make in the world: “Who are you?”



One of the best ways to discern your calling is to search for the intersection between your greatest passion and the world’s greatest need. We live in a broken and hurting world, with no shortage of needs to be addressed. Which of those needs ignites the greatest passion in you, the kind of energy that spurs you to action? Commit to spending the next 30 days praying about that need, discussing it with others, and imaginatively writing about ways the need could be addressed. Maybe you will be God’s next world changer.

Will Penner is a husband, father, teacher, youth worker, author, and speaker. He’s constantly amazed at how young people transform the world.

—from devozine (January/February 2016). Copyright © 2015 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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