About Claire’s Ministry
As a development specialist at a youth center, Claire Zuhosky will work with the Evangelical Church in the Republic of Niger (EERN) to develop a program in life skills training and vocational education. Her responsibilities will begin by working with the local community to determine the needs of its youth. The goal is to establish a program that the church can operate and sustain with its own resources. A great need exists in Niger for life skills training and vocational education because the formal educational sector ignores these areas. In addition to providing youth this valuable training, the program will present an opportunity to share a Christian witness. Claire’s work also will include the continued development of existing community library and information technology programs that are geared toward youth.
Niger is often called the gateway between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. It is one of the continent’s most economically impoverished countries and is at the bottom of the UN’s human development index. Fewer than 50 percent of children are enrolled in school, and its annual per capita gross domestic product is only about $800. Farming is limited by frequent droughts, and the country’s vast desert regions are growing because arable land is falling victim to droughts, excessive cultivation, overgrazing, and deforestation. While 95 percent of Nigerians are Muslim, the government is secular and there is openness to the gospel. Most non-Muslims in Niger are Christian or adherents of traditional religions. The Evangelical Church in the Republic of Niger is the largest Protestant church in the country, and in recent decades the church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have worked as partners in mission.
When Claire discovered the youth center development specialist position in Niger, she realized that the goals of that position were strikingly similar to the aims she pursued in her work with youth in the United States. Her prayer for God to use her gifts and talents, her experience working with youth, and her passion and love for Africa was answered fully in God’s timing and sovereignty.
“The teens of Niger, who comprise more than 60 percent of the population, experience a daily struggle with poverty as they seek to meet their basic needs,” Claire emphasizes. “I have been invited by the Evangelical Church in the Republic of Niger to partner with them to shine Christ’s light into the lives of Niger’s youth and to seek to turn that statistic upside down.”
Claire describes the first time the light of Christ shone into her own life, radically changing it forever: “By the age of 17 I had experienced multiple traumatic incidences that left me angry at a God who would allow them. I had become completely enclosed in the walls I had painstakingly built sky-high, naively believing they could, by some means, protect me. Feeling completely alone within those walls, it was not until, in complete desperation and submission, I looked up—the ray of light finally hit my deprived eyes, and I experienced for the first time the truth that Christ had never, nor would ever, leave me—and would redeem each brick in that wall. This is a message of hope that I must bring to others who may also be facing the darkest period of their lives.”
During college, while on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic, Claire sensed God leading her to full-time mission service. Upon graduation in 2003, she took one of the first steps in developing her skills for mission work by serving as a wilderness counselor to at-risk teens through Eckerd Youth Alternatives in Manson, North Carolina.
Her preparation continued at Alliance Theological Seminary in Nyack, New York, where she received a Master of Divinity degree, with emphasis in missions, in May 2009. Two months later Claire’s mother passed away after a long-term illness. Wanting to see her father through this difficult time, she gratefully accepted an invitation to be a youth director/ministry assistant at Bethany Presbyterian Church in Mercer, Pennsylvania, her home church. While at Bethany she continued to sense God stirring within her a deep yearning to take the next step toward mission service.
Claire has a keen sense of God’s desire that the gospel be shared with the entire world. “My desire is that God would use me so that I might do my part in fulfilling the Great Commission while serving the youth of Niger.” She also prays specifically for those youth: “May their lives be transformed from inside out, may words be spoken to them that linger on their hearts and minds, may their needs be met in such a way that the only fingerprint that remains points them to a God who knows them, loves them, and reaches out to them.”
In addition to seminary studies, Claire attended Pennsylvania State University where she received two undergraduate degrees with majors in crime, law and justice, and film and video. Claire has been active in the ministry of Shenango Presbytery as well as the PC(USA) Sudan Mission Network. She attends Grace Chapel Community Church in Hermitage, Pennsylvania, and also enjoys regular fellowship and prayer with Grove City Alliance Church in Grove City, Pennsylvania.
Claire – October 13