Staj continues Zuigia work as a solo act
PLAINVIEW – Clint and Jennifer Staj are spending the holidays state-side this year, their first trip home since moving down under three years ago. Staj and his wife, along with band members Greg Howle, his wife Sara, and Salem Posey traveled to Australia three years ago where they performed Christian concerts under the name Zuigia (zoo – EE – zsha), sharing the Gospel and their Christian testimony to the youth of Australia. The group formed when a shared love of soccer brought them together as students at Wayland Baptist University. What started in a dorm room as three friends playing music blossomed into a concert brand, playing at various churches and venues around Plainview and West Texas.
Once they had all completed their degrees at Wayland, Zuigia headed to Australia to fulfill a call to missions that each of them felt. In Australia, there is no separation of church and state, and the band was encouraged to perform and witness in the local schools, seeing amazing results from giving a message of hope to kids who had never before heard the Gospel.
About a year ago, the group members decided to go their separate ways. Howle and his wife remain in Australia on a student visa as Sara completes her master’s degree. Greg is working with a graphic design company designing Web sites. Salem has returned to Brownfield where he is working as a carpenter. Still interested in the mission field, Salem is waiting for God’s next call on his life.
Staj continues to travel and bring the message of Zuigia to the youth of Australia, finding renewed success through doors that have opened since the downsizing of the band.
“I didn’t know what I was going to do without the ‘talented’ Greg and the ‘good looking’ Salem, but it’s been good,” Staj said while visiting his alma mater. “It has freed me up, and I get to travel more places because I can fly with the acoustic now and I don’t have to travel with the sound system and trailer.”
With his freedom, Staj has traveled farther inland, been flown to maximum security prisons and visited the island state of Tazmania. What he sees in these places is a lot of people hurting and searching for the answers that only a personal relationship with God can bring.
“Unfortunately, teenagers in Australia really relate to my background, being an atheist, a self-harmer and suicidal, and being hopeless,” Staj said. “I get to see things that are pretty miraculous; people coming up to me and asking me if they can accept Christ because their life is where mine used to be, and they want their life to be where mine is now.”
Staj and his wife, former Flying Queen Jennifer (Averett), have also started out on a new adventure with the birth of their first child, Makarios (muh – KAR – ee – ahs), a Greek word meaning happy and blessed. The couple has felt nothing less than happy and blessed with the addition to the family.
“She has really taught us a lot about a father’s heart and God’s love for us,” Staj said. And at nine months old, she has been an important part of Zuigia’s ministry. “I have a picture of her that I take around a lot and show it at schools and the prisons, and the toughest, most hurting people who try to have this tough exterior, I guess a shell or a mask, just melt and even break when they see her picture. Then I play a song I have written about her and my own life, not having a dad, and it just breaks them in a good way.”
Staj said being able to show Makarios’ picture at schools has also ministered to teenagers who don’t know what it’s like to have a father or someone who loves them.
While the last three years have seen Zuigia’s ministry bless many lives around Australia, the unsure nature of what they do has also been a growing experience. While living in Australia on a religious workers visa, the group has not been allowed to raise funds or work at paying jobs. Jennifer, who is working on a master of divinity degree while in Australia, has played basketball for the national team and Sydney’s semi-professional basketball team, but for no pay. She and Clint will both say, however, that living on faith has been a blessing.
“We have had to trust God,” she said. “When we don’t have the money or there is an issue that might arise, it is easy for us to say we’ll pray about this and God will give us direction as opposed to stressing and worrying because we can’t do it on our own anyway.”
As their ministry and lives continue to evolve, Clint and Jennifer will start a new job after the first of the year as youth ministers at Cooma Baptist Church. Clint will continue to travel with his Zuigia music as well as serve as chaplain for the local school. It is an opportunity that is wide open for the couple to share the Gospel with people who have never heard.
“The workers are really few there, and they are keen to have someone who can relate to the kids,” Jennifer said. “Scripture teachers are calling all the time and saying they need something new and fresh. They have religious education in the schools, just like we have physical education. They need people. It’s a shame that they have scripture classes, but don’t have teachers for them.”
The Stajs hope to change visas in the near future, switching from religious worker visas, that have to be constantly renewed, to permanent resident visas that will allow them stay and work in Australia without restriction for the long term.