Iggie Clark was always destined to be an evangelist. She grew up reading tales about missionaries, but struggles with mental health in her teens nearly derailed her dreams
While Iona Clark was still in the womb, her mother regularly prayed that her unborn baby would grow up to be an evangelist. Although known to her friends as Iggie, she was named after the island of Iona, where St Columba, the Irish monk and missionary, established a monastic community in the sixth century from which most of pagan Scotland and northern England was converted to the Christian faith.
From her earliest days, Clark says she enjoyed “a weird level of friendship with Jesus”, praying for her friends on the way to school with her mum and sharing the gospel in the playground. As she grew older, reading about missionaries such as Corrie Ten Boom and Jackie Pullinger inspired her to dream about doing the same one day. “Anytime I would read an exciting book, I’d be like: ‘I’m going to smuggle Bibles into North Korea!’ Then the next week, it was: ‘I’m going to end human trafficking. That’s what I want to do with my life!’”
But Iggie’s’s teenage years were tough. “I really struggled with insecurity and loneliness at school,” she recalls. Her passionate faith in Jesus left her feeling like “the odd one out” in her friendship group. Aged 15, she developed an eating disorder and began self-harming. “I just really couldn’t stand being in my own body,” she explains. “So many people I knew at school were also self-harming or had eating disorders, it didn’t feel like an unnatural response to what I was dealing with.”
Healed and set free
Eventually, Iggie ended up in intensive care. In the early hours of Easter Sunday, she was wrestling with God. “I couldn’t sleep. I just felt so much self-hatred, shame, anger and insecurity,” she says. Suddenly the room got lighter. “Jesus showed up and said: ‘Iggie, it was by my stripes you were healed and set free. You never had to take any of that pain onto your own body. I already took it on mine.’
“I was so filled with joy,” she recalls. “I didn’t even know that was scripture. I had no idea until I read it in Isaiah later. I thought he just said it to me because of my self harm.”
The freedom from self-harm addiction was instant; however, Iggie faced other challenges (“Bulimia was a really big thing, and that was a slower process of healing”). But with the help of a mental health support worker, prayer and a Christian course called Living Free, over the next 18 months, Iggie began to heal. “That course changed my life,” she says. “Learning about my identity in Christ was such a huge thing.
“Whenever I preach to young people about being set free and God’s ability to heal, I speak about that moment,” she says. “It is possible to renew your mind. Triggers you’ve developed from trauma can be healed in the same way that physical bodies can be healed.”
A new life
After completing her A-levels, Iggie took a gap year, spending three months in Berlin with an anti-trafficking organisation. One evening, feeling lonely, she went for a walk, asking God to guide her to some friends her own age. She ended up at a prayer room, where she encountered a group of Youth With A Mission (YWAM) students. As she walked into the room, they cheered, explaining that God had told them to wait for a girl with red hair and a multicoloured backpack. She perfectly matched their description. “I ended up hanging out with them over the next three months, and they taught me loads about evangelism and healing,” she says.
Jesus showed up and said: ‘Iggie, it was by my stripes you were healed and set free’
When she returned to the University of Edinburgh to begin a degree in languages (“it was between theology and languages, and I thought it’d be more useful to learn languages, so I could preach the gospel”), she began to host the YWAM Circuit Riders, who have a specific vision to reach young people with the gospel, on her campus.
“I had these ten wild revivalists show up,” she says. “I don’t remember much about the meetings we organised – I’m sure the worship and the messages were fantastic – but I remember the boldness, excitement and joy that the team carried.” A five-minute walk would turn into a half hour journey as they stopped to share the gospel and pray with everyone they met. “The way they lived, acted and spoke totally blew my mind.”
Vision and passion
Over the following four years, Iggie hosted the Circuit Riders eight times. When the team leaders came to stay with her, they spent hours talking about mission. “The testimonies they were telling me from all around Europe were everything I’d been praying for and dreaming of seeing,” she says. “I thought: These guys are putting into words everything I’ve ever wanted to do.”
After finishing her degree, Iggie joined Circuit Riders as a full-time missionary. In two years, she has visited 27 countries. “I pretty much live out of a suitcase,” she says. Occasionally, she does hanker after simple things such as a wardrobe to hang her clothes in. But despite the occasional pull of a normal life, she is “100 per cent” sure this is what she wants to do indefinitely.
“Every place I share my story, I will usually have four or five tearful, amazing, freedom-breakthrough-type conversations in the worship time afterwards, just processing and praying with girls who are dealing with the same stuff,” she says. “I would not miss that for the world. And if the sacrifice is not having a wardrobe that’s hung up in one place, it’s so worth it!”