As students at Carson Newman, Josh and Rachel Witt each served as YOKE Folk at White Pine Middle School – just not at the same time. Josh had already graduated when he was invited back to speak at YOKE Camp, where Rachel was serving as a YOKE Folk. Though they had already begun to date, YOKE Founder John Coatney felt the relationship needed a little help. He approached them at camp with a story about a misplaced pocketknife and asked them to take a walk around the lake to look for it. (For those of you who don’t know, the Coatneys are notorious matchmakers.)
The plan worked! After Rachel graduated from Carson Newman, they married and moved back to Virginia where Josh served as a youth pastor and Rachel taught school. Rachel said, “I don’t remember whether we found the knife or if there ever was a knife, but we’ve been married for 16 years now.” Rachel added, “We loved every week at YOKE, but camp has always been really special to us.”
In 2012, Josh had to step back from vocational ministry due to health concerns. During that time, he helped Rachel with her home business. After a 7-year battle with his illness, God miraculously healed Josh, and he began to feel that the Lord was leading him back into youth ministry.
Josh and Rachel have 5 kids of their own, and two of them are now middle school students. Rachel works from home and runs several businesses. She just finished writing a 14-day devotional called Finding Peace Here, available now on Amazon. Perhaps her favorite thing to do is host her weekly podcast called This Joy Full Life which is available everywhere your stream podcasts. Josh manages his family’s senior companion care company and was recently hired to serve as youth pastor at their church.
“We love middle school students,” said Rachel. “Loving teenagers is so fun.” Recently, while driving by White Pine on their way to visit Carson Newman, she and Josh were sharing YOKE memories with their kids and had to explain YOKE’s infamous Chug and Crush. As a result, Josh decided to introduce the YOKE staple to his youth group.
When asked what advice or encouragement they had for other YOKE Folk they said, “Savor every second of this blessing and opportunity to serve in YOKE.” Rachel added that she keeps in touch with several of her former YOKE kids, who all have kids of their own now.
For alumni they had this advice, “When you graduate and move on to the next chapter in life, continue look for opportunities to invest in teenagers. Look for opportunities to chaperone, get involved where God has placed you, and be willing to be the hands and feet of Jesus.”