Above is a group of schoolgirls who attend Cosmo and Sarah Zimik’s MK Hope Academy in India. (Courtesy photo)
By Gaye Bunderson
Hope is a four-letter word that is changing lives in India.
On February 5, 2020, Cosmo and Sarah Zimik opened a school in the village of Marao, India and named it MK Hope Academy. “We are the first, private, English-speaking school in that area to talk about Jesus and the Bible,” Cosmo Zimik said during an interview on March 10 at his martial arts studio in downtown Nampa.
Marao is Cosmo’s birthplace and the school was named in honor of his parents. The M stands for his father, Mayarbing, and the K stands for his mother, Khathingla. If it weren’t for them, Cosmo wouldn’t be the well-respected Christian businessman and philanthropist he is today. “The whole story is a miracle,” he said. “As a family, we barely had enough to eat, but three of us kids went to college.”
It was his sister who first started a school in Marao 20 years ago. She saw many orphans on the streets and decided she would educate them. Amazingly, she did it in her front yard. For many years, Cosmo and Sarah helped support his sister’s work by sending her money. Twelve years ago, they started to fund the entire project and it was only a matter of time before they decided to start a school themselves.
In 2003, the Zimiks established the International Missionary Network, a non-profit that oversees the work they do for Cosmo’s own native people, northeast India’s Naga tribe. IMN is supported by donations but the Zimiks have provided a lot of the funding themselves. “We empty our pockets every month,” Cosmo said. “I am happy to serve God; it’s not so much about money.”
In 2011, IMN built the Chi Ching MK Academy in the village of Senakeithei, India. The school is open to all the children in that area, including Nepali refugees and others, especially those unable to pay for uniforms or books. MK Hope Academy followed nine years later and is a K-12 shool that teaches life skills such as mechanics, wood craftsmanship, other crafts, arts, and Bible classes.
Information at Cosmo’s MorungProject.com reads: “The end goal of this school (in combination with our other schools), boarding house, and outreach program is to train 10,000 disciples from Naga tribes to be sent out as missionaries and evangelists through their own workplaces in order to reach their own people and the peoples around them with the salvation message of Jesus.”
“I am always accountable to people,” Cosmo said, explaining the government of India closely watches him and he is careful to do everything in accordance with the law as well as the Bible. “The devil does not like what we are doing. I’ve been trying to pray more and hear more from God.”
He is adhering to the biblical mandate to help widows and orphans and fights against a poverty that has led many in the region to grow opium poppies for use in the manufacture of heroin. Marijuana fields are also a frequent sight there. Desperately impoverished people grow the crops because they are highly sought by illicit drug traders in many countries around the world and provide a source of income for the poor.
But Cosmo is working hard to lead people in the area out of poverty, both in the school and in the communities in the Marao region.
“At the academy there are quite a bit of orphans,” Cosmo said. “We work to house the orphans and underprivileged children.”
The housing includes clothing and food, and it is widows who make meals and look after the children and are paid for their work.
“The widows are ‘caretaking’ the kids,” he said.
To help defray the costs, by 2021 the hope is to have 50 orphans, 100 underprivileged children (poor but not orphans), and 150 children who come from homes with parents who can pay for their schooling, which would help with the cost of educating the less fortunate youngsters.
An essential component in the success of the academy is to make it self-financing, and the idea encompasses how people in the region make a living. Cosmo is bringing sustainable projects to the area that include cash crops like ginger, yams, turmeric, cucumbers, bananas, and other plants that will eliminate the growing of marijuana and opium poppies for people’s economic survival. He himself will buy the seeds, and when the crops are ready, he will purchase them and transport them to be sold at market. He also wants to bring livestock to the area, such as chickens and pigs, to demonstrate that the raising of animals can be more profitable than raising products for drugs.
“We’re also doing this as a way to support the school,” he said. “We’re now getting more bold to stop the poppies and marijuana. We have been fighting this forever, but now is a very good time. We have been slowly fighting the culture in India, but now many people are fighting the culture and wanting it to change. It’s better now than it was 20 years ago.
“Our culture is very hard to fight. We fight with Christ, but slowly. We’re trying to touch everybody, to bring Christ through education, and bring a self-sustaining society.”
Cosmo explained there are Christians in that area but they are not yet strong in faith. “All they do is go to church; they do not have a personal relationship with God. We want to bring a revival and bring God.”
He wants to make MK Hope Academy an example in India and especially in the 10 villages or so that surround the school. “Rather than having a missionary come to them, it’s time for them to send missionaries around the world,” he said.
Cosmo, though born and raised in India, is an American citizen and entrepreneur. He has owned and operated Empty Hand Combat in Nampa for many years, teaching martial arts to people of all ages. He met his wife – who is currently chief development officer at the Boise Rescue Mission – when she was involved in sports ministry in China and he performed stunts at events. Sarah wanted to start a martial arts ministry and the end result was the Hong Kong Gospel Martial Arts Ministry she and Cosmo formed together.
“We used martial arts to teach about faith and Christianity,” he said.