Australian worship leader Darlene Zschech (pronounced "check") didn't set out to write a globally popular praise song when she penned "Shout to the Lord" in 1993. "I wrote it when I was feeling discouraged," explains the 35-year-old Queensland native with the lilting Aussie accent. "I felt I could either scream and pull my hair out—or praise God."
At the time, Darlene and her husband, Mark, now 37, had two babies, and with a struggling motorcycle-parts business, money was tight. It was during one particularly stressful day that Darlene snuck into the toy room where they kept their piano and put into song the spiritual truths to which she desperately clung: "Mountains bow down and the seas will roar at the sound of your name," and "Nothing compares to the promise I have in you."
That song, "Shout to the Lord," was released by Hillsong Music Australia, the praise and worship label of the 10,000-member church in Sydney where Darlene now serves as worship pastor. In 1996, it became the title cut of a gold-certified worship album released in the U.S. by Hosanna! Music. Since then, the song's been sung by congregations worldwide, and performed for the Pope at the Vatican and for the President of the United States. There's even a book releasing in July, Shout to the Lord: Testimonies of His Promise, His Love, His Song (Albury), filled with stories of how it's given hope to the hopeless from Antarctica to Asia.
Considered one of this generation's premiere worship leaders, Darlene has penned dozens of praise songs and performed on numerous worship albums released
across the world (on the Integrity Music label in the U.S.), including the most recent, Shout to the Lord the Platinum Collection (Integrity Music/Hillsong Music Australia). Mark and Darlene are also the associate directors of Hillsong Conference, an annual international worship workshop in Sydney attended by thousands of church leaders. And this spring, they are launching Mercy Ministries Australia, the first international branch of Mercy Ministries of America, a nonprofit organization that provides free housing and Christ-centered hope to teen girls struggling with pregnancy, drugs, abuse, and eating disorders.
Unfortunately, Darlene's no stranger to troubled teen years. Outwardly her childhood seemed glamorous—she was singing and dancing on a weekly children's television show in Australia, Happy Go 'Round, at the age of 10. But when she was 13, her parents divorced. The pressures of television, combined with the emotional turmoil of her parents' divorce and the custody battle that ensued, took their toll. By age 14, bulimia reared its ugly head.