Teen Inserts Christian Faith, Bible Into CBS Reality Show 'Survivor'

Oct 12, 2016 12:17 PM EDT

The youngest contestant in the history of CBS reality TV show "Survivor" brought a Bible with him into the competition, and aspires to be a pastor in real life. Will Wahl, 18, recently debuted on the show's new season premiere; he hails from Trinity United Methodist Church in Hackettstown, N.J. His fellow congregants are delighted he is using this national platform to bear witness to his faith.

After graduating from the Morris County School of Technology, Wahl is currently enrolled in his first semester at Ohio State University where he studies psychology and political science, according to UMC news sources. He hopes to become a pastor in the United Methodist Church, something he said he always felt called to, but only truly understood after a journey to Haiti.

Watched by 9 million people, "Survivor" offers a TV competition game that tests survival skills. Wahl said after seeing "Survivor" season 22 in 2011, he became a super fan of it. He said he watched all previous seasons while immersing himself in podcasts and message boards about the show.

"'Survivor' is special for me because it's like watching a social experiment," Wahl told CBS News. "I like to see how each contestant reacts, how they thrive or fail."

Last year, Wahl approached his pastor, Rev. Frank Fowler with a "comprehensive" and "professional" proposal to take water filtration to Haiti. With the help of church leaders, Wahl raised the necessary funds, and along with his family and church members, traveled to Haiti in January. As a result, the town of Bon Repos, just north of the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince was benefited by water filtration systems installed at the Light and Peace Mission.

Haiti played a monumental role in Wahl's life of faith, as he said he pondered on people who "had nothing, no home, no food, no worldly possessions."

"But they did have hope," he said. "They had a faith in God that I had never seen before."

Wahl said believers attending a Haitian church service displayed a love toward God and others unlike anything he had ever seen. Faith and courage in God were something Wahl said he had since his youth but was reaffirmed and made stronger by his experiences in Haiti.

"The people of Haiti taught me that worldly possessions do not equate to happiness, but hope and faith can certainly make one happy," Wahl said. He decided that moment solidified his calling to pastoral ministry.

"I felt called to spread the word of God so that other people could know God's word and the happiness that only God can give," he said.

Haiti also played a role in Wahl's inspiration and preparation for "Survivor." Contestants on the show go without food, clean water, and amenities, but Wahl said the people he met in Haiti have it much worse.

"Many Haitians do not have the luxuries that I gave up to play 'Survivor.' And by seeing what the people of Haiti are going through every day, it gave me the strength and courage to go on the show," Wahl said. "I knew God was with me just as He is with the people of Haiti, and that if I keep my faith, everything will be alright."

Wahl credits his middle school Sunday School teachers with inspiring him to become more involved in his faith. "Instead of just teaching us the Bible, these teachers had discussions with us to help us learn," Wahl said. "They made learning the Bible relatable and fun."

Wahl became a Sunday school teacher and joined a small group. He works as a youth assistant and mentor to Hannah LaBar, a young girl in the church with special needs.

Wahl's official bio statement on the "Survivor" website lists Jesus Christ as his inspiration.