Looking back on my Kairos Mission GAP year, there were many life-shaping events right away: moving away from home in Los Angeles (LA), California, learning exactly how unprepared I was to be away from home, and having exposure to different kinds of people. These and many other experiences prepared me to go back home, start college, and serve the Los Angeles community and outreach. Two takeaways that truly helped me in my service are these: just because it is hard doesn’t mean it is not worth doing, and being on mission for the Lord does not always look like praying over strangers on the street.
These feel like common sense in some ways. Many things that are worth doing are difficult, but it was something that stuck with me as I took my flight home coming out of my year of service. As I adjusted to life back home and established new routines and tried to not miss my friends from Michigan so much, I had to do the hard work of re-establishing myself through a transition. There were many moments when I thought I was suffering for no reason, and that life was simply hard.
When those thoughts came, I remembered my GAP Year. I remembered the equally difficult transition then, the challenges of getting used to my service, and the awkwardness that came with meeting new people when I was so used to keeping to myself. I remembered those personal hardships and the end results of what happened when I persevered and continued to do those hard things. Not only did I grow in my personal relationship with the Lord, but I also grew in relationships with others. I grew in knowing my own character. Those lessons stuck with me as I reached out to the students in my classes, struck up relationships with them, served in my community, and grew in my prayer life.
I also had to switch my perception of what mission looked like in my situation. During my high school years, it was hard for me to find many practical applications for the talks I heard at the high school YES retreats or in my own youth group. However, in my GAP year, I saw life lived for the Lord in a variety of ways. Sometimes mission does look like going onto campus and stopping people on their lunch breaks and asking to pray with them. But other times it looks like being welcoming when a new face shows up to a prayer meeting. Sometimes it looks like serving your housemates by doing dishes. Sometimes it looks like normal life lived diligently for the Lord.
This was so important for me to realize as I got home and started to do more ‘regular’ service for my home community. At first, I was restless and bored because I wanted to do more. I wanted to do the exciting and fun and high impact events that were still so fresh in my mind. I had to constantly remind myself that ordinary life can be lived well and can be used for mission. My GAP year helped me realize that while serving can look exciting, most of the time it just looks normal.
Back in Los Angeles during my college years, I mainly served with high school youth as a small group leader. This included giving talks to the girls, helping them establish a prayer life, and supporting them in their many life events. I also served the wider Christian community by leading a testimony writing seminar. I was able to use a lot of the materials given to me by University Christian Outreach (UCO), along with my experience of writing my own testimony during my GAP year.
As I was reaching the end of my bachelor’s degree program, I was looking to the future and what kind of job I could find which best served the Lord while also being a viable career. Initially, I was thinking about becoming a full-time missionary for UCO. As part of my discernment process, I contacted James Munk, my former Gap Director, who had also done work with UCO missionaries, and asked for his advice. During my talk with him, I explained briefly what I was looking for in a career and my discernment about being a missionary. After we talked, James offered me the opportunity to work for Kairos. He did not know it at the time but working for Kairos was something that I had wanted to do since high school. I took the next month to pray and discern this offer.
I made the decision to move across the country to work for Kairos. Working remotely has its benefits, but there is nothing that can compare with working alongside people who have a similar vision and who are working on the same projects. I love the office camaraderie and being able to brainstorm in person with my colleagues.
So, here I am back in Michigan. I work as the Kairos Assistant Director of Information. This includes event administration for our retreats, conferences, and programs. I also connect with youth group leaders in North America with the resources Kairos has to offer, and I am on the executive team for YES Retreats.
Right now, the Lord is teaching me the same takeaway that I received on my GAP Year: that serving and being on mission is also in the ordinary days of life. It is in the emails I send; it is in organizing information so that others are able access it; it is in the day-to-day tasks. He’s showing me that the events I loved going to as a high schooler took a lot of diligent work, and that this kind of nitty gritty work matters. Working for Kairos now has been an incredible blessing and being able to look at how the Lord created a lot of building blocks for me to get to this point is something I am constantly grateful for.
This article was first published in the Kairos North America website.