Here are some highlights from the 2019 YES! Retreat (To Whom Shall You Go?). The “stats” are significant: over 400 in attendance—240 teens and 170 staff. The main thing, of course, is “how were teens impacted?”
So, here are a few comments from some of our teen participants:
“Before I came to the YES retreat, I was super nervous, and I did not feel confident at all. After the women’s talk about confidence in the Lord, I felt so extremely confident; it has impacted me in many ways; I continue to feel that same confidence in the Lord a week after the retreat.”
“The Lord helped me to become a more faithful person. After going to YES, I became much closer to Him and more open to others.”
“During the small-group prayer time, when I was being prayed over, I heard the Lord through my small group saying that I needed to put Jesus at the center of my life and put Him first in front of everything else. Then He will give me courage and strength.”
“This was my second YES retreat. All throughout my freshman and sophomore years of high school, I have been working hard and praying a lot to overcome insecurities. Time and time again I have given this over to Jesus. So, I was very discouraged when the old fears and doubts kept coming back. On Saturday night, my small group prayed over me. I really felt like God spoke to me in the exact words I needed to hear through this verse my small-group leader read while they were praying: “HE rescued us from such great danger of death, and HE will continue to rescue us; in HIM we have put our hope that HE will rescue us again” (2 Corinthians 1:10). So, I have hope and I know that no matter how many times I’m faced with the same doubts about my worth, I can always turn to Jesus and He will be there for me and never let me down.”
For some of the teens, it is straightforward: “I was able to pray at the YES Retreat without worrying what everyone thought.”
Other times our teens are dealing with some major issues in their lives: “The past two years have been very difficult for me because my family moved and then this past December, my parents got a divorce. Because of my family situation, I have been struggling with anxiety, depression, trusting God, and feeling as though I am not lovable by God or by anyone else. At the YES Retreat, during the Saturday night small group, I asked for prayers that I would be able to trust God again and stop feeling that I was unlovable. God answered my prayers; as my small group started to pray over me, I felt God’s love through them. For the first time in a long time, I was able to trust that I am loved and that Jesus is going to make sure everything is okay.”
Finally, from a New Jersey high school senior: “I got involved this year in a high school youth group. When the time for the YES Retreat came along, I was very excited to get away from New Jersey for a bit. I had just recently had a very bad falling out with one of my best friends. I felt betrayed, disrespected, and very angry. The 12-hour bus ride to Michigan was fun and the first couple hours of the retreat were amazing. But suddenly, while we were playing an icebreaker game, I saw my former friend out of the corner of my eye. Why was she there? How did she even get there? So many questions ran through my mind, but I knew this was part of God’s plan.
“The next day, we had a women’s session and part of it involved smashing boxes with a baseball bat (symbolizing smashing our insecurities). Smashing the boxes was freeing because it felt as though I was breaking through all the pain she had put me through. The next thing that really touched me was being prayed over by my small group. I asked prayers for forgiveness, and in that moment, I heard God say ‘It’s me; you need to let me forgive her for you because you can’t do it on your own strength.’ After that small group, I felt a lot better and I felt myself abandon all that anger at the foot of the cross.
“In the last talk, given by Miriam Holmes, she said that ‘Christ suffered and died on the cross for our enemies too.’ That struck me because I didn’t want to accept the fact that God loves us equally. But day by day since the retreat, I’ve been able to let go of the situation and the burden feels lifted off my shoulders. I know for a fact that this is God’s work because I couldn’t have done it on my own.”
The YES! Retreat is a huge undertaking, both for our staff and for the families of our high school participants. Many of the teens flew to Michigan from Canada, California, Florida, and other far-away places in order to attend. We are grateful for the parents willing to sacrifice to get their kids to this life-giving retreat. We are also very grateful for all our donors who support us with prayer and financial help so that we can sponsor high-impact events like the YES! Retreat. You are an important partner in this mission to youth; thanks so much.
We are well underway in planning for our youth summer trips. We have opportunities for mission and service to the poor at the high school level. For the junior high participants, we sponsor adventurous, character-building trips. Our trip leaders share below the plans for summer 2019.
“Our Mexico mission trips feature a house building project through Rancho Feliz, a locally-based American charity. Our dormitory is located just one-half mile south of Douglas, AZ in the Mexican city of Agua Prieta. We are hoping to have a dozen teens on each trip.
Trip Dates: June 16—June 25 (guys trip) June 30—July 9 (girls trip).
“We will work each day in an impoverished neighborhood where we will be helping a local family transition from a shanty-type shelter to a brick home designed to withstand the worst conditions this high desert can dish out. We will also spend some time with children at a nearby orphanage. It is not all work, though; we will aim to catch some fun at a nearby national park during our downtime.
“On our mission trips we have daily inspirational meditations and times of prayer together. Some things you can pray for and ask the Lord on our behalf:
- That we be salt and light to one another, to the people who serve with us, and to the people we serve
- That we fill our rosters with young missionaries
- That we can meet all of our financial obligations that are incurred during the trips (including necessary funds for the building materials to build the home).”
Mission Trip Director
“On the Kairos Fellowship side, three boys trips are planned for this summer,” our KF director, Brian LaLonde, reports. “For 9th-grade boys, we are going for two weeks in July to the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming. This is a rugged trip involving mountain hiking and camping (and lots of fun).
“For 8th graders, we will be canoeing for eight days in the Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario. Getting the boys out on the northern waters, portaging canoes and supplies, and setting up and taking down camp daily is a wonderful experience for them.
“Then for the 7th graders, we have an eight-day trip to the Appalachian Mountains of Virginia. This trip will be at the end of July to early August. There is plenty of wildlife (including herds of ponies) to see and beautiful mountains to hike.
“For junior high girls, we have a wilderness canoe trip to the Boundary Waters of northern Minnesota. This trip is held every other year, so we will soon be looking at dates for 2020.
“We see tremendous growth in these young men and women as they become more confident, form new Christian friendships, and go deeper in relying on Jesus Christ. It is a great privilege to watch them grow in the Lord as they experience being out in God’s creation!”
Kairos Fellowship Director
Young people are greatly changed through the challenges, comradery, satisfaction, and deeper reliance on the Lord that these trips provide and promote. Many of our youth make their own commitments to follow Christ during the course of our mission and adventure trips. Thanks so much for being part of that through your gifts and prayers!
Meet 5 young disciples setting a year apart in Lansing, Michigan for a lifetime set apart.
The GAP Program allows young people from all over the world to be on the front lines of the Kairos mission. Gappers take a year off of school or work to move to a new city, live in Christian households, and serve in a variety of ways. If you want to keep up with what this year's GAP class is doing, make sure to like and follow their page Kairos GAP North America!
Hi, Y'all! My name is Becky Jacobs and I am from the dairy-filled (and beautiful!) land of Wisconsin. I love watercolor, breaking out in dance, exploring waterfalls, hiking, and doing anything outdoors with my family; sheep farming (most of the time)! I came on this GAP year to be more open to God's plan for my life because I want to spend the rest of my life serving Him. I also hope to grow in loving those around me! #andnowi'mhere
Hello! My name is Katherine Kebe and I am from Columbus, Ohio. I am quite fond of reading, history, reading history, and tickling the ol’ ivories. I also enjoy spending lots of time with my family, listening to big band music, watching quality films, and having a good laugh. I am super stoked to delve deeper into my faith as I grow in my love and service of others this year!
Hailing from the great Vancouver, Canada - I am Julian Piezas! Prior to entering my GAP year to serve the Lord on new soils, I studied Sciences at UBC. Some of my passions include music, art (photography and design), food, and the Gospel - which I’m delighted to share with others through my GAP services this year. Talk to me about superheroes, basketball, Canada, and Netflix, among other things!
Hi all! My name is Kelsey Stone and I hail from beautiful Ypsilanti (Ip-si-lan-ti), Michigan. I can often be found with a mug in my hand and debating my housemates and friends about various topics. I also love reading, pretending I know something about music theory, and baking (I make killer brownies). This year I hope to dive into radical discipleship and learn more about myself and the community in Lansing!
Hello! I am Olivia Harvey, and I grew up in the lakeshore town of Spring Lake, Michigan. I enjoy a good movie or two, dogs, competition, card games, Christmas, Parks and Rec, and just being myself around people I love. I look forward to God's work with me and through me, this year by helping me to grow in love for Him and my neighbor. I trust that by this time next year He will have made me a better and stronger radical soldier for Christ!
Mark Nitkiewicz, a junior from Ypsilanti, Michigan, shares about going on a Kairos Mission Trip to Agua Prieta.
“While serving in Mexico God worked through me in a profound way. Back home I was used to running through a tight schedule getting things done and not building relationships along the way. I felt constantly controlled by a wristwatch. When I arrived in Agua Prieta my internal clock was thrown off and I often didn’t know what time it was, which drove me crazy. However, something that seemed difficult turned out to be a huge blessing. Throughout the next few days, I learned to trust others and experienced the ability to relax without people constantly calling me for work or school and having to schedule events every day. During this time away from my busy life back home I was able to see how God had blessed me with peace and faith in Him. God wasn’t done working in me though, during the rest of the trip I formed valuable friendships with many people, something I had taken for granted back home. Serving with the other guys on my trip and learning new skills at the worksite in place of my fast-paced work back home was an awesome experience and some of the best fun I’ve ever had. Overall God blessed my trip with peace, faith, love, charity, and many great skills and friendships.”
Esa Vance reflects on her 2017-2018 GAP year.
“God loves you.” I grew up hearing this all eighteen years of my life, but I had never been convinced that it was true. What faith I did have I wished to preserve during my college years so I applied to the Kairos GAP Program because of the transformation I saw in some of my friends who had interned with Kairos. After being accepted into the GAP Program I had three months to begin raising ten thousand dollars to fund my GAP year and prepare to move to Lansing, Michigan for nine months. “That is a crazy thing to decide” and “aren’t mission years supposed to be in exotic places?” I would repeat these doubts over in my head, but long before applying there was an assurance about the GAP Program set in my heart that would not be shaken even though I tried.
I arrived in August after God pretty much dragged me to Michigan. It was a new place, a new environment, full of new people, and a list of things I had never done before. I quickly discovered that if I tried to do everything set before me by myself I would fall fast and fail. I could not do it all on my own, and not so coincidentally the GAP Program put me in a position where I needed to accept the hand of God. From living in a household with the other female interns to serving the local Lansing community to managing youth retreats, I could not rely solely on myself. I needed to turn to the power of prayer daily to move the mountains before me and through this need, I forged a relationship with the Lord.
One day I was having a really tough go of it. I was riding the city bus my (main mode of transportation) surrounded by strangers that I did not enjoy sitting next to. I was waiting on the Lord to work in my life and in that moment of blinding judgment and ignorance, the Father shone through in His clarity. I was not waiting on Him; He was waiting on me, to open my eyes and see Jesus Christ in every person on that bus. This was Christ’s presence: me sitting on the bus on my way home from services called to be an instrument of love to those around me.
I was called to a city in Michigan, not somewhere exotic. I went to bed every night thinking “God worked today, and I am not who I was yesterday.” It was not a single moment that transformed me but rather each day of those nine months. Every time I would look to the Father to see He was already looking at me. I experienced the Father’s love by the presence of His Son in my life and I was able to be Christ to others by the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.
Amidst these nine months of adventure, joy, friendship, service, humility, hardship, laughter, risk, trial, and peace, I needed the Lord. Moreover, I came to know and love Him because He loved me first.
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” 2 Corinthians 2:18 ESV