Category: Updates

2019 YES! Retreat

 

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.

A Preview of 2019 Kairos Summer Trips

 

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).”

Mike Kramer

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!”

Brian LaLonde

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 The 2018-2019 Gap Class

 

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!

Becky Jacobs

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

 

Katherine Kebe

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!

Julian Piezas

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!

Kelsey Stone  

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!

Olivia Harvey

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!

2018 OPERACIÓN AGUA PRIETA – BOYS TRIP

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.”

“I came to know and love Him because He loved me first”

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

Meet The 2017-2018 Gap Class

 

Meet six 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!

 

Marie DeMarais

Hello! My name is Marie DeMarais, and I am from St. Paul, Minnesota. I enjoy runs and good conversation. When not adventuring in the realm of community-building in Lansing, I can be found hiking along mountains with my rapidly-expanding family. From the short time that I have been here, I have already experienced a grace in finding a new “home away from home” and the goodness of ecumenical living. I have been amazed how totally different people from different states and countries can find themselves within a neighborhood block of each other for the sake of the kingdom of God. I am excited to see how the Lord continues to work this year in the GAP program!

Esa Vance

Hey, I am Esa ("ee-suh") Vance and I hail from the cold doldrums of St. Paul, Minnesota which contrary to popular belief does not mean I like or tolerate the cold so just my luck I ended up in the most similar place to Minnesota. I am a summer baby through and through and enjoy many laughs with good company under the quickly fading summer sun or just a good book in hand with a puppy in my lap. I believe this year will increase my capacity for peace, joy, and hope through the people I meet and the experiences I journey through. I never knew how stagnate the life I had built for myself was until I allowed it to be flooded with movement. So thank you Kairos North America GAP Program for moving me!

Cecilia Harvey

Hello, my name is Cecilia Harvey, I am from Spring Lake, Michigan, and I love to watercolor, listen to old jazz music, sing, and play my ukulele. I came on this GAP year because God called me, and opened so many doors for me to have this opportunity. I hope to get to know Christ more this year by imitating Him in the small ways that I can, through serving others as He served us, as well as to grow and push myself, and to take on challenges with a willing heart.

Elizabeth Potter

Hi guys! I’m Lizzie from London, England. I’m super pumped for this year and am especially excited to serve those from different walks of life to my own. My loves in life are snails, drinking herbal tea and spontaneous dance parties!!

Joshua Maslow 

I am from West St. Paul Minnesota, and I love to rock climb, swim, play ultimate frisbee, and play almost any card game. What I hope to get out of this year is really turning my focus in life completely to the Lord and learning how to serve His people better.

Sam Dunsmore 

I spend my winters skiing and my summers fishing. My three favorite movies are, in order, Napoleon Dynamite, The Dark Knight, and another movie. I like to make people laugh, usually, this means I end up making a lot of jokes. Oh, and by the way, my name is Sam.

Kairos Fellowship Adventures and Blessings

 

We had two trips this Summer. A big trip out to Wyoming had 14 9th graders and a 7th grade trip that had 13 guys adventuring in Virginia. Both trips were a huge success! The guys formed new friendships, persevered through adversity, and most importantly were challenged to cultivate and deepen a personal relationship with their Creator.

“One Kairos Fellowship tradition is to swim in a river on our final day of backpacking. This year, we went on quite the expedition to reach our water. After trekking down a small stream and fighting through thick brush, we reached a point in the river where the water was teeming with life as it rushed over the river bed (invigorating us all as it washed off our trip grime). This adventure that strayed us from the trail was a highlight for all the guys on the trip. We’re hoping to get these fresh trail blazers back for a trip next summer!”

-Brian LaLonde, Kairos Fellowship Director

2017 Kairos Fellowship Blessings

  • Our “Men’s Campfire” (Dads) was rich on June 2 in Chelsea, MI
  • The van, “Red Justice” did its job for the second summer
  • Joe Dubois brought walkie-talkies for our WY driving
  • Stunning Sunsets and Countless Stars
  • Three guys were lost for almost an hour but then found (of course!)
  • A lost wallet was recovered at Wendy’s
  • Deep Staff testimonies around the campfire
  • The (new to us) 4-H camp in Virginia was great
  • We found excellent new campsites in Wyoming
  • Our group unity was strong and enjoyable

 

Legacy Conference Highlights

We gathered in Columbus, Ohio for this year’s Legacy Conference and here’s what people had to say about it:

“I loved getting together with the workers from other Kairos university outreaches. I really did not know many of my counterparts in the Saint Paul’s Outreaches. There was a lot of camaraderie between the SPO missionaries and UCO missionaries because of our common service. That was great to see. I also loved seeing old friends who are now all over the country. It was refreshing to catch up with many of them. At times it felt like a giant think tank to answer the question, ‘how do we really be on mission in the professional setting?’ It was encouraging to see so many young professionals sharing their experiences of intentional outreach in their work places. I also experienced a richness in the worship. The Lord was present there. I left encouraged and refocused.”

-Clara, Mission Director for University Christian Outreach Lansing

“I thought the highlight of the conference was the fellowship and worship times. Dave Hughes gave an awesome talk about ‘proverbs’ for us young Christians who are trying to rise in the world professionally, but who are also trying to establish our lives in Christ. Bonus: we also stayed in a pretty nice hotel!”

-Michael, PhD Candidate at Michigan State University

“This was my first time attending the Legacy Conference,” said Claire, who works for a large hospital system. “I enjoyed the chance to meet other young professionals striving to live for the Lord. We had a lot of time to socialize and meet people from different places. The talks we heard were geared towards our demographic and were helpful to me as a person trying to figure out how to navigate Christian life in the secular working world. I particularly enjoyed the talk about how to live out a ‘bi-vocational life’: a life where you have a vocation to live and serve in a Christian community or church setting and also a vocation to work at a secular job. Dave Hughes shared wisdom that he has gained from living out this kind of life as a member of a Sword of the Spirit community and a GM executive. We also broke into small groups to discuss the talks. It was a good opportunity to meet other people my age and hear about how they are living as Christians post-college.”

-Claire, Human Resources Specialist at a large hospital system

“My favorite thing about the Legacy Conference is that we come together with young professionals from outreaches and communities we don’t often see. I mainly see people from other UCOs we are working with, so it was awesome to get to know people coming out of SPO as well. The fellowship and worship were spot on!”

-Rebekah, Mission Leader for University Christian Outreach Lansing, originally from Costa Rica

“The Legacy conference was indeed a Legacy. It served as a great reminder that the Lord deserves all our time and lives. It was a great opportunity to enjoy His goodness, sit in His presence and relax! Spending the weekend with people from different cities, states, and countries demonstrated the wonderful blessing of being part of a community of communities. Personally, Dave Hughes’ talk was very inspiring, mainly the part where he talked about the fact that God loves success. He’s not asking us to choose between being Christians or being successful at work; He loves to see us successful in everything we do.”

-Daisy, staff worker for Ignite Youth Group in Ann Arbor, originally from Lebanon

Outside My Comfort Zone

Stephen Giles shares his experience about travelling to India and learning to deal with discomfort.

“James Munk (Director of Kairos North America) shared what he does in India. He spoke of the challenges in working with college and high school young people in India and about the mission there. He said that one way we could serve the mission in India was to participate in the May households he was organizing. It sounded like a real adventure; it hit at something within me. I thought about it and then called James and said, ‘I’d like to go.’ Within about 10 minutes, James was saying, ‘when you are in India…’ ‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘I’m really going; I’m on the team!’

“I was looking for adventure, which I thought maybe that wasn’t a ‘spiritual’ enough reason to go. James said no, it is good for young men to crave adventure.

“Soon, I was on my way to Bangalore, the capitol of the state of Karnataka . It is an enormous city by my standards (8.42 million). Besides James and me, our household included 12 Indian guys, one Filipino, and one American doing a GAP Year in the Philippines.

“My first impressions of India: it was warm (even at 1:00 in the morning) and there was not much night traffic. Then morning came. There are too many cars for the roads; it is hot and noisy with scooters and motorcycles everywhere. We walked around the neighborhood which was really helpful for seeing Indian street life. There are lots of street vendor stands with fruits and other foods. You can buy a fresh coconut, for example, cut the top, drink the milk, scoop out the wonderful flesh.

“Living in India made me re-evaluate distance and speed. Driving an hour and a half would be normal coming back from an evening activity. 30 mph would be very fast (I don’t think I ever achieved that on a scooter). Driving in the U.S. is so easy in comparison: a two-lane road in India would have three cars and a truck across the same two lanes.

“My role was mainly to be part of the small group, be a solid  member of the household, and be a witness of a man ‘fired up’ for the Lord. I also did the morning prayer meditations. James told us on the team that we were an ‘authority’ just because we were there on behalf of the Sword of the Spirit and knew how to apply the talks we were hearing in our lives.

“Our household did ‘memory-making trips.’ We traveled to national parks and had adventures together. We grew in trying new things. In our household talk series, we heard about not making decisions based on fear of discomfort or pain.

“We took bucket ‘showers,’ had six guys sleeping on the floor as well as three each in the two bedrooms, and ate off our laps because we had no table. Personal space was lacking so it was a stretch for us all. I learned that it is OK to be uncomfortable and that we have a very easy life in the U.S. I learned what I actually need and what I just want. We all learned to do dishes, cook, and work on a task together (and stay until the job is done). There were no moms to do stuff for us!

“Looking back at my time in India, I can see that I grew in an attitude of ‘gameness’: being willing to do things outside my comfort zone. It was a lot more fun when I was willing to try new things, new foods, and be uncomfortable. Embracing that attitude  allowed me to take on more responsibilities and do things that were ‘out there,’ rather than sitting safely at home in the air conditioning.

“I grew as a disciple – I did things a little ‘unsafe’ like sharing the Gospel with someone. I saw that being afraid or uncomfortable keeps me from doing things for the Lord – not really good reasons. I learned lessons by ‘doing,’ not just from hearing a teaching.

“I am moving on to a mission year in Detroit this fall. I’ll be an employee of YouthWorks-Detroit, working with Detroit youth. However, since I didn’t get sick in India and I got a 10-year visa, James said I am coming back!”

 

Brittle in the Sun

Peter Galer, a freshman at Lansing Community College, shares about going on a Kairos Mission Trip to Agua Prieta.

“Mike Kramer (Kairos Mission Trips Director) came and did a presentation at our youth group. Last year was my senior year of high school and I had never gone on a mission trip, even though I had heard the ‘mission trip pitch’ many times. That day, some buddies in the youth group and I just looked at each other and it was, ‘Yup, we’re going.’

“Our trip had 14 guys and 3 staff participating. When we got out of the bus in Douglas, Arizona, it was like being hit with a heat wave for this boy from Michigan. Wow.

“We walked over the border into Mexico pushing wheel chairs, needed by a mission group. It was pretty amazing and random. Obviously, getting into Mexico is a lot easier than getting back! Douglas is a normal U.S. city. Over the border, a couple of miles away, is Agua Prieta. The difference is night and day. At first I thought that someone had ‘pranked’ the town of Agua Prieta; trash was EVERYWHERE. I soon learned that dealing with trash is not a priority; there are many other needs.

“Our days began and ended with prayer together. The consistency was great and praying with the guys was really good and uniting for us. It strengthened our relationships and made us feel like a real community of Christians living mission.

“At the worksite, we did various jobs. We started a house by digging the foundation and then pouring the cement, preparing it so the girls mission trip after ours could build the walls. A lot of the time before that was spent working on bricks. They are made of horse manure – really. The bricks would be too brittle in the sun, so we mixed dirt and rocks from the desert with concrete and mortar and then plastered this on the walls (stucco) over the bricks. You have to cover every bit of the walls.

“We dug the latrine for the house (four feet across, four feet wide, and nine feet down). We also dug the piping for the PVC vent and covered the hole with a thicker concrete mix. All this was a lot harder than we thought it would be.

“Working together allowed me to see the strengths and gifts of the different guys. Some of these guys were as young as 14; I was really struck by their Christian maturity. I would not have been where they were on a mission trip at 14 (I’m 18). Some of us were more used to manual labor. Some guys were incredibly smart, as in ‘you have to do the formula conversion to fluid ounces’ when we were trying to figure out how to build a latrine. Everyone brought something to the table.

“We also spent time with orphans who lived about half an hour away in a city called Naco. We played games with them and went swimming with them – the kids would be really excited and talk and talk. Only a few of us spoke Spanish. They probably couldn’t figure out how guys as old as we were didn’t know how to speak!

“During this trip, I learned some things about myself. I realized that I was not a very sympathetic person to those in need. My view was that they should just work hard and push through. But, being in a place with such poverty, seeing people working 12-14 hours every day and being happy they have work at all, caused me to reevaluate. For example, there was a 74-year-old guy there who arrived in the morning before us, worked longer than we did, and never took a lunch break. He always acted happy and grateful. I saw that I complain WAY more than they do. I learned how difficult other people’s lives are and how good I have it. I also learned that if you are on kitchen duty, you keep working even if you are dead tired!

“Even though it was tough, I would love to be there on mission longer than the 10 days we had.”