Greetings in our Lord Jesus Christ! Many young people participate in different Kairos programs: maybe summer adventure trips, YES! Retreats, or taking time off from “normal life” to serve the Stand in the Gap program or now as a Kairos Intern.
This month we hear from JM Hoyt, who did a Gap year in 2015, and stayed on in Michigan to continue serving and growing in his relationship with the Lord. JM grew up in Tempe, Arizona, in a faithful, church-going Christian family. For some reason, JM (like Onesimus from the book of Philemon) needed to get away to really “find” Jesus Christ. As JM says, “I knew everything about Christianity except Jesus.”
“In high school, I was constantly in trouble, hanging with the wrong people and serving many school detentions. I also had issues with academics. During my senior year, this landed me a suspension from the football team, right before big playoff games.
“I worked hard and caught up because I really wanted to play. I had to get several signatures to OK being reinstated to the team. The last one was my dad; I did not think he would be an issue. However, my dad had a condition: that he would present me several things I could do with the year after my graduation, and I had to pick from his list. I wanted to play so I agreed.
“Later in my senior year, I fell in love with philosophy (Aristotle and especially Stoicism). The Lord used this to start drawing me to a better path than the one I was on. Stoicism teaches that we should not get caught up in the world and things of the world. For most of my growing up, what I wanted was to be a Navy Seal. I knew one of the aspects of special ops is being a man of your word. The philosophers gave me the motivation to be that.
“During the summer, my parents sent me to The Philippines to serve with a priest friend of the family. I thought that would cover my dad’s conditions, but it did not! While I was gone, my dad talked with Mike Shaughnessy, the one who developed the Kairos ‘youth bridge’ concept that is now the basis of how we shape our Kairos programs. Mike suggested sending me to Michigan to do a Gap year.
“This was not what I wanted to do, but I was trying to be a man of my word. I was not a Christian when I did the interview for the Gap year. However, I knew all the ‘answers’ because of my upbringing.
“One aspect of the Gap year was a Life in the Spirit seminar. During that seminar, I encountered the Lord and gave my life to Him in a real way. I heard the Lord ask me if I wanted Him. As time went on, my question to myself has been: ‘do I want to continue to serve the Lord and be a disciple?’ This question has informed many decisions since that time.
“After my Gap year, I decided to stay in Lansing. I could see that there were many opportunities to serve and grow as a disciple of the Lord here. If I went back to Tempe, it would be harder with my old friends and connections. There, I was the kid always in trouble and barely passing high school. Here, I was creating a reputation of being zealous for the Lord and someone who could be trusted with significant service in the outreaches.
“I began serving in the University Christian Outreach (UCO) here in Lansing and lived in a UCO household for two years. I went to the community college and earned a degree in skilled trades. I helped lead the Gap guys’ household and continued doing staff work with UCO. I even lived with a household of the Servants of the Word—men living single for the Lord. I wanted to be with these holy guys and to discern what the Lord had for me regarding state of life: continuing with the Servants of the Word, becoming a priest, or married life. After discernment with the brothers, I moved out and took on a UCO household again.
“Now I am doing outreach for a young professions (YP) group in Lansing, called ‘Sycamore Outreach.’ The YP group is what we call the end of the ‘youth bridge.’ We reach out to post-college folks, younger people in trades, and those working instead of attending college. It takes work to contact non-university folks. In addition, many churches have some sort of YP, which can make this seem like a ’saturated market.’ However, generally these outreaches focus on social events—I’m all for social events—but do not call people to mature discipleship and a life-long relationship with Jesus Christ.
“Our goal is to move YPs into an adult, established community of believers by bringing our YP members fully to Christ, filled with the Holy Spirit. We look at this outreach as an ‘on-ramp’ to a committed life in the Lord. We want people to form Christian relationships that will support them in their adult Christian lives: married, single, older, younger, and when they are raising their own families.”
Isn’t it remarkable what the Lord can do with one reluctant ‘Gapper’? Thank you so much for supporting our youth mission work! The Lord is raising up the next generation of missionaries, disciples and leaders, Christian marriages and families, and celibates “for such a time as this.” We are grateful to be on mission with you.
Your brother in Christ,