What a summer we are having! Over 100 young people participated in our Kairos trips this year: a new record. This month we are reporting on our 7th grade girls trip to the Allegheny Mountains. This trip was the first with just the 7th grade girls. Instead of setting up camp each evening, they stayed in one place and did hikes during the day.
As a special bonus, two former “gappers,” Katherine Kebe and Olivia Harvey, helped staff the trip. It was really fun to have them both back serving in Kairos together. Here are a few of their comments and observations from the trip.
“The trip was so good and very, very blessed,” says Katherine. “This mission was dear to my heart because I can attribute the foundations of my own faith to a trip just like this. The goal of this trip was to set and build those faith foundations, and to plant seeds in the hearts of these girls of what being in community with other Christians can look like. We wanted to foster relational foundations for these girls with each other, but most importantly with their Lord. I sometimes forget the way that the Holy Spirit works in our daily life, but this trip was living proof of the impact He makes in our lives! There is no other way that thirteen 7th grade girls from all over the country would be so tightly bonded within a matter of a few days except by the Holy Spirit.
“I am convinced more and more of the value of being together with other Christians; that the work the Lord is about in our world will be moved forward by Christians together. It was truly an honor to serve and love these young women and I certainly pray that they will continue to draw near to the Lord and the life He has for them! What a gift to be a part of such a mission.”
“The trip was great,” Olivia says. “The girls had a lot of fun, and they bonded really well together. Of course, there were some unforeseen challenges, but the Lord was definitely guiding me and the other leaders through them, and it was such a grace-filled trip!”
We are hoping to expand to more trips next year, especially on the girls side. We are planning for an 8th girls grade trip, along with having trips and events for each high school grade. The goal is for the youth to form strong bonds of friendship and support (as well as having lots of fun), that will sustain them through their college days.
We owe you, our faithful partners, many thanks for being supporters of this mission to young people. God is calling a new generation to know, love, and serve Him. This summer has been a fruitful season in this work. May the Holy Spirit be withyou, ever drawing you nearer to the One who saves!
Your brother in mission,
Summer is upon us and our long-awaited trips are beginning this month. Our new “Kairos Adventure Guides” begins June 13. This program is for college-aged people who wish to serve as staff on Christian adventure trips.
For our first year, CJ and David will be paving the way for our future Guides. In between trips, they will be living in household with other men and receiving training. They will be staffing all four boys’ trips, serving in a “big brother” role for the boys and as models of Christian men. They will be joining our veteran leaders Brian LaLonde and Stan Mathay, along with other adult volunteers.
Another first this year is our “Kairos Summit” in June, being held outside of Atlanta, Georgia. This long weekend retreat/adventure is for juniors & seniors in high school. They will hear presentations from University Christian Outreach and Saint Paul’s Outreach, be given talks about vision for living their lives in fellowship with other Christians, and how to discern what the Lord might want to do with their lives post high school. Another goal is to equip our youth to engage the “world” intellectually by looking at some main “thinkers” throughout history. There will also be day adventures and service projects. We currently have 18 youth signed up for this first-ever event.
From the end of June into July, the 8th grade boys’ “Adirondack Adventure” will happen in upstate New York. This is our second year doing this trip, which took the place of our annual Algonquin canoe trip. It worked really well last year, as Covid restrictions meant we could not travel from the U.S. into Canada. This new trip includes both canoeing and backpacking. We have 20 youth registered from six states, which means we have to split the trip into three groups to respect the wilderness environment.
New this year is our 7th grade girls trip also from the end of June into July. This trip is dubbed “Allegheny Assent.” As of this writing, 14 girls are participating. We will stay at one location for sleeping and hold day hikes. An important goal for the trip is that the girls meet and get to know other Christian middle schoolers. We hope they will form relationships that will help build for their future YES retreats. Elements of the trip will also include prayer together, scripture meditations, and personal sharing. Two GAP alumni are running the trip, along with Kairos staffer Molly Kilpatrick and other staff volunteers from five states.
In the middle of July, we have a canoe adventure for 8th – 9th grade girls; they will travel to Minnesota to canoe the beautiful Boundary Waters. This trip is led by veteran Sandy Buchner. We will also be splitting the group in three to respect the fragile environment of the north country. Currently, 13 girls are going to embrace adventure and Christian fellowship.
Concurrently, another trip we have long held in July is the 9th grade boys “Rocky Mountain Jamboree.” This is our most rugged trip, wilderness hiking in the Rocky Mountains. We currently have around 20 guys attending from eight states.
Finally, at the end of July, we have our classic 7th grade boys Virginia trip: Appalachian Rendezvous. On this trip, we are bound to encounter both rain and cool wildlife (including wild ponies). We have many pictures of boys hiking in rain ponchos as well as welcoming ponies into their campsites!
This is the first summer we have nearly 100 youth participating. Next year, we plan to expand further and add a couple of trips; we are especially planning for high school girls. Our 9th & 10th grade girls’ program will begin next year.
The two Kairos vans will see lots of use. Even with two vans, we will be renting more to meet our needs. This is a great problem to have; the Lord has been good to us!
We are very excited to be able to hold youth trips that seemed out of reach a year ago. Thanks so much for your support in our efforts of reaching youth via these high impact trips. Having these “stretching” adventures with other Christian youth and with phenomenal staff is life changing. Young people remember these trips and the impact they had for their whole lives. Thanks again!
Your brother in the Lord’s service,
Greetings in the Lord! After the great disappointment of needing to cancel the 2020 Youth Equipped to Stand
(YES!) Retreat, our staff was determined to make a “live” event happen this year. Two years in the life of a teen is an eternity. We had a “virtual” retreat in 2020, which was certainly better than nothing, but does not compare to the power of praying together and being together. Stephen Giles, our YES! Re
treat director, filled us in on YES 2021.
“Our theme was Thy Kingdom Come! It turned out to be a very timely theme for 2021. In our staff prayer before the retreat, we sensed that our youth needed to hear the Lord and by touched by Him; that it was time to re-engage after the ‘pause button’ that was the past year. We felt that the youth needed to be moved toward ‘wanting to want’ what the Lord had for them. To move towards being loyal to Christ and not to the world. Only in the Lord is our hope.
“We had 160 youth (about 2/3 of a ‘normal’ YES! Retreat) in person, and about 30 more participating online. Travel was not possible for teens from some states, and not at all for Canadian youth. Michindoh Camp, where we held the retreat, had Covid protocols, and we were able to use those to make as safe a retreat as possible. We could be outside without masks, and when indoors we masked and kept to our ‘pods,’ which were distanced from other ‘pods.’ The pods worked great for housing, meals, worship, talk sessions, discussion groups, and prayer ministry.
“All the kids were repeating how great it was to be there, but the happiest group had to be the sophomores—they missed what was supposed to be their first YES! Retreat last year. They were really ready to engage! The teens were right there, participating in worship, and attentive during the talks and breakout sessions.”
Here are a few of the comments that the youth wrote on their evaluation forms:
“For most of high school, I believed the lie that I was only ‘tolerated’ and not actually loved by anyone. During the prayer session, I asked for prayers to deal with this lie. As soon as my small group started to pray over me, I felt a very strong sense of love and fellowship from God and from my group.”
“Before YES, I was having a difficult time worshipping and really seeing the Lord as the King…worship had become foreign to me. With COVID restrictions, it had been so long since I was able to do praise and worship. Coming into YES Retreat 2021, learning the theme was ‘Thy Kingdom Come’, I knew I was in trouble. But during the first praise and worship session, everything just clicked. As I sang, I thought about all the struggle of the past year, and it just hit me. I suddenly saw all the victories the Lord has won in my life; I realized that he has won THE victory; that he is powerful and mighty. And all I wanted to do was lift my hands and praise him and worship him and sing to him. My soul cried out, ‘You are my King and my God.’”
“Although I come from a very faith-based family, where my parents set an amazing example of having Christ on their ‘thrones,’ during my junior year and the beginning of my senior year of high school I had lost a lot of my faith. I didn’t really care about my relationship with the Lord, and I went to church only because my parents made me. I love riding and training horses, but I put horses and school on my ‘throne’ rather than God. During YES 2021, I was able to realize who should be King of my life. I was one of the people who stood to say that I wanted to give my life to Jesus and set Him on my throne. It will be a daily choice, but the retreat gave me exactly the push that I needed to turn my life around in the right direction: toward Je-sus.”
“The YES Retreat in one word: phenomenal. In two words: life changing. In five words: best weekend of my life. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so at peace with my life and whatever plan God has for me than during the retreat. I don’t think I can describe the pure fulfillment I felt in the Lord and how many things changed in that moment. And that feeling didn’t just go away when I went home. I intend to carry what I learned at the YES Retreat into the rest of my life and grow upon it.”
Well, that makes all the work worth it! Many thanks to Stephen and his staff for making this retreat happen. Thanks to the Lord for all the answered prayers for the retreat. It is humbling to be used by the Lord to reach his precious young people and see them respond to the call to follow Jesus, for their lives, for the rest of their lives. Thanks so much for being part of this ministry. The Lord is blessing our partnership in reaching young people!
Your brother in Christ,
Dear Friends in Christ:
Van Fundraiser Update: We did it! Thanks to the generosity of many people, we have surpassed our goal of $40,000 to purchase two vans for our summer programs! In just over three months, our partners have overwhelmed us with abundance. (If you were meaning to donate, still feel free; extra funds will be used for maintenance and a trailer purchase.) We are currently shopping—what a great blessing!
Last month, we started a series talking about how we are working to sharpen our focus in Kairos. This month, I want to tell you about one very important element of this: our summer trips.
We have been offering summer adventure trips for many years, but mostly for boys, grades 7 to 9. Going forward, we are planning trips for junior high girls, and expanding our trips through the end of high school. As a side point, that is why our van fundraiser was so important; to run these new trips, we will need the wheels.
We are making these changes for a few reasons. First, while something like the YES! Retreat has a big spiritual impact, because it has gotten so big, relationally it becomes harder for youth to get to know young people from other locations. The bigger an event becomes, the more likely people are to hang out with the people they already know. We hope that our summer trips will work against this – we will only have about 20 youth per trip, and youth going on trips will be with the same class every summer – so by the end of High School, they will have some strong, supportive, relational bonds.
As we expand our summer trips, one new adventure we are planning is a special trip for upperclassmen: we are calling this the Kairos Summit. This trip will focus on “what comes next” after high school, with an emphasis on connecting youth to our missions after graduation.
By the time a senior graduates high school, he or she will have had the opportunity to attend four YES! Retreats, five outdoor adventure trips, and a Vision Retreat. So, what happens after high school? Glad you asked!
We are instituting Kairos Adventure Guides. This will be a 3-month summer program of training, living in community with others in Christian household, and serving on the Kairos adventure trips.
There will be two parts to the “Guides” program. The first year will be aimed especially at recent high school grads, but open to all 18–22-year-olds. The second year will be open to veteran staff.
The Guides will receive training as they live in either a men’s or a women’s household while they are doing their training weeks. Training will include camping together, serving together, learning how to be an effective youth leader, and how to be safe in the back country as they lead trips. Then they will spend a lot of time “on the road” staffing various youth trips.
The Adventure Guides will be a summer-only program. However, there will be opportunity for young people who are looking to spend a year away from home. Some of them will want to take a longer time to serve, seek the Lord, and connect to a Christian community. They will serve with Kairos for 5-10 hours a week. Kairos will help them connect with the local University Christian Outreach, the local Christian community, find a job or take classes at a local college, and place them in a good living situation.
There are similarities to the Standing in the Gap Program, with important differences. For example, they will have enough time to have a part-time job or take some college classes. They also will not need to raise their whole support, as they did while in the GAP program. We are hoping to take the best pieces of the GAP adventure and make it more doable for both the young people and for Kairos.
I am very excited about our expanded and sharpened vision for working with youth. I am grateful to the Lord for giving me this adventurous life in Him, and for the opportunity to call young people to a radical life in Jesus Christ. Thank you for being part of this call. Your prayers and financial support mean more than I can express.
In our victorious Lord,
What is the vision, goal, and purpose of our Kairos youth work? Great question! This month we want to explain how we are sharpening our vision and focus to serve youth more effectively.
We have become clearer in recent years that our main mission is to teens, from middle school through high school. This includes helping them “launch” into supportive Christian environments: college or mission or employment. How do we do that?
First off, we work to help awaken an “adventuresome faith.” We want our young people to know that following the Lord can be the greatest adventure of their lives! Kairos sponsors high-impact events that call for a “discipleship response.” These are events that help teens build relationships with other Christian teens; that help them form an identity as a disciple of Christ; where great memories are made; and that offer teens a way to serve in return.
We offer young people a place in Christ’s mission. We help youth workers, parents, and leaders in their local situations to do the same. We are looking for a generous response to the Lord from our young people!
Sounds great, James, but how is this done?
Over the years, we have found that the annual high school YES! Retreat has been hugely effective in calling teens to Christ and moving them forward in their walk with Him. But, starting this summer, we will also be holding “class” trips (from 7 th – 12 th grades) that are much more narrowly focused on the needs of young people in each year of their teenage lives, which includes building relationships with peers.
For our post-high school youth, we will offer them the opportunity to serve as Kairos Adventure Guides on our many adventure trips. This will be an internship that goes for the whole summer, with opportunity to extend it into the fall.
We will continue to provide training – in person and virtually – for youth workers. A yearly “Youth Workers Summit” will be an important part of this. We will also help parents negotiate the “bridging points” where youth can most easily lose their Christian faith (e.g., the move from high school to college). We will hold a yearly online Parent Forum specifically to help parents deal with the media challenges their young person may be having.
In the next couple of months, we will explain more fully about these programs and how we are envisioning their blessings for our youth. We are moving ahead with the YES! Retreat this month, despite obvious challenges. We do not want to squander any opportunity to work with, call, and bring youth closer to Christ.
One of the blessings of the COVID-19 “down time” has been the opportunity to pray and plan and reimagine some of our programs. We are excited about the sharper focus and new initiatives. As you can see below, one of the important practical needs is for vans to transport our youth and staff to and from adventure trip locations. We are genuinely excited about the future of Kairos youth work.
Thank you so much for standing with us during this time.
Your brother in Christ,