It is a typical plan for many high schoolers to apply to several colleges and pick one out of the handful. This is a social construct that has been in existence for decades. But it wasn’t the path that Kyleah Kirby took after high school. Instead of being a pawn of social norms, she followed her dreams by taking a gap year with missions.
Kyleah Kirby grew up in on a farm in Spicewood, a small town in the southern part of Texas. She is the middle child in her family of five and always had a deep love for her family, others around her and the outdoors. Kyleah did not care to play inside with barbies and dolls growing up, instead, she enjoyed overalls, adventure, and loved to have her B-B gun close by. Her parents brought her up in a Christian household, homes-chooled and holistically educated. As Kyleah was grown up in this environment, she developed her faith more devoutly every day, did very well in school, and she had a passion for living out her full potential by serving the impoverished and neglected areas of the world.
She attended Faith Academy of Marble Falls for high school. At age 16, she was ready to accept and follow Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth. After her conversion, she gained a strong desire to share the gospel with everyone she could possibly know. With this pursuit, from junior to denior year, she followed her passion with missions by taking a trip over the summer to Uganda. After her trip back, she was significantly changed in her perspective of what God had called her to be.
I began to see the weakness of my efforts to help the world, that truly the power to change communities and heal hearts comes from the Holy Spirit – and that my participation in the continuing restoration of the world is an invitation and a worthy sacrifice, but that He desires healing and restoration, spiritually, economically, and socially beyond what I could ever desire or have the power to change. I also became more acutely aware of the real suffering and darkness in the world, matched with it, the illumination of my own privilege. I saw so much death physically and spiritually in Uganda amidst the aftermath of the occupation of Joseph Kony. I saw the children in the orphanage I worked in, and I longed to stay. I saw the need for people to give their lives to care for them – not just a few weeks and another VBS program – they needed family and belonging.
She returned rejuvenated but incredibly ill with an unidentified mono-like illness. After being unable to go to school for weeks, she finally got back on her toes for the end of her senior year. Passing all of her classes and being accepted into Wheaton, Kyleah was in a very blessed state. Although, she still had a burning desire to continue missions. She felt compelled to go to college, even though it was expensive, it was what her parents encouraged her to do. So she prayed over whether to enroll in college or follow her passion for missions.
One day, while I was praying, God asked me a rhetorical question: ‘I created the universe right?’ I said yes, of course. Then a follow-up question he asked, ‘I can pay for your college, right?’ I said yes God you can. So, I decided on Wheaton and I released that into his hands…But then he asked me a third question: ‘What if you do what you have been dreaming about which was missions with Youth With A Mission (YWAM)?’
Kyleah had heard of YWAM from her trip to Uganda and since then has been deeply interested in attending their program. She looked into The University of Nations which is a network of YWAM that is committed to teaching and develop men and women spiritually, culturally, intellectually and professionally to fulfill the Great Commission for Christians. The organization branches out to over 142 countries and has bases in 8 countries where she attended the base in Kauai, Hawaii. She was excited to attend U of N, as it was called, for this is what she both desired and what God had planned for her to do.
Over the summer, she chose a gap year with YWAM where she worked hard to raise funds. She left for Kona, Hawaii in October and stayed at U of N on campus for 3 months training and 3 months on the field in Nepal, India, Malaysia, and Thailand. Her team of ten young Christian’s mission was to reach the most unreached people groups. Mostly in places where there was rising but struggling Christian churches and they needed support to come in. She traveled a lot with her team from Southeast Asia to Nepal and then to India jumping from place to place and station to station. Her team’s’ primary purpose on the field was to make contacts and encourage the church that was present, working with the local people to understand the needs of their neighbors. Throughout her trip, she had the opportunity to evangelize in the slums and to villages through the administering of medical care and to share the gospel and love of Christ through that ministry.
She came back in March to America extremely malnourished, and sick again with a parasite. Knowing that sickness could not stop her, “I found myself, regardless of the cost (sickness), wanting God to send me anywhere to evangelize.” After recovery, God called her to reapply to both schools and she decided on Wheaton in the fall. She had to come to terms that she was not doing missions now. “I am still getting over my difficulties with health and recovery and I miss that awesome opportunity from that gap year. But hey, even through the hardship, I definitely support a gap year with missions, I think everyone should do it. You do come into an advantage with humbleness than the average freshman entering college because you have experienced the hardships of this world.”
For the next four years of her college, Kyleah will be studying Computer Science and French and make Wheaton her home. She is currently investing in the local refugee community called World Relief. and hopefully being able to work with YWAM over the summers in the Middle East. In the future, she hopes to work long term in missions in the Middle East/ North Africa region, Muslim communities.
Whether your last few years lines up with Kyleah’s or not, an opportunity to pursue missions while young is beneficial for anyone. Missions find its way to embolden a young follower of Christ’s growth in perspective and humility like it did with Kyleah. So ponder on your plans for the future, consider taking the trip to the unreached places, explore the world, use your talents and spread the Word through the commision of missions.