In this post, you'll find out about why I did a gap year, and how it changed the course of my life.
I was always the girl with the plan. My dad worked at a university, so I always knew where I wanted to study and what I wanted to do. Everything changed my last year of high school, when my dad accepted a job at a different university. Suddenly, we were packing up and moving across the state to help out with a school I knew nothing about.
I had to make a choice. Did I go to the school I had wanted to go my whole life, or did I change my decision so I could be close to my family?
This time was such a struggle for me. I had spent all of junior high and high school chasing other things and spent no time with my family or figuring out who I was and what I believed.
After thinking about it for a bit, I decided it would be best for me to take a gap year.
I decided I was going to take a year off to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do next. I knew I loved travel and mission work, so I googled "Gap Year Mission Trips". After looking through a couple, I found an organization that sounded familiar: YWAM (Youth with a Mission).
YWAM is a non-profit organization with campuses in over 116 countries, and they seek to know God and make him known. Every 3 months, they host a 6 month long training program called a Discipleship Training School.
The lady that did my hair all through high school had done a gap year with them and her aunt and uncle were in charge of the campus in Hawaii.
I sent my information in, and after a few hours, someone had already contacted me about filling out an application. I thought that it wouldn't hurt to just see where this went, and after 4 months of visa applications, saving money, and collecting references, I found myself on a plane on January 7, 2017, headed to Newcastle, Australia.
I didn't know anyone, and I didn't know what to expect. I thought it was just going to be like a 6 month church camp experience, but I was so wrong.
The Discipleship Training School has 2 parts: Lecture Phase and Outreach.
The first 3 months are Lecture Phase, where they bring a speaker in every week to talk to us about different topics, some of those being Holy Spirit, Hearing God's Voice, The Father Heart of God, Evangelism, etc.
During this time, we "go to class" and "do homework" (read different books and answer questions every week).
I'll never forget that it was during this time that my relationship with God became real.
I grew up in a christian home, so I knew about God and was a christian, but I never had a personal relationship with God. I had so many questions, but never felt like "the church kids" were allowed to ask questions.
I struggled with things like, "If God is good, why is there evil in the world?" and "If God loves me and has the best for me, why did he make my family move?"
During the Lecture Phase we meet with a staff member one-on-one once a week, and after a few meetings with my staff member, I admitted that I was struggling with following a God that I couldn't trust.
I'm the type of person that can't move on to the second concept if I haven't grasped the first, so my staff member encouraged me to write down all my questions and approach the speaker after class and ask away.
The next day, before the speaker began to talk, he said, "I feel like we have some things that we haven't addressed. Here are some common questions that you may have that we're going to talk about today."
I was shocked! It was as if he was reading off of my paper!
It was also during Lecture Phase that I heard God's voice for the first time.
I was journaling about some things one evening, about how I always felt like a second choice in life. The cute boys would always pick another girl before me, my friends would always ask the other girl to hang out, and my parents would always pay attention to my siblings when they interrupted me.
I was asking God, "Why am I always a second choice?"
As I was writing, I heard a small voice in my head say, "Kai, you're always a second choice because you always make ME a second choice. I want you to know how I feel when you put boys, friends, and family over me. Those aren't bad things, but I should always be your first choice."
When I heard that, I began to cry knowing that everything was true. I had been putting everything before God and it was time to stop.
The next part of the Discipleship Training School is Outreach. Outreach is a time where the school breaks up into groups and under staff leadership, we go to another country to apply everything we've learned.
During our 2nd week of Lecture Phase, we were told our outreach options: New Zealand, South Africa, Detroit (Michigan), and Papua New Guinea. They told us to spend the weekend praying and asking God where He wanted us to go, so I went back to my bunk and prayed about it.
After the weekend, I still wasn't sure. I didn't know what country I should go to, so I just wrote down my top 2: Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. From the time that I turned the paper in to the time we found out our teams, I knew I had made a mistake. I wanted to go to New Zealand so bad, and I hadn't written it down as my first choice.
On the day that we found out our teams, I was so scared. We went into a room with all the staff members sitting on one side staring at us sitting in a chair, almost like an interrogation. My staff member that I had been meeting one-on-one with told me to go to the park and wait for further instructions, and there I found the rest of my teammates. We figured out that we were, in fact, the New Zealand team!
Over the next few weeks, we prepared to go to New Zealand, and on the first week of April, we flew to New Zealand.
Since New Zealand is a first world country, it was a struggle for me not to compare out Outreach to another team's. I kept thinking that all the ministry we were doing in New Zealand I could have done at home, and I was upset because I thought that God didn't think I was strong enough to work in an orphanage in South Africa, or hike the mountains of Papua New Guinea.
It was during Outreach that God really worked on my character.
I realized that one of my biggest struggles in life had been pride: thinking that I was too good or better than what I had. This made me discontent with everything God had given me, and then made me unhappy with God.
During this time, God taught me about his love for me and how much he loves ME. I am His daughter, not the president of HSU's daughter. When I realized where my identity was found, everything else came out of that. When I realized that I'm a child of the King, I wasn't scared to go out and talk to people about my Father, because I wanted them to know the same love and freedom I had received!
After doing ministry in New Zealand, we flew back to Australia for a week of Debriefing.
I had put off making a decision about where I wanted to go next, because I felt like God wanted me to only ask about 1 step ahead instead of 5. When I came to our last week, I knew it was time to ask God about the next step.
My parents had already told me that it was okay to go back to the city I had grown up in, or I could come and stay with them and my siblings. I had such a hard time the first time I was in the new city that I really wanted to go back to the old city.
But once again, God spoke.
He told me that ultimately, the choice was mine, but if I didn't go back to where my parents were and give it another try, I would NEVER have a good feeling towards where my family lived. If I didn't go back with my new changed heart and try again, I would always resent the place that "took my dad".
Reluctantly, I decided to go to the city where my family lived.
During the last week, I also felt like God was calling me to join staff at YWAM. I wasn't sure what that looked liked, since during the first week after talking to a staff member, I realized that staff members were full-time missionaries and didn't get paid, and instead had to fundraise.
My whole life, I had worked hard for what I wanted or waited until Christmas or a birthday. I never asked other people for things, I waited and worked hard.
I remember hearing about staff members having to fundraise and turned to my friend Jaide and said, "Thank GOD he's not calling us here."
When I came home, I wanted to make sure that my relationship with God was MY relationship with God and wasn't just from my parents or from the crazy experience I just had.
I took a week away from social media and my phone and really prayed about what was next.
And I still felt like God was calling me to join staff.
I knew that joining staff wouldn't be easy, and I knew that if I DID do what I thought God was calling me to do, the next few months would be some of the most difficult ones I had ever experienced.
But I also knew that it was a chance to grow. When I first decided to join staff, I told God, "I want to learn how to depend on ONLY you."
I had been depending on others my entire life for my self esteem and my daily mood, but I wanted to learn during this time about depending on him.
And over these past few months of fundraising and working, God has taught me that and so much more.
He gave me the verse Psalm 1:3, "...that person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither—whatever they do prospers."
He has been my stream during this time, and I've been able to grow deep roots while I've learned of his faithfulness, his power, and his unending resources.
As you can see, taking a Gap Year changed my life. Who knows where I would have been if I had gone to school without knowing my identity and my purpose and where my value is found in.
I'm so thankful that I was able to do all this, and I'm excited to see what God has next for me!
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