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June 23, 2015

President's pulse -- GAP YEAR

Written by  Nelson Okanya

This article appears in the July/August 2015 issue of Missionary Messenger; subscribe to read more articles like this one.

"As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea — for they were fishermen. And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you fish for people.” — Mark 1:16 (NRSV)

In 1996 I took a semester off from Daystar University in Nairobi, Kenya, to participate in EMM’s YES program. I eagerly embraced the three months of discipleship training and the communal living environment with young adults from many cultures. Our outreach in inner city Baltimore and at a rehab center stretched me and turned my world upside down.

Later my team and I worked with several Mennonite churches in my home area, the Mathare Valley and Embakasi (near Nairobi). Upon completion of the seven-month program, I was convinced of my calling in life. I am still on that journey, serving the Lord in my current role at EMM.

My story is not unique. I know many young people who have interrupted their education to do a semester or year of service. But it seems to me that this practice is less common among us than it used to be. Young people often feel pressured to complete their education, get a good job, and find their place in “the good life.”  

But there is an alternative. Jesus called His disciples to lay down their fishing nets (those things which provided their future security), follow Him, and live out a different story.

EMM provides opportunities for young people to disengage from their education for a “gap year” and explore what God might be calling them to do and to be. Gap year experiences are frequently transformative, shaping a young person’s vocational calling as a disciple of Christ.

I invite you to reflect on how God may be inviting you or a young person you know to take a gap year — to move out of the classroom, to prepare for college/life, to go deeper with Jesus.

This article appears in the July/August 2015 issue of Missionary Messenger; subscribe to read more articles like this one.