Recent Wayland grad headed to Kenya 

Release Date: January 7, 2009    

PLAINVIEW – When Wayland Baptist University graduate Jessica Young walked across the stage last month to accept her college diploma she already had her future mapped out. … for the next year, at least.

While many December graduates expect to spend the first few weeks of the new year looking for jobs, Young was spending hers saying goodbye to family and friends she would soon leave behind as her new job sends her thousands of miles from her West Texas home. Young will leave for Mombasa, Kenya, on Jan. 13 where she will spend the next year teaching Old Testament, computer and English classes to high school students, returning in January of 2010. Young is part of a new mission-oriented process supported by the Baptist General Convention of Texas and Go Now Missions. Although Young is traveling and working individually, she is being backed in essence by Go Now Missions.

A graduate of Quanah High School, Young is the daughter of Charlotte and Clint Young, who serves as pastor of First Baptist Church in Dimmitt. She is also the granddaughter of former BGCT president Gerald McBride. Growing up a preacher’s kid, Young is no stranger to life as a minister, yet, her passion for ministerial work was something she didn’t openly accept.

“My whole family is in the ministry,” she said. “I think that is part of the reason I didn’t really want to get into it.”

As a child, the independent Young knew that the role of a pastor’s wife was not something she wanted to pursue.

“All the ministry that I had ever seen was the pastorate and a role as a pastor’s wife was not appealing to me,” she said.

Still, Young felt called to the ministry as a junior high student at a time in her life when her relationship with God was admittedly “one dimensional.”

“I was trying to work God’s plans into my plan,” she explained. “I used to think I was going to be a homicide detective.”

Young wasn’t sure how she would work ministry into a career as a homicide detective, but she was determined to try. She entered college at Howard Payne University as a criminal justice major. A year later, she transferred to Wayland where she continued to major in criminal justice. All the while, her relationship with God continued to grow as she witnessed people her age and younger with a true passion for Christ. As a preacher’s kid, Young had to go to church. She never really saw the kind of passion that other people have for worship and for seeking God’s will.

“It changed my whole view on what Christianity is and where my spirituality should be,” Young said. “I realized this is an exciting thing, not just a set of rules I’m supposed to follow. I knew that, but I had never really seen it. I needed to see it.”

As a junior in college, Young decided to truly follow God’s will, dropping the criminal justice major to focus on earning a degree in religion. She also felt drawn to the foreign mission field as she became involved with Invisible Children, a group dedicated to serving the children of war-torn Uganda. Young wanted to join the group and be a part of the work in Uganda. But no matter how hard she tried, contacting various missionary organizations, her path to Uganda was blocked at every turn. She began having discussions with Dr. Rick Shaw, director of Wayland’s missions center. He invited her to join a group that was scheduled to travel to Kenya last summer.

“I wanted to go to Uganda, but that didn’t work out, so I ended up going with him and two other people to Kenya,” Young said. “As soon as I got there, I knew that was where I needed to be.”

While in Kenya, Young met some missionaries from Uganda and discussed their work and possible opportunities for her to join them. Again, her path was blocked as the only opportunities were either short term, or not really what she wanted to do. However, Young and Dr. Shaw also spoke with members of the Baptist Convention of Kenya who were excited at the prospect of having Young join them. Their biggest need, they said, was someone to teach high school.

“I thought that was odd and not my thing,” Young said.

Young struggled with the decision and continued to second guess herself. But after a lot of prayer and “freaking out” during the decision-making process, she finally completely turned the decision over to God and felt at peace.

“I bought my ticket, so now I have to go,” she said. “I know that is where I need to be.”

While in Kenya, Young will work independently teaching classes at the high school. During her time off from school, she will work with orphans and people who are HIV positive. Yet being a young woman alone in a foreign country doesn’t seem to bother her. If anything, she said Kenya is “too safe.”

“I’m not scared by countries that are in turmoil. I feel drawn to that,” she said. “ … I really want to live in a hut. …”