A Look into Sonlife Staff Experiences: Katie Yates
I had just graduated high school when I first encountered Sonlife.
“I actually feel prepared to share my faith with my friends,” exclaimed my eighteen year old self coming away from a week of disciple-making training feeling equipped and empowered. SEMP (Students Equipped to Minister to Peers) was an evangelism and apologetics conference for high school students hosted by Sonlife. It was a powerful experience in the mid-90s on the streets of Chicago and my life was transformed.
Only a few years prior to this experience God got a hold of my life, waking me up from a dreamless slumber. I was preparing to go to Alaska on a mission trip in a few short months with my church youth group when my grandpa passed away. My great uncle, the older brother to my grandpa, wrote me a letter just before I left for Alaska. He talked about how my grandpa was stationed in Alaska during WWII and how God got a hold of his life during those years in the service. My great uncle would be praying for me while I was walking in the same place where God spoke to my grandpa.
In this, God was cultivating the ground of my heart to listen to him with new ears. And I clearly heard God speak to me as I walked the freshly thawed earth. He was asking me to take a step of faith to commit my life to full-time ministry. At 15, I knew my life was headed in a different trajectory. In those days, sharing the love of Jesus with children in Alaska, I awoke to a greater joy than I could have ever imagined.
Even though I was committed to full-time ministry, it wasn’t until I was introduced to Sonlife training did I actually feel prepared to do the work of ministry. During the years in between Alaska and SEMP, I fought inside myself as to who I really was and how my faith in God informed that. I was ill-equipped to handle the questions and conversations from my peers. Then Sonlife opened my eyes to a disciple-making framework shaped from the life of Christ. The Great Commandment and the Great Commission in tandem means loving God is to love others and loving others also means caring about their faith journey. I was given tools to cultivate a heart just like God had done in me personally, planting seeds of truth and reaping the incredible fruit of the lives that God placed before me.
Not only was the disciple-making training transformative, I became a part of a family that lived intentionally, loving God, loving others and making disciples. I was discipled across the dinner table by Sonlife staff and missionaries, observing and learning what a family on mission looks like. Seeing the model of Jesus lived out before me has shaped how I disciple and lead my own family. The mission is not complicated but it does take investment of time, intentionality and prayer.
Twenty-four years after my introduction to Sonlife, I now serve as the Operations Manager. I also serve in the youth ministry at my church, intentionally investing in the next generation of students. I see in each of them a younger version of myself, trying to figure out their faith in this complex world. I am praying for them, as my great uncle did for me, that God would cultivate their hearts to hear His truth, and that His truth would permeate their souls, growing up into a harvest of abundant fruit!
**To all the pastors and adult volunteers out there, thank you for investing into students like me.
For Sonlife resources to equip students in loving God and loving others, check out Reverb.