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Former Fellow: Kyle Meyaard-Schaap

His voice emanated from the speaker, with its signature low timbre and deliberate cadence. “I can’t believe I’m on a conference call with Jim Wallis!” I thought to myself.

I had just graduated from college, and the closest I had ever gotten to someone like Jim Wallis was reading the quote attributed to him that was on my high school English teacher’s classroom wall: “God is not a Republican or a Democrat”. Of course, I knew all about Wallis’ activism, his founding of Sojourners Magazine, his influence on my own role models like Shane Claiborne and Adam Taylor, and his work to try to articulate a winsome faith with import that moved beyond the private human heart to encompass every square inch of Christ’s kingdom. Being at the same massive conference with him would have been thrilling enough. To be on an intimate conference call with him was overwhelming.

My supervisor fixed me with a kind smile.

After missing most of his opening words, I finally composed my star-struck self and began concentrating on the content of the call. It wasn’t long before I leaned over to my supervisor in the chair next to me to share a thought. He responded immediately, “Share it with the rest of the call.” My tongue went dry at the thought, and my mind, buzzing with ideas and connections a moment ago, was suddenly barren. After sputtering out a feeble protestation, my supervisor fixed me with a kind smile. Then his finger hit the unmute button and he began introducing me to the call.

I’ve long forgotten whatever inconsequential wisdom I muttered nervously into that speakerphone nine years ago, but I’ll never forget the way it made me feel. Empowered. And a little bit queasy. But mostly empowered.

As I reflect on my time as a Fellow at OSJ and how it set me up for my career that was to follow, “empowering” is the word that comes most often to mind. I have rarely experienced a period in my life that was more challenging, more rewarding, more stretching, and more important than my time as an OSJ Fellow. Whether I was meeting with Members of Congress, leading a breakout at a conference, teaching at a church, or writing an op-ed for a major newspaper, I almost always felt out of my depth. But never for long, because wise counsel, critical support, and encouraging feedback were woven throughout every new leadership opportunity I was offered.

I see a straight line from my OSJ Fellowship to my work today.

Since my time as an OSJ Fellow, I’ve had my fair share of meetings with Members of Congress. I’ve led plenty of conference breakouts and spoken at dozens of churches and college campuses. I’ve contributed to countless media stories, and I’ve had a few more of those op-eds published. I’ve even graduated from Jim Wallis fanboy to colleague.

As I look back across the intervening years between that exhilarating conference call and today, I see a straight line from my OSJ Fellowship to my work today. The skills I developed, the opportunities that I was offered, and the steady empowerment I received set my vocational course. I am grateful every day for my time in the OSJ Fellowship, and for all of the capable, brilliant leaders who came before and after me in the role. The church is better for them. The Kingdom of God is better for them. I am certainly better for them.

I have no idea if God would have seen fit to open the doors that I’ve walked through these last nine years if I hadn’t been an OSJ Fellow. I am certain, however, that I only had the courage to walk through them because I was. And that has made all the difference.

Apply to be a part of this fellowship for 2021-22!  Submit your application to be our Mobilizing and Advocacy Specialist.  Want more insight into this position check out our other stories in this series.

Photo by Arlington Research on Unsplash


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