Stepping Stones

By Julia Rose Cagasan

Even when it wasn’t obvious to Tracy Tooley, God was putting different people and places in her life to guide her to JAARS, where she would eventually serve as an influential person in the lives of today’s youth. 

Tracy Tooley, Multi-Gen Engagement Director at JAARS

Growing up with her father in the Air Force, Tracy was accustomed to meeting international guests at dinner and learning about other cultures. Small things like a church gift shop’s carved African wooden lion–which she still has–piqued her interest for other cultures throughout elementary school. 

Through educational opportunity trips to Europe, God planted an awareness and deeper love for people around the world in Tracy’s heart. Witnessing the absence of teenagers in the Russian Orthodox churches ignited in Tracy a deep desire for youth to own their faith.

One of the many stepping stones that began combining Tracy’s passion for youth and missions took place on the other side of the world. A college friend invited Tracy to attend a Teen Missions leadership training which took her to Thailand. This experience significantly shaped Tracy for leadership in youth ministry and taught her lessons on how to lead and impact teens.  

When Tracy reluctantly attended a Wycliffe banquet a few years later, the hosts pointed her to a month-long program called Quest–yet another stepping stone. Tracy traveled to Tanzania as a language surveyor for a very important lesson God wanted to teach her: language surveying wasn’t what God had for her, even though she was still drawn to missions. Throughout her time there, her thoughts kept returning to how she could use what she experienced in youth ministry.

“What I learned first thing during our orientation in Africa was that God wanted me to go back into youth ministry.” Through prayer, Tracy knew the message was a tangible, climactic confirmation of a call God had been building throughout her life: “When you’re done with your commitment here, [youth ministry] is what I want you to do.” In a vision where she saw herself holding a flame of fire meant to be passed on, it became even more definite that she was meant to help raise up a generation to receive the flame. Even still, she was drawn to missions.

Tracy serving in Tanzania with Wycliffe Bible Translators

But Tracy obeyed, stepping onto the next stone to work with youth in Michigan. At a musical festival’s Wycliffe table, Tracy met the director in charge of Next Generation Mobilization. During their conversation, both women realized that their meeting was ordained by God.  While Tracy had been praying about how God would connect her passions of youth ministry and missions, the director had been praying for someone to take her position–a position that joined missions and youth!

A few years later, after much consideration and prayer, Tracy took the step onto the next stone placed by God to connect her two loves: the role of director of Wycliffe’s Next Generation Mobilization.

But he still had more in store for Tracy, this time at JAARS. Tracy helped a JAARS team brainstorm new ideas for a program similar to one she had led at Wycliffe. Then, it was another step of faith and change of assignment to her current role as the JAARS Multi-Gen director. 

Tracy now interacts with youth in programs like CrossVenture and Brigade Air to help them understand the JAARS mission of supporting Bible translation and explore their part in this eternal, transformational work!

Tracy teaches about missions and Bible translation at a JAARS CrossVenture event.

“Once I’m in the midst of [the programs], I really love watching the [participants] eyes light up with understanding when we’re reintroducing them to the Great Commission in light of the fact that it’s not done … and we are mandated to be engaged in it.”

From the beginning, God impressed on Tracy the need for missions and youth ministry and laid the stepping stones that have guided her to serve in both. Now God is using Tracy to touch the lives of youth: creating defining moments and stepping stones for them, emphasizing the need for sharing the gospel, and discipling so they can go and make disciples.

You too can help make disciples! Click here to see where you fit at JAARS.