The Mission of an Extreme Kiteboarder
Imagine a surfer gliding over swelling Pacific Ocean waves, weaving in and out, dartingback and forth. Seconds later, he soars 25 feet into the clear blue sky, nothing carrying him but the wind and the six-meter kite spiraling above. This is kiteboarding.
As a high school student, Kelsey (Waliszewski ’09) Poole went on a family vacation to Maui, Hawaii. There she stood — feet planted on the sand and eyes glued to the mounting waves — daydreaming about riding the waves and being swept off her feet by the wind. She had no idea her dream would become reality, let alone a passion and a ministry.
A Flight in the Right Direction
Years later, as a Bethel student, Kelsey pursued a four-month youth ministry internship at Hilo Missionary Church (HMC), located on Hawaii’s Big Island. This time, she fell in love with the island’s people rather than its sports, but her kiteboarding dream had not been forgotten.
Following graduation, she married fellow youth ministry major David Poole (’09), and the couple moved to the Big Island to serve as youth pastors at HMC. They immediately began building relationships with the youth, but this was only the launch of their ministry-related opportunities on the island.
In July 2010, Kelsey met a local kiteboarder who offered her lessons, and with that, she took her first step toward fulfilling her dream. The sport’s thrill and adrenaline rush captivated her, despite a two-hour weekly commute to the other side of the island for lessons.
Bumps and Bruises
At first, flying the kite was tricky for Kelsey, but riding the board while flying the kite seemed utterly impossible. To make things more difficult, Poole had knowledge of the sport’s dangers, especially since the island is known for its reefs and lava rock beaches.
“Flying these kites can be difficult, and after suffering some pretty crazy face plants, crashing my instructor’s kite on the beach and multiple water crashes, I [was able to finally] keep my kite in the air,” she says.
After much diligent practice, Kelsey achieved the goal of kiteboarding upwind, a necessary skill for a beginner to learn. These small successes, the learning of disciplines — such as time, focus and strategy — and her husband’s constant support helped her stick with her dream.
Though David never joined her on the water, he occasionally came to the beach to watch. The sport’s uniqueness and difficulty caused beachgoers to flock to the Pooles, providing the couple with an unexpected opportunity for ministry. Before they knew it, they were regularly meeting with 10 to 15 kiteboarders every month!
In January 2011, after working with Hilo’s youth for a-year-and-a-half, David felt called to temporarily step out of professional ministry. However, despite the change in vocation, the couple believed they were still meant to work with the island’s youth.
“Our hearts [were] to continue to serve and love the teens until God call[ed] us to the next season. Just because you don’t have the status of ‘youth pastor’ doesn’t mean you can’t disciple, encourage and love teens,” explains Kelsey.
In hopes of hearing from God about their next step, the couple moved to the other side of the island and soon realized they were already given another ministry: a community of kiteboarders.
“We had a time where we were given a platform to literally and verbally preach the gospel as youth pastors,” Kelsey says. “Now, in this season, we just have our lives, and God gave us specifics in how we should live to reflect Him. That’s ministry to us.”
The Next Wave
After moving, Kelsey became the business manager of a boating company, where she is in charge of marketing and reservations for the two trips offered to tourists — whale watching and swimming with wild dolphins.
“I meet people from all over the world and get to experience God’s creation with them,” explains Poole. “They always ask what brought me out here, and obviously God and youth pastoring is my answer — another great way to talk about Jesus!”
Because kiteboarding remains one of Kelsey’s main ministry opportunities, she hopes to travel around the world someday, enjoying the sport and talking with fellow kiteboarders and spectators about what God has done in her life.
Despite the literal and figurative bumps and bruises she endured while learning how to kiteboard, her perseverance and faith kept her strong.
“When things get tough [and] life presents trials, our biggest cheerleader is God himself.”