When I grow up, I want to be just like Kaze Gadway. Kaze is a 72-years young lay minister who works with emerging leaders (youth of promise from 12 to 20) of the Episcopal Church within the Native American community of Northern Arizona. You can read Kaze’s blog, infaith posterous, here.
I first met Kaze a few years ago at a conference and was blown away by her energy, her embrace of social media, and the awesome cadre of young people in her wake. I had read and heard about her even earlier than that, as others recounted the stories of her ministry among Native American young people.
Several things about Kaze and her ministry strike me as important to note.
Kaze is hands-on. Her life is enmeshed and intertwined with those of the young people to whom she ministers. Her flock know her voice, and she knows every one of her young flock. She talks to them, and they talk to her. She listens to them, and they listen to her. They weep for and with each other. They pile into a van and drive hundreds of miles to a church conference, together. They eat fast food, and they laugh and do silly things, together. Kaze's love for her flock is palpable.
Kaze is always advocating for the youth to whom she ministers. Somehow, somewhere, some way, Kaze is asking for, advocating for, begging for, and cajoling the resources that are needed to support the opportunities for ministry experiences that her Native American young people would not otherwise be able to have. And she is teaching her flock how to stand up for themselves and for each other as they try on ministry experiences including trying out leadership roles. Kaze is always present to listen to the youths’ stories of fear, anxiety, and nervousness, and to say, again and again, just give it a try and see what happens.
Kaze gives voice and encourages voice for and among the young people of her flock. She shares their stories, frequently in their own voices as they try writing narrative and poetry, in her blog and on Facebook. She has encouraged many of the young women and men to share their own stories in blogs and on Facebook, too, and helped them to meet and connect with others in the wider church. I have read the Facebook posts and poetry of people like Jeremy, Katy, Jay, Nathan, Jacob and others, that make me think, if I was in your age range, I’d want to be friends with you and hang out with you, because you are doing and thinking amazing things. And as an elder, I’m so proud to know you and your faithful participation in your community.
Kaze isn’t limited by the artifices of age and generations. Age and aging are gifts, not limitations, and Kaze is living proof of that philosophy. Kaze is an avid and active photographer. You can always count on her to take the best photos at any event and share them generously on social media for all to see. Kaze is an active blogger, and she graciously encourages the young people to write their own thoughts in narrative and in poetry and generously shares her blog space to host their work.
Kaze will retire from full-time youth ministry on August 1, with her 73rd birthday arriving in September. It will be fun to see what the future calls Kaze to for her next adventure in life.
What a role model!