Taylor Kelso, this academic year’s Great Commission Showcase winner, discovered her new life goals through an unexpected medical emergency.
Kelso was a sprinter, running the 100- and 200-meter events on the track team at Orange Lutheran High School. One day she noticed her heart beating wildly fast after a race—more than 260 beats per minute. “I was getting dizzy,” Kelso says. “It was very scary.”
The cardiologist’s diagnosis: supraventricular tachycardia (SVT), a condition where faulty electrical connections in the heart cause it to occasionally beat very rapidly. Kelso underwent a successful heart procedure which removed the extra, problematic electrical pathways in her heart. But the daily medication required to keep her heart rate regular made athletic participation impossible.
“I had worked really hard my entire life athletically,” Kelso says. “That was my passion. I didn’t necessarily struggle with ‘What’s wrong with me?’ but ‘I’m so upset that all this hard work is stopping abruptly.’ I didn’t want to have to give that up.”
She began to ask deep questions: “Why is this happening to me? Where is God? What is he doing in my life?” “It was a test of patience, for sure,” she says. “I was like, ‘Okay, how is God going to use this?’”
Kelso had envisioned being a Lutheran school teacher, like her parents who taught at Salem Lutheran School. But even that calling came into doubt. Then an English teacher at their church invited her to join a bi-annual missions trip to Hungary. Kelso’s brother had participated two years earlier and loved it.
“This seemed like a great opportunity to teach English, share the gospel and see some neat places in Europe,” she says. “I thought, what could be cooler than that?”
The impact on her life was far more than she expected.
That definitely was the biggest thing I learned from that trip. It gave me a new sense of grounded faith.
“I absolutely fell in love with the people, the culture, the camp lifestyle,” she says. “I also was looking for assurance that teaching is the gift God had given me. That definitely was the biggest thing I learned from that trip. It gave me a new sense of grounded faith.”
Kelso enrolled at CUI the following year and participated in two subsequent university-sponsored Hungary mission trips. Concordia’s commitment to the principles of Lutheran higher education—preparing students through the liberal arts and professional studies for success in any vocation and environment—equipped her as she stepped into a position of leadership.
The trips so impacted her that she entered CUI’s Great Commission Showcase, a competition with a $1,000 first place prize.
“I wanted people to know how amazing this trip is, how God is working through us and how I hope he continues this legacy through people,” she says.
Kelso won the top prize, and was excited that Concordia matches the prize-winner’s money with an equivalent donation to the ministry—in this case, the Hungarian school where she served.
“I learned that despite many adversities, I am capable of stepping up to be a leader,” Kelso says. “God has given me an amazing gift of leadership, a role that was thrust upon me in my team’s moment of need.” She now sees her earlier heart problem as part of God’s redirection of her life.
“If I had stuck with sports I probably would have ended up running track or playing basketball at Concordia, but instead I got involved with this Hungary missions trip and found that my passion really is teaching,” she says. “I think God’s timing is perfect whether we think so or not. I’m very thankful that it came at the time that it did.”
Kelso will be back in Hungary, either in her calling as a teacher, with another missions trip—or perhaps as a career, prepared by CUI for wise, honorable, and cultivated service to society and the church.