Olivet The Magazine | Portraits of Strength & Hope: Lt. Col. Benjamin Kayser

“Enlarge your house; build an addition. Spread out your home, and spare no expense! For you will soon be bursting at the seams. Your descendants will occupy other nations and resettle the ruined cities.” Isaiah 54:2–3 NLT

October 30, 2023 Alumni & Friends, Giving, Olivet The Magazine

Lt. Col. Benjamin Kayser

Lt. Col. Benjamin “Ben” Kayser ’02/’04 MBA had simple goals for college: Play sports, obtain a business degree and find a wife. Although he accomplished all of those goals, his time at Olivet yielded an even more significant life change.

“At the time, I was a Christian but not really walking with the Lord,” Ben reflects. “I knew I needed a positive campus environment — mostly, I wanted to stay out of trouble. Looking back, I am thankful for what Olivet meant for my faith. My heart for mission work really took shape because I experienced people loving me the way Jesus loved His disciples.”

As Ben tells it, the University was incredibly gracious during his time of spiritual formation. Even as a seeker of Christian values, he went to the dean’s office more than a few times for disciplinary reasons. But as he found his footing, he was impacted by people like Dr. Carol (Maxson) Summers ’88, who generously hosted him and other students over school breaks; the leadership of Dr. Glen Rewerts in the business department; and the wisdom of Dr. Kent Olney, whose course on marriage and family psychology furnished Ben with helpful notes that he still references.

However, the true game-changer came during a season when the Olivet baseball team experienced a spiritual revival. Dan Heefner ’01, one of Ben’s teammates, had benefited from the mentorship of the Navigators organization, which trains and supports people for “life-to-life” discipleship. Dan transferred that training to the team and encouraged his teammates to seek purpose beyond the field. His intentional care for the other men provided the type of defining assist that can really win or lose the game of life, as most of the team made personal commitments to follow Christ because of how Dan loved on and mentored them.

Even after experiencing that transformation, Ben was uncertain what the sweet spot of his faith and career intersecting would look like. At the end of his undergraduate journey, he was encouraged to inquire about the relatively new Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) at Olivet. Ben received an ROTC scholarship to complete an MBA degree and embarked on a career journey that has repeatedly given him opportunities to share his faith.

After graduation he enlisted for active duty in the U.S. Army and was deployed as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom for a 15-month tour of duty. Serving his country gave Ben a new perspective on the importance of Christ-centered relationships.

“There are so many opportunities to grow and mature through military service,” he says. “Practically speaking, I led a platoon in combat on multiple occasions, and we were assigned responsibility over millions of dollars of equipment. But that growth experience came at a high cost. The days of living free go out of the window when people are shooting at you. I saw firsthand the need to help lead others toward a redeemed life.”

Near the end of his deployment, Ben considered whether to remain an infantry officer or to transition to vocational ministry. He had maintained contact with the Navigators organization after his experience in college. In 2010 he officially joined the staff in Fort Liberty, North Carolina. He now oversees four Bible studies, each serving 50–60 military personnel and their families. The Kayser family has also opened their home for more than 60 people to live with them over the past 10 years.

“God laid on my heart that He wanted us to expand our local ministry by training and mobilizing disciples through community connection,” Ben says. “The people who live with us and other Navigator families in the neighborhood get to see the good, the bad and the occasionally ugly moments of our lives, which is not so different from what I observed in mentors at Olivet.”

As a reserve officer, Ben also serves military personnel at Langley Air Force base in Virginia for a few weeks each year to augment the work of a full-time chaplain. There is quite a difference between the established relational nature of his work at Fort Liberty and providing crisis counseling at Fort Langley for men and women whom he may not ever see again, but Ben values both long- and short-term ministry.

“People are coming to Christ, and soldiers are sharing their faith as they get deployed around the world,” he explains. “The reach of U.S. military personnel is remarkable. My hope is that, through it all, people see the ways we are trying to honor the Lord and that they are inspired to go and do the same. Our goal is to reach the nations, and it is incredible to witness that happening.”

From Olivet The Magazine, Strength & Hope – Autumn 2023. Read the full issue HERE.

Student on main campus wearing pink sweater and holding water bottle.

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