Tommy Dyo 2014 01My first Mount Hermon was in 1979. I can tell you exactly because I still have the bookmark in my Bible. A lot of the ink in my Bible is from that first conference. It was also the first time I was really encountered by the Lord.

I would say that I was a “fire insured Christian.” You know, someone who was saved, but Jesus wasn’t really Lord of my life. I grew up in LA Union in Downtown Los Angeles. “Mount Hermon” was floated around, but not a lot of people in my youth group were involved. I took a leap and ended up going. I think there was only four or five kids from my age range at Mount Hermon that went that year (from my church) and it kind of grew from there. I was 15, or going to turn 16. I had just finished my sophomore year in high school.

I remember these guys in my cabin my first year still; I remember the fellowship. I think I was pretty blown away by the number of Asian Americans that were there, from all over—you know, Northern California, Southern California, Chicago. I had never seen that many Christians before. I played a lot of volleyball, a lot of frisbee and goofed around. The worship leader back then was Ken Fong, if you can imagine that! I just remember he was a very solid, great leader. He’s still Ken. He was just a very polished guy wearing a red Hawaiian shirt and white pants.

I remember the message on the cost of discipleship very vividly and that broke my heart. What Jesus did on the cross…the whole issue of Lordship, and not just salvation…it was the first time I dedicated my life. I went up [for the altar call] and levitated, and when I say levitated, I mean, it was weird. I felt like I was moving but my feet were not. And I remember praying with some friends, people who I remember praying for me. I still have friends from that experience.Tommy Dyo Mt Hermon bookmark

The following year we had a bigger contingent (from LA Union). I think we had 15 or 20 people go. And that really started to transform our church.

From the ‘80s for a ten-year stint, there were a lot of people involved in Mount Hermon from LA Union. It really galvanized a lot of people, and LA Union had a substantial youth movement as a result. A shift happened when my friends and I came into our 20s and started preaching at our church and youth group, JEMS’ Mount Hermon style. We brought the Bible-based preaching and the free worship of Mount Hermon. That experience then transformed people at the main Sunday service. It wasn’t just a camp experience anymore.

When high school, junior high people get transformed by the gospel, they end up serving. And that was very similar to me. So by the time I hit college, I was already serving in different capacities at Mount Hermon. I was a medic for 2 years; I helped Junior High Camp [6th-7th grade], then Inter High Camp [8th-9th grade], and then I got challenged in 1983, when I was 20, to direct Junior High Camp. I kind of thought Sam Tonomura, the Executive Director of JEMS at the time, was nuts. “You’re going to pick a twenty-year-old to lead a junior high conference?” He was somebody who really empowered people very young.

I was able to recruit a team, but most of the team were older than I was. The only person who returned from the previous junior high camp was my friend and relative Craig Wakamoto. But since 1983, all the core groups have overlapped. There has not been a complete new team coming in [which means the team was doing an excellent job recruiting and training leaders]. Some of the nomenclature that we came up with in ‘83 they still use today, which is pretty crazy. I led Mount Hermon junior high camp for five years.

Mount Hermon discovered and affirmed our gifts. A two year commitment to college ministry for me turned into 20 years with JEMS. [Now with Cru’s Epic Movement,] I’ve been doing college ministry since ‘88. It’s the same gift mix I had in the ‘80s.

Right now, at junior high camp at Mount Hermon, they’re still making them discover their gifts as junior highers. They put them in these different teams to do ministry, worship team, servants team, arts team, communication and writing team. They are actually doing real ministry as junior highers! They’re not just receiving at camp! There’s some crazy leadership (training) going on even now. Really good stuff.

My kids today are involved in Mount Hermon, starting with the junior high camp! My son’s now a senior in high school, and he’s had the same experience that I’ve had of the Lord grappling with him at Mount Hermon. When I was a fifteen year old, I was surprised that there are kids my age taking the Gospel seriously. It’s not their parents’ faith anymore. And because there’s that camaraderie or that similarity when they come to faith, it’s pretty galvanizing.

Tommy Dyo currently serves as the National Executive Director of the Epic Movement, Cru’s ministry to Asian American students and faculty. He previously served with JEMS’ Asian American Christian Fellowship (AACF) for 18 years. 

Tommy Dyo’s words have been condensed, edited and subtitled with permission.


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