Biography – Dr. Francis Kyle
For an abbreviated biography/profile via UCM's blog, click here.
From Amazon.com's Author Page, click here.
"Life ain't in holding a good hand, but in playing a poor hand well."
~ 19th-century American West frontier saying
"I'll go anywhere—as long as it is forward."
~ David Livingstone (1813–1873), Scottish missionary-explorer to Africa and James Brainerd Taylor admirer; buried in London's Westminster Abbey
"Eastward I go only by force; but westward I go free
. . . . I must walk toward Oregon, and not toward Europe."
~ Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), Walking (1862)
"It is good for a man, when young, to bear a yoke."
~ Lamentations 3:27 (Tanakh/Old Testament)
"Resolved, to live with all my might, while I do live."
~ Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758), resolution #6 in 70 Resolutions
[See Ecclesiastes 9:10]
Early Life, Three Questions, Three Sources of Hope
The youngest of six children, Francis was born into a typical, middle class American Roman Catholic family. By age 16, he had completed four of the seven sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church: baptism, confession/penance, Eucharist, and confirmation. Being acutely aware of living in an imperfect world and of his own and others' sin in thought, word, and deed at a very early age, yet without the hope of the biblical gospel, Francis suffered deep spiritual hopelessness and despair throughout most of his childhood in Connecticut.
On the surface, he appeared happy and was at times happy. He did well at school and sports, had a strong work ethic, possessed decent social skills, and was full of energy and self-motivation. On the inside, however, Francis struggled with philosophical and theological questions since age 5—Who am I? What is the meaning and purpose of life? Where am I going when I die? These questions remained unanswered as his childhood progressed. At age 5 or 6, Francis made a private vow to God and himself that if he did not obtain satisfactory answers to his questions, that he would simply exit this life once he reached adulthood. It was not until decades later that he learned this was not the typical thinking of an average child.
Three things sustained and produced hope in Francis from ages 5 to 18: time, God, and a grandmother. Time, because he knew that people could change as the years passed. This general truth he observed in his five older siblings and others. God, because his conscience knew a divine being existed (Romans 2:15) and therefore he possessed a general faith that God could change him by giving his life hope, meaning, and purpose. And his paternal grandmother who took care of him from ages 2 to 5 while his mother worked full-time and provided for six kids. At the time (early 1970s), Francis' father (1927–2006), who had just earned his Ph.D., was seeking employment in another state, a state that would pay him enough to provide for a family of eight. In his father's field of specialty, the decent paying jobs then were in the northeastern U.S., thus his family's move from Ohio to Connecticut and Francis saying goodbye to his grandmother.
(Note: This same grandmother was later violently mugged after getting groceries from a store one morning while a sibling and Francis waited in her apartment. The incident took place while visiting her in Ohio. A year or so prior (mid-1980s), and also in Toledo, Ohio, a teenage female cousin of Francis was killed by a drunk driver while walking home from a high school football game. Shortly thereafter, Francis' family moved their 80-plus-year-old grandmother to Connecticut to live with them as she began to experience signs of dementia, a form of Alzheimer's disease. Thus, at age 14 and in middle school, the roles were reversed: Francis was now helping care for the grandmother who earlier had taken such good care of him. Marie Gangl Kyle died in a convalescent home in Connecticut, 70 years after she arrived as a teenage immigrant—via New York City's Ellis Island—from near Regensburg, Germany. At the time of her passing [March 21, 1992], Francis was 20-years-old and working in Big Bend National Park in Texas. He was unable to attend her funeral in Omaha, Nebraska. Soon after her passing, Francis had Marie's name engraved on the American Immigrant Wall of Honor located at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum in the shadow of New York Harbor's Statue of Liberty. From 2008 to 2010, Francis made first-time visits to some of the places where Marie lived: Omaha, Nebraska; Hood River, Oregon; and her native rural Bavarian village of Kofering, Germany.)
Spiritual Darkness, The Bible, Spiritual Light/Awakening
While suffering from deep spiritual darkness—termed "clinical depression" by the secular professionals—at age 18 and after surviving two self-inflicted attempts at ending his meaningless and purposeless existence, Francis began reading a Bible that a lady friend had given him. He subsequently left the Roman Catholic Church upon reading the Bible in-depth. His reading of Mark 7, where Jesus denounces certain religious leaders for "laying aside the commandment of God" for the "tradition of men" (verses 8–9, 13), precipitated his departure. Other key, hope-producing Bible verses during Francis' spiritual awakening were the New Testament's Luke 1:37 and II John 2:15: "For with God nothing will be impossible. . . . Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." The Tanakh/Old Testament books of Ecclesiastes, Job, and Psalms and the New Testament book of Romans also proved to be a tremendous source of understanding, hope, and strength for him during the autumn of 1989. In the Bible, Francis found a book that reached the deep inner recesses of his struggling soul.
In his ignorance and limited experience with Protestant theology, Francis eventually began attending a non-gospel preaching, non-Bible believing church for a year. (For those who have lived in Connecticut, you know that evangelical churches are not in abundance in the wealthiest state in the U.S. per capita. "About the only thing that's ever been converted in Connecticut is a barn," observed novelist Peter De Vries [1910–1993].) Somewhat like the pre-conversion experience of the Roman Catholic/Augustinian monk-turned-German Protestant reformer Martin Luther (1483–1546), what Francis' sinful and unholy soul desperately longed for was to be accepted and declared/made righteous by a holy, just, and sovereign God. In his exposure to various world religions, historical movements, academic philosophies, psychological theories, and self-help gurus at university and in his personal studies, Francis became convinced that the one and "only true God" of Christianity (John 17:3) alone had the power and ability to forgive his sins, make him holy, and grant him life after the grave. "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life" (the Apostle Peter to Jesus, John 6:68). Albeit somewhat unconsciously at the time, Francis reasoned that if his sins could be forgiven and he could have absolute assurance of heaven after the grave, then meaning and purpose in life would follow.
"Go West, Young Man!", Jewish Romance, Conversion
In 1991, Francis left the east coast and his aimless university studies to fulfill his longtime childhood dream of going west. From ages 18 to 21, he became an independent and intense student of the Bible while living in Connecticut and then traveling and working in national parks in Montana, Texas, and Washington State. He humorously reasoned that if he was to suffer in life, he just as well do so while breathing clean air and living in a beautiful national park in the non-congested American West.
Going west was a big risk because Francis was essentially rejecting a free education at a well-respected private university in Connecticut. Back then, one of the perks at this particular university was free tuition for employees' children. This was how Francis' parents were able to put four of their six children through university loan- and debt-free. Just him and one other sibling (now a medical doctor) rejected the free tuition offer and instead blazed their own trail in matters pertaining to higher education. For better or for worse, the pressure to obtain academic degrees was high in the New England culture of his upbringing. Francis' life of adventure, risk-taking, and going against the grain had begun.
Though they would eventually go their separate ways, it was at Glacier National Park in Montana where Francis met and dated a Jewish co-worker from Massachusetts. Stephanie's determination to better understand her Jewish roots—which included trips to Israel, working on a kibbutz, and learning modern Hebrew—combined with Francis' determination to better understand New Testament-based Christianity, made for an interesting, unique, and fun romance. Though their slight age difference, geographic separation (U.S./Israel), and emerging theological differences would ultimately prove too much to sustain their relationship, through Stephanie, Francis, a Gentile, gained an even deeper appreciation for Christianity's Jewish/Abrahamic roots and increased empathy towards the historically suffering Jewish people. (Francis would eventually visit Israel for ten days in December 2005/January 2006 and then for two years, May 2009 to June 2011.) Like some previous lady friends, Stephanie sensed Francis' lack of purpose and did her best to give his life direction and hope, all the while trying to figure out her own life. While Francis was still a university student (before he quit and headed west), Stephanie had already graduated from university.
At age 21 and five months (October 1992), and as his relationship with Stephanie was clearly ending along with the excitement of first-time solo travel, Francis was marvelously "born again" (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:23) some 3,000 miles from his upbringing (Connecticut) and place of birth (Florida). In an employee dorm room at Lake Crescent Lodge in Olympic National Park, Washington, Francis said goodbye to his religious self-reliance and surrendered his life to the Jewish God-Man Jesus Christ. Francis often compares his conversion to a caterpillar going into a cocoon and metamorphosing into a butterfly. II Corinthians 5:17 was a key verse in the dramatic and life-altering conversion: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." Finally, after a long 21 years that had "darkness as [his] closest friend" (Psalm 88:18), Francis' weary soul found rest and peace (Hebrew shalom) with God (Matthew 11:28–30; Romans 5:1). As the early Church Father and former womanizer St. Augustine stated in his famed Confessions (ca. A.D. 397), "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."
Though his conversion was largely solitary, believers from Independent Bible Church in Port Angeles, Washington, played a part in Francis' conversion to Christ and his understanding of the evangelical Protestant faith. Francis was water baptized by immersion (Matthew 3:16; Acts 8:36–38) on November 1, 1992, at IBC.
"Called by God, just as Aaron was" (Hebrews 5:4), The Five Solas
Almost immediately—and if not simultaneously—upon becoming a Christian, Francis received a definite and clear call to the gospel ministry. Right away, he began to "do the work of an evangelist" (2 Timothy 4:5). Other Christians seemed to confirm his internal desires (Psalm 37:4) so he confidently set out to acquire ministerial training at Bible college and seminary. After serving as an intern associate/youth pastor at Quilcene Bible Church, Washington (1993–94), Francis was a student from 1994 to 2000 at Canada's Prairie Bible College (Bachelor of Ministry) and Toronto Baptist Seminary (Master of Divinity, Master of Theology). To pay for school loan- and debt-free, he worked as a seasonal waiter for nine summers (1992–97, 1999–2001) at Lake Crescent Lodge in Olympic National Park, Washington.
It was during his school years that Francis became firmly grounded in the Bible-based "five solas" of the 16th-century European Protestant Reformation: Salvation is by grace alone (solo gratia) through faith alone (sola fide) in Christ alone (solus Christus) according to Scripture alone (sola Scriptura) for the glory of God alone (soli Deo Gloria). "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast" (Ephesians 2:8–9). Francis can strongly identify with James Brainerd Taylor (1801–1829) when the Connecticut-native Taylor joyfully and confidently exclaimed in his diary and letters,
Surely I am a miracle of grace—a sinner saved by grace, free grace, sovereign grace, almighty grace. I feel that I love the Lord, because He first loved me [I John 4:19].
I am indeed a wonder to myself when I think what I once was, and contrast my former with my present situation and prospects. "Not unto me—not unto me," but to my gracious God be all the glory. To him I owe life, health and comfort.
I know and am as fully assured of my acceptance with God as I can be of my existence—that is, if "love, joy, peace" are evidences of reconciliation [Galatians 5:22]. I have a hope full of glorious immortality.
That I have a call of God, besides, to preach the Gospel, I have no more doubt than of my existence. . . . It is a blessing of great worth to anyone who attempts to preach the Gospel, to feel that he has a commission from God. I now feel as I have felt: "Woe is me, if I preach not the Gospel" [I Corinthians 9:16].
"Redeeming the time" (Ephesians 5:16), Making Up for Lost Time
Upon laying a solid theological foundation for life and ministry and being introduced to the New England evangelist James Brainerd Taylor (1801–1829) by means of a used bookstore in Connecticut in July 1998, Francis became a youth and college campus minister in Port Angeles, Clallam County, Washington. In addition to his ministerial responsibilities at the First United Methodist Church and Peninsula College Christian Student Fellowship (2002–09), Francis
- coached middle school (boys and girls), high school (boys), and community college (men's) basketball teams (2001–06, Crescent School, Peninsula College);
- published two biographical works on James Brainerd Taylor (University Press of America, January and June 2008);
- finished a Master of Theology thesis and graduated from Canada's Toronto Baptist Seminary (2005);
- completed a non-residential Doctor of Ministry degree at Western Seminary in Portland, Oregon (2006–09);
- taught K-12 students as a substitute public school teacher (2008–09, Port Angeles and Crescent school districts);
- served as the faith representative on the Community Multicultural Alliance of Clallam County, Washington (2005–09);
- organized numerous community events and brought special guest speakers and coaches from out-of-state;
- resumed his motorcycle hobby (2006, began in Connecticut in 1990); and
- formed the evangelism- and discipleship-themed Uncommon Christian Ministries (2007– ).
Israel, "Second Childhood" (1992–2011) Completed
From May 2009 to July 2011, Francis lived in Israel for a time of sabbatical, pilgrimage and ministry. He was involved with four entities, two Christian and two Jewish. This was Francis' second trip to Israel, the first being for ten days in December 2005/January 2006.
The Christian organizations Francis volunteered with were CMJ-Israel and Voice in the Wilderness.
CMJ-Israel (The Church's Ministry among the Jewish People) is an Anglican/Church of England ministry. Founded in 1809 by such British Evangelical church leaders as William Wilberforce and Charles Simeon, CMJ-Israel is one of the earliest and the longest lasting Christian ministry to the Jewish people. It completed building Christ Church in Jerusalem in 1849, making it the oldest Protestant church in the Middle East. Christ Church is the only church in Jerusalem's Old City that fully acknowledges Christianity's ancient Jewish roots in its liturgy, symbols and architecture. Located adjacent to Christ Church is Christ Church Guest House. In exchange for room and board and other benefits, Francis volunteered at the guest house. It was his home base for 22 of his 26 months in Israel.
Francis also attended and volunteered with the church and evangelism ministry Voice in the Wilderness: Preaching the Gospel in Israel. Located just outside the walls of Old City Jerusalem, he made evangelism-focused trips with the VIW staff and volunteers in Israel (including the West Bank/Palestinian Territories), Egypt and Jordan. VIW is a member of the Fellowship of Independent Reformed Evangelicals (F.I.R.E.) and is supported by, among others, Paul Washer's HeartCry Missionary Society and Marvin Rosenthal's Zion's Hope Ministries.
For ten cumulative weeks (May 2009, February 2011, May 2011 and June 2011) and on three different Army bases, Francis served as a non-combat volunteer with the Israel Defense Forces affiliate Sar-El (called Volunteers For Israel in the U.S.).
Francis often stayed with Israeli members of Servas International-Israel when on weekend leave from the Israeli Army and at other times during his time in Israel. Founded in 1949, Servas International is the world's oldest international cultural exchange network. In all, Francis spent nearly forty nights in the homes of thirteen Jewish host families throughout Israel.
As a break from busy Jerusalem and tension-filled Israel, Francis also visited Germany for two weeks in February 2010. While in Germany, he visited rural Kofering. The Bavarian village just south of Regensburg is the birthplace of Marie Gangl Kyle (1905–1992), his paternal grandmother who immigrated to the U.S. via New York City's Ellis Island in 1922.
Francis' C.V./resume is available upon request, as is his autobiographical booklet "A New Creation"
(1994, 87 pages).