Youngest American Headed for Heavens

This evening at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, if all goes as carefully planned, the youngest American ever will fly into space. Hayley Arceneaux, 29 years old, joins the first all-civilian crew (not a single professional astronaut onboard) to orbit the earth, thanks to the largess of billionaire entrepreneur Jared Isaacman. And what’s not to like about her story?

At ten years of age, doctors discovered she had cancer of the bone. “‘When I got that bone cancer diagnosis I was so scared. After the doctor told me I had cancer I just kept saying “I don't wanna die. I don't wanna die.” And at age 10, everyone I knew with cancer had passed away,’ Arceneaux said” ( 

From Baton Rouge, Louisiana, young Haley plunged into the fight of her life, spending a year at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. Her regimen was a grueling series of chemotherapy treatments and surgeries. But they saved her life and her leg, most of it. 

Two decades later now, Haley Arceneaux is working “her dream job” in the very place where a ten-year-old found hope. “‘Ever since I was a patient at St. Jude, I knew I wanted to grow up and work there. I just felt so close, part of the St. Jude family, and I was given so much hope that I wanted to share that hope with other kids going through the same thing’” (ibid).

But her dream job soared to new heights a few months ago when an unexpected phone call from St. Jude announced she had been selected to join this first all civilian mission to space “to bring awareness and fundraising to St. Jude” (ibid).

Turns out she is not only going to inspire young Americans battling cancer, she is set to inspire prosthesis wearers as she becomes the first person wearing a prosthesis to be rocketed into space.

By the way, her preparation has not been for the faint of heart. “Training was primarily academic, but the crew also spent a lot of time in a spacecraft simulator, spent a weekend training in fighter jets, and underwent traditional astronaut training exercises, including centrifuge, water-survival, and hypoxia training” (

Haley’s motivation? “‘What I’m most excited about is being the first pediatric cancer survivor to go to space, because I’m thinking about all these kids that are gonna come after me . . . just like me going through something difficult and then knowing that they can do big things’” (ibid).

A story to inspire us all, wouldn’t you agree? Turns out there is no limit to what the young of the world, the young of the church, can accomplish with support from people like the rest of us—who though not so young anymore, are young at heart enough to invest our lives in helping the youngest reach the farthest.

Our mission? To mentor them to: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, ‘I find no pleasure in them’” (Ecclesiastes 12:1). 

There’s a line I’ve scribbled in my Bible to help me remember these intrepid young: “With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour might be carried to the whole world! How soon might the end come—the end of suffering and sorrow and sin!” (Education 271)

This campus congregation exists to raise up, to inspire, to equip this young army of workers for Christ. That’s why we’ve set a goal for a quarter of every ministry team to be young Adventists. That’s why our exemplary children’s and youth Sabbath Schools exist, along with our Pathfinder and Adventurer clubs. That’s why we provide significant financial support (thanks to your faithful generosity) for Ruth Murdoch Elementary School and Andrews Academy. That’s why our Grow Group strategy targets university students, both as group leaders and members. That’s why we’ve invited Richie Halversen to join us (October 1 - October 9) to connect with the campus young through his “The Darkness Will Not Overcome” series at Pioneer. 

Why all this? I repeat—we exist to inspire, to equip, to mobilize the young for our Lord Jesus. After all, our praying, our volunteering, our mentoring, our giving on behalf of our young will ensure we join them on the one space flight that matters most—with Jesus.