On a plane ride home from the Middle East after a month of work with the organization Live Dead, Hayden Mills wrote down his new life’s mission God had given him while on the trip:
“My mission is to make Jesus Known in all the world through the creative use of different mediums (apps, social media, video, books, podcasts, VR, and whatever may come.)
To equip the church with the tools to help make Him known in all the world.
To inspire a generation of creators that glorify God in all they do.
To help create sustainable, open sourced models for Business as Mission to follow across the world.
To be a lifelong learner that craves to know Jesus more and better.
To take the arcane and confusing and make it digestible for people around the world.”
This remarkable calling for Hayden didn’t come quickly or easily but has been a story that God has creatively & beautifully designed over the years.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Hayden about this lifelong journey. This interview is a glimpse into Hayden’s story and his call to live on mission in the tech world.
Ericka: Hayden can you tell our readers a bit about yourself?
Hayden: I am from Indiana; I grew up in Seymour about an hour south of Indianapolis. I have two awesome parents and three sisters. I recall at a young age wanting to be an inventor. I was using my hands to design things like a 4 story tree house, boats and more. My parents always affirmed that in me and the weirdness in that. Building was always a thread in my life.
I was raised in a Christian home and gave my life to Christ at 12 years old. As I got older I was very involved in church and youth group but I wasn’t pursing Christ, He wasn’t Lord of my life. I knew I didn’t want to follow Jesus because He was a threat to everything I wanted to do selfishly.
Ericka: Can you tell me a little bit about when your tech journey began?
Hayden: I was a closeted nerd in high school! I was playing sports, I loved basketball and golf. My senior year is where my tech journey officially started when I decided to take a web design course. Looking back I am thankful to have had a powerful mentor in that class, Mrs. Lake, she was the first person that affirmed my tech skills. She spoke life into me and told me that it is okay to be different and weird. This was the first time I saw the power of the internet and I caught the coding bug. From there I made the decision to attend Indiana University, SICE- School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering with my major being Informatics major/Computer Science.
Ericka: So tell me a bit about what did God do with you during your time at Indiana University?
Hayden: I was very allured by the college scene American culture had sold me. I remember going through my very first week of college just living for myself, partying. Based off of my mother’s request I went to an event hosted at the school called, “Faith Fest” this was an open event where every religious group at the University was present with a table. I grabbed a huge stack of flyers from all of the booths. I took all the flyers back and tossed them in my drawer.
After a weekend of doing the usual IU Party culture I felt really empty. I distinctively remember feeling that I had been sold a lie about what college was and is supposed to do for you. The party culture had looked so alluring to me but leaves you empty and wanting and chasing after the wind. This wasn’t fulfilling! On that Tuesday night I opened that drawer where those flyers were and right on top was the IU Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship brochure. It was a 10 min. walk from my dorm, but at 8:08pm by the grace of God I walked there by myself. I was culturally a Christian, but I was a hypocrite.
From there my life was changed. I got into a core group and my leader, Jonathan Taylor, spoke into my life and pressed into me and the sin in my life. He poured into me for 2 years. It was moving from the old Hayden to the new Hayden. God has been transformational. He is Lord of my life now. I was moved into leadership with Chi Alpha and God has done a work in my heart and my life. I don’t look at life, work, relationships or what I post as social media the same way. Jesus was a game changer. It has not been easy. I know God has shown his self-faithful and I trust that He has a perfect plan for my life.
Ericka: That is an awesome story of redemption Hayden! Can you share how this faith has affected your thoughts around your work and your career?
Hayden: I had the opportunity to start a business with my friend Jo Fipps, my Sophomore year of under grad. The company was called Mills Digital, a digital marketing company. God gave me some great experiences with this and I learned a lot about running a business then. God used this business in big ways. We were able to help other students get jobs and to inspire others. I’ve also had the opportunity to do over 5 internships in my summers in the tech industry and am about to finish my master’s program in Human-Computer Interaction Design.
Last summer was when Jesus really started tugging on my heart to be sure I’m doing all of this for the right reasons. I had been asked to do an exciting high caliber internship in Austin Texas. I came to a point of being willing to lay down tech and my dream for missions if that is what God had for me. I did not want my career to be an idol. I started to feel guilt over not feeling the call into traditional, global missions. I started asking questions like: “Why am I not called to this. Am I being difficult? Why can’t I lay down my passions like everyone else seems to be doing? Am I missing it?” As I continued to pray I never felt released from my education and tech. I turned down the internship in Austin and decided to take an internship instead with Live Dead in the Middle East. Even though it was not a missions trip God used all of the skills he had given me with my tech background on that trip.
God affirmed through my time there that He is not calling me to be a traditional missionary. He is calling me to live out my faith in a radical way in the workplace.
Ericka: Thank you for sharing this Hayden! This is a story so many can relate to. So, what does God have next for you?
Hayden: As I prepare to finish my master’s program at IU, I have taken a job with Shopify as a UX Designer. I am excited to be moving to Waterloo, Canada for this great opportunity God has given me! There has been a constant theme in my life for God calling me to lay down things. I continue to learn that God blesses you when you are obedient. (This is not the prosperity gospel.)
He has shown me that He is way more creative and a better designer than I am. His story is better than I could ever write. I have come to know that the tech skills I have and the love for entrepreneurship I have is God given. I know God is going to use me and place me where He wants me.
Reflection Question: If you were to write your God given life mission out like Hayden did, what would it say?
Here at The Stone Table we believe that the Gospel redeems and resurrects all things, including the work of our hands just as we have seen in Hayden’s story. Our “Called” blogs are a series of personal stories God is creatively writing around the globe that focus on people living out their work as a beloved role within God’s Great Storyline.