The Yo–Yo Man

by University Relations

The crowded room of children grows quiet as Michael Lee ’90 takes the stage to share his testimony. He greets them with a wide smile, but their attention turns to the object in his hand: a bright-red yo-yo. He spins it, beginning his story. “As I grew up, I experienced a lot of ups and downs—but mostly downs,” he says, bouncing the yo-yo high to the ceiling and low to the floor. He compares his early life without Christ to a roller coaster, tossing the yo-yo and twisting the strings in a flurry of motion. Finally, he presents the Gospel, creating a cross with the strings. The children cheer.

Lee first encountered the yo-yo as an APU freshman. Duncan Toys Company, recruiting on campus, hired Lee to learn and perform yo-yo tricks at a Los Angeles event promoting its toy line. A few months later, Lee shared his testimony as part of a class assignment, using the tricks he learned to emphasize key points.

That marked the beginning of a unique career. At a Christian children’s camp that summer, Lee shared his testimony and the Gospel story again and again with his yo-yo, becoming the unofficial “Yo-Yo Man.” Soon, he performed in chapel at APU, and within a few weeks began receiving phone calls from churches, camps, and youth groups that all wanted more. “The yo-yo draws people in and unlocks the child inside everyone,” said Lee. “Once that happens, people receive messages of hope and God’s love more openly.”

After college, Lee partnered with a fellow Duncan employee to found All For KIDZ Inc., a company touring elementary schools with a 45-minute inspirational program featuring the yo-yo. The company took off, and over the next 14 years, Lee and his yo-yo encouraged more than 1.7 million children, visiting all 50 states, 4 continents, and 3 of the White House’s annual Easter Egg Rolls. Eventually, Lee recruited and trained a whole staff of yo-yo performers in their signature “Never give up, Encourage others, Do your best” show.

After 14 years with the company, Lee embarked on a new venture and now owns the downtown Seattle branch of Express Employment Professionals, a temporary recruiting business, though he still does the occasional yo-yo gig. Under Lee’s management, the company has secured work for more than 5,000 people. “For this season in my life, God called me to help people find work,” said Lee. “If He can minister through a yo-yo man, He can certainly minister through a businessperson.” Lee attributes his unconventional career path, as surprising and exciting as one of his yo-yo tricks, to the Lord. “I could not have made this happen on my own,” he said. “If you are open to His plan, God leads you.”

He echoes this truth at the end of each testimony he gives. “I found that through God, I could do more than I ever imagined,” he said, flipping and twisting the yo-yo in a series of gravity-defying tricks. “Because His power works in me and through me for His great purposes.”

Originally published in the Spring '15 issue of APU Life. Download the PDF or view all issues.