Why I joined YWAM
Remembering why we joined YWAM can be very helpful as we think about current recruiting. Here are a few peoples stories of how and why they joined up.
My story began in 1987. I was seventeen and had been a Christian for a year. I lived in Nottingham and my youth group met up with other groups from time to time. We met a number of times together in one church, Christian Centre, a pentecostal church. For three of those meetings I recall a team of YWAMers led the meetings. Andy Hall was leading the team. What was different about them was the instant application of what they taught. Three meetings that still remain with me were one of Spiritual Warfare (we went on the streets and prayed), one about abortion and on on evangelism. In that meeting the team challenged those of us present to come and do an open air with them in the city centre the following day... I recall that out of a couple of hundred young people there were two of us who raised our hands.
So the following day I joined a YWAM team for some outreach. As I walked towards the meeting place I was feeling nervous, well actually, terrified. I saw a group of twenty people huddled together on a tarpaulin in the centre of the street singing and worshipping God oblivious to the bemused stares of the shoppers. I joined with them and the performed dramas and I was paired with a guy and we went and talked to people. I don't recall any outstanding results from my pair. But what was amazing was in the feedback later in a church hall all the stories flooded out of people hearing God tell them to talk to specific people or having pictures beforehand of people they later met... I was clearly dynamic and exciting and God was at work. They has this incredible holy boldness too!
After A levels and a few years later I was seeking God for full time Christian work. I was turned down by two organisations as I was too young but one of the organisations said "Why don't you come back to us after a year with YWAM?". So I thought, "Why not?"
I went for a fantastic weekend with a Operation Year team in Derby. I had applied and was interviewed on this weekend. I got to see a YWAM base first hand (powdered milk!) and was also touched by God. I was accepted (despite a poor pastors reference) and I never did go back to that other organisation. I joined YWAM in October 1980 and have been with them ever since except for a 20 month period when I got married. --Kev-The-Hasty 13:15, 4 August 2007 (BST)
The thought of working in a factory underwhelmed me? More to come later.
Nicki's story began in 1989 when see as a non-Christian went camping at Greenbelt with a bunch of friends all of who had just completed a 3 week Summer of Service in London with YWAM. At this point Nicki made her commitment to Christ. Back home she joined a thriving youth group. One of the leaders soon left to join YWAM at Holmsted Manor (Charlie Lusty, current base leader!). Nicki got to hear about a Discipleship Training Week at the Kings Lodge. During that dynamic week she had fabulous teaching and ministry by Connie Taylor, Andrew Taylor and Andy Hall. Apparently Andy Hall prophesied over Nicki that she should join YWAM that week and she took away application forms to join and Operation Year team. So impressed by that time in YWAM she completed her A levels and joined YWAM the October after that. There was a Yan Nicholls on the same DTW.(Who brought his own drum kit with him for the week!)
I am crusted over in salt and chlorine, a little sweaty, and am aware of the bounce in my step that can only come with pre-sunrise exercise. I walk back to my dorm building alone, because my coach has me stay later in the pool---I did 5 x 100s with long intervals in between for his stopwatch. They call me a diamond in the rough, athletic, a possibility to become the best 500-yard freestyler in the state of Missouri.
I am bouncing and floating on possibilities, and I am coming up the outside steps of my dorm building---success, competition, a small bit of fame.
I am only seconds away from everything being turned upside-down.
The 8-am-class-students stand or crouch in the lobby, bags with books slung on shoulders, the room holds an unearthly heaviness as all young freshmen with 18-year-old eyes watch the mounted TV. As I get closer--this is uneasy, but exciting, terrifying, but remarkable. I think, History is changing. My world is changing. And then I arrive close enough to see what everyone else is seeing. The crowd of us grows in number, and we watch the second plane fly into the other tower, charging people, white dust settling.
Being Missouri's top 500-yard female freestyler will never matter to me again. I was losing all ability to race. Against the wishes of coaches, peers, and bone-chilling pep talks, "Swimmers take your marks," no longer got my heart beating. In fact, shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center, I was doing a 40-lap time-trial with the team. I stopped after four laps, my goggles full of tears, and cried in the bathroom for the rest of the trials. "Send me! Send me!," I prayed from the locker room.
I suffered nothing on September 11th---no pain, no personal loss, no delicate sacrifice. I knew of no one personally who died in the attacks, or even anyone else who knew someone who had died. There were no distant connections. It wasn't the patriotic bumper stickers, long prayer meetings, and announcements from the White House. It didn't have to be personal to me, but the Lord whispered to me, It's time to go, as I watched CNN and MSNBC that day and the days after...Go...
You see, when I was a small, Sunday school-attending girl, with my flowered dresses and memorized Bible verses, (Thy word is a lamp unto my feet...), a missionary from Africa came and spoke to our Sunday School. I don't remember anything about the presentation. But I remember thinking---rather, knowing---this is for me. It wasn't charismatic and loud, it wasn't an altar call, it wasn't coercive. Hallelujah! It was just the Father speaking to his daughter.
(We must talk more about missions to young children.)
Belfast, Northern Ireland. It wasn't my first choice---no, no, no. First choices fulfilled these three requirements: 1. Surf, 2. Sun, and 3. Sand. It wasn't that I didn't want to go to Northern Ireland, but I'm not an American who can trace back roots to the Emerald Isle. I don't drink green Guinness on St. Paddy's Day. No fascination there at all with leprechauns or pots of gold or rolling hills. But, with a sense of peace and adventure, I removed all of my post-it notes from the sunny pages of my GO! Manual. My dad said, "Go to Ireland! Bono's from there!"
And, so I did.
The seven of us DTS students made up the first DTS in Belfast; this was September, 2002. It was during the feud on the Shankill Road between the UVF and the UFF. It was a grey, dirty, depressing place to live, and most days I'd return to our house we shared with withdrawing joy. Most days I'd return to our house delighted to walk into community, to refresh myself with the Word of God (wash over me!), and to eat a hot meal in bowls on our laps in our small living room. We spent a great deal of our free time working in our community, where there were needs to be met---really simple ones, like ping-pong and snooker players at a local drop in centre.
Jump ahead a few years, and I'm back in Belfast. November 2007 finds me leading my second DTS. Mostly, I just want to be a missionary, like that first calling, sitting cross-legged in front of a Sunday School missionary slideshow. I do want to be doing that, whatever that is. But for now, it looks like the Lord has another avenue of fulfilling this calling...What if I can help others do what my dreams are? What if the visions He's planted in me were nothing more than to help me help others do the same? As I get older I think that I could never execute the vastness of my dreams alone. Someone once said that YWAM is about multiplication... (Jesus's 12 turned into 72, turned into thousands, turned into the first church.)
I have found myself in the ministry of reconciliation; I'm not doing it justice, nor am I doing it enough or well-enough to have the title. But after the catalyst of violence, of watching shadows of men and women jump from the tall towers, the Lord has led me to Belfast to live among the joy-deprived.
In another previous generation people can answer with detail where they were when they heard the news that Kennedy was assassinated. We know where we were when we watched the news or heard on the phone or through a stranger what was happening on 9-11.
This isn't really a story about September 11th, is it? It's more about the catalyst. It's more about the going. It's more about knowing that we can actually follow God, and the rewards---well, let's just say they beat any top Missourian swimmer medal.
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My wife, Lydia & I started our missionary journey with the Lord in 1995 when we moved to the Czech Republic to work with another missions organization. We left that organization & Czech Republic by the Lord's leading in 2001. Throughout our time in Czech Republic, we met a couple of YWAM'ers there & also have a very close friend on staff at YWAM Denver. Our friend from Denver would get together with us every couple of years back in Ohio where we're from, & we would compare ministry notes, as it were. It seemed that she always had much better experiences than we did, specifically in the realm of leadership.
After we returned to the USA in 2001, I began studying IT at a university. As far as we knew, the Lord was finished with us regarding missions. However, when it came time for me to graduate in 2003 with my Associate's degree, we realized that we had a career decision to make. As my wife & I sat down & discussed this decision one day, we went through different career options available to us. My wife mentioned, "Well, missions isn't an option anymore." To which I replied, "Really? I don't ever remember actually saying that." She looked at me stunned. "Well, that changes EVERYthing!" she mused. This began a discourse that lasted for about 15 minutes from which we emerged with having prayed and decided the following: We will go back into missions full-time, We will do it with YWAM, and We will complete our DTS in Denver. It was because of our friend's experiences over the years that we were able to make that decision so easily.
The next thing that we knew we needed to understand was where we would go to serve full-time with YWAM as missionaries. My wife has always had a calling for Russians & the former Soviet Union & bloc nations. This time around I said to her, "It's your turn to decide where we go for missions." So she began her search... where? www.ywam.org That was where she started looking for YWAM operating centers located in Russia. She systematically went through all of the YWAM operating centers listed in ywam.org & wrote to each of them expecting a response. Interestingly, she only received a response from Perm, in Siberia. She started talking with a girl on staff there in the office & asking different questions. Through these emails, we found out that the YWAM Perm director was from a town only 1.5 hours' drive away from where we lived in Ohio... and he was home on furlough! We drove up to his church one Sunday, the day he was scheduled to speak. We met with him after the service, but there just wasn't a connection. We understood that as an answer from the Lord that Perm wasn't the place for us to serve.
As we drove home, I mentioned to my wife, "Perhaps we should look at countries where there are Russians, rather than Russia itself." She thought that was an interesting idea. So off she went back to ywam.org looking for more locations that might fit that description. She settled on Kyrgyzstan. (All the while, I'm thinking, "Wow! These are cold places!!") She began writing to a girl there who was running a coffeehouse ministry in Bishkek. Through those emails we discovered that she was from only 10 minutes away from where we lived in Ohio & that she would soon be home on furlough! What are the chances?! So we met with her for 3 hours at a coffee shop in our hometown. It was a great meeting. However, again, we just didn't sense that proper connection that we were looking for.
On with the search. Back to ywam.org. This time, my wife realized one day, "I don't know why I never thought of this before!" She contacted a lady on staff with YWAM Latvia named Cheryl. My wife's grandmother is originally from Latvia, & Latvia is nearly 40% ethnically Russian. So, we went into our DTS in 2004 emailing back & forth with Cheryl asking all kinds of questions.
During our DTS outreach, as we sat in an internet cafe in Bogota, Colombia, we booked tickets to fly to Latvia one day after our DTS graduation. We spent 2 weeks in Latvia visiting with Cheryl & others on staff with YWAM there asking questions & surveying the ministry. It felt so normal to be there!
So, we joined YWAM Latvia as full-time staff moving to Latvia in January 2005. Ironically, we've had little to do with Russians there, as much as we have had with Latvians. How amazing the ride has been & how amazing it is to think that communication (or lack of) & the testimony of a YWAMer had such a huge impact on us in our decision-making process!
Thanks for reading & please feel free to check out my blog!