2011 was the year that YWAM changed everything. 2017 was the year I learned why.
I had a nagging voice in my mind telling me that there was more to living as a Christian than simply being one.
I once was a very condensed person who had a very condensed view of God. I had never gone anywhere crazy or done anything that challenged my understanding of life. I was a stereotypical southern kid who liked the outdoors and longed for adventure. I mocked kids my age who wore skinny jeans and abhorred any type of tea that was not cold and sugary. I had a nagging voice in my mind telling me that there was more to living as a Christian than simply being one. I was discontent, out of shape, a bit insecure, and uncontrollably curious.
Yep, it was utopia. An epic odyssey waiting to happen. To me, at least. There was never an old wizard who showed up at the house with a curled finger, grey hat, and a plan to save the world. Instead, I got a call from a man named Nathan at the YWAM base in Montana. He told me that I had been accepted into a newly created program, called the Endurance Discipleship Training School (EDTS).
The time I spent backpacking with EDTS became a point of reference in my life.
What followed was five months of exploring and growing in very personal ways. The time I spent backpacking with EDTS became a point of reference in my life. Like a compass, it helped me identify that in faith there are two different Norths: true and truer. This concept helped mark my inaugural journey away from home as something not just pivotal, but personal. It was sacred and nobody could convince me otherwise.
For years, church and faith had felt the same; they only happened on Sundays and the rest of the week they were kept separate. In YWAM, every day was church and faith and it felt real.
Discovering unexplored places, having dirt stuck between my toes, and wearing clothes that increasingly got baggier was like a cleanse of my soul. I could walk and talk with God freely and not be worried about what he thought of me. In learning more about Jesus and living in a community that pursued Him, I found a way beyond my previous view of life. This life was not of routines, and achievements, but of genuineness, where the things you have held onto for ages finally slip through your fingers and you are finally able to accept who you truly are.
When EDTS finished, I remember thinking I would only be happy if I could have stayed. On my flight home from Montana, I told myself I would come back. I would pack up my life and move back out West because that is where my purpose was. But I didn’t. I never could. There was a truth that had been planted in my heart from all those months of traveling. It took awhile to take root but when it did, I came to see that the best way to know (and be known by) other people is to know God intimately. Everything else pales in comparison to watching Him work through mysteries. I dared to believe that Jesus was close to me everywhere. And I found my peace after that.
I cannot soon repeat, or ever forget, the days spent at YWAM Montana, for there, I discovered what it means to truly know God.
My hope is that in reading this, you will understand that valuable things are scarce. That you do not have to be in YWAM, or go back to it, to know God. Going through EDTS a second time would not somehow magically bring me to a closer place with God (although it could). If I learned anything during my DTS experience, it is that a masterpiece never happens twice; the Sistine Chapel is what it is, and there is beauty in just having one in Rome. In the best way possible, I side-stepped becoming the person I had initially thought I was meant to be. I did not choose to follow what was true, I found something truer. I ended up resting in the knowledge of God and his nature which reminds me that my destiny is something not fulfilled by my own will. I do not rely on my own achievements or even my geographical location. I cannot soon repeat, or ever forget, the days spent at YWAM Montana, for there, I discovered what it means to truly know God.
What is your North? If you think it might be a Discipleship Training School (DTS), apply here!
The DTS offers 5 months of growing deeper with God and impacting the world with the gifts God has given you.