Over the last year, I've seen a lot of change. I packed my bags last April and left for 6 months to do mission work around the world. My first stop Hawaii. I left early in the morning, I cried as I hugged my boyfriend goodbye, and next thing I knew, my 6 month journey began on a small island in the Pacific.
For those of you who know me, you'll know that this was my first time flying alone, and my first time going anywhere for longer than a few days alone. I was throwing myself into the deep end into an environment where I wouldn't know anybody and I'd be starting from scratch. Many of you experienced this when you went to college, maybe you were close enough to home that you could take the weekend and visit, or maybe you were like me in another state just pushing through.
I didn't realize how much of an introvert I really was until I got there. I was constantly surrounded by people, noise, music, talking, I shared a room with 19 other girls for 3 months and had no time to really just be alone. I still value that time. I sometimes just lay in bed on my phone. listening to music, or writing. I had a tendency to isolate myself in the moments that I could which heavily impacted my time to get to know people. Looking back at it now, I feel like I would have done things differently.
Way too often, I find myself getting stuck regretting everything. I regret not taking advantage of the time I had and the opportunities that I had, especially to build friendships, I was so stuck on the idea that I would only know these people for 6 months, and then we'd go back to our normal lives, so making friends wouldn't matter. I am slow to trust people to begin with, but the nature of the Discipleship Training School is to be vulnerable; something that I was, and still sometimes am scared to be. I don't like to open up. I don't like to spill my thoughts and emotions all over the place. I work through things slowly and with people that I trust very closely.
This became a particular problem with my leaders. People who I thought would have tried to at least say hello and not pin characteristics on me based on my introverted side. As a result, there was a lot of distrust, so I pulled away even more. I have spent a lot of time in my life trying to please people and try to change how people see me, and after a while, it gets exhausting. I get tired of trying to constantly prove to people who I am, it takes away from actually living my life and focusing on what people think about me. I did that all through high school, trying to prove to particular music and theatre teachers that I was worth their time and effort and that I had what it takes, only to fall short in their views every time. And I thought that after it was all said and done, I had my diploma, and I would never had to walk through the high school doors again, I figured I could finally just live and not try to prove anything anymore. But I came to Hawaii for this school, and I had to prove my worth to leaders who couldn't even take the time to get to know me. So hurt grew in that area, on top of an area that was already slightly raw, and I feel like I lost sight of why I was even there in the first place.
I spent a lot of time being frustrated that I was on an all girl's outreach, that I couldn't get a moment of solitude, that I was too young to rent a car and go anywhere, that my leaders were ignoring me and then asking me to be transparent with them when there was no trust. I was frustrated that I was being sent to an outreach location that I didn't feel called to, and I just shut down. I spent hours on the phone with my boyfriend complaining about this and that, and telling him how much I wanted to just go home and be done with it. When my camera fell off my strap and broke a month in, I was pretty close to just booking the return flight home and calling it quits.
But of course I stayed, and I went to Tijuana, Mexico City, and Panama over the course of the next three months. I won't go into detail about the mission work that I did there since I have everything in previous blogs that you can go back and read, but I started to find it funny that I was finally getting to travel and see different parts of the world, and all I wanted to do was be home where things were familiar. So what did I do? I ate that taco with guacamole, I had fish soup, I ate plantains for a week straight, I had beans and other foods that I didn't really like, I slept on a mattress that was more uncomfortable than the floor in a city louder than I could imagine. I started to put myself out there and try new things. I tried speaking Spanish, not very well, but I tried, and now I can order almost all my food in Spanish. I realized that I had to stop caring so much about what I thought and just enjoy the time to travel.
While eventually I began to just enjoy my time, my problems with the leadership were never really resolved, and I went home feeling like I never changed, I didn't learn anything, and I felt like my DTS was a failure. But I also knew that it might take me a while before full understanding what some lessons meant, and I had a feeling that I would start to see the fruit of change and growth once I got home and started to see it apply directly to my everyday life, not just the protected Christian community that I was living in for 6 months.
The way I see it, is that it's easy to be a good Christian when you're surrounded by other Christians, but that's not where the struggle in life is. The struggle is when you're around everybody who will tell you otherwise. When you're back in the world. Jesus didn't spend all his time with churched people, he went out to the world. This is why His ministry was so powerful, and this is where a lot of people miss the mark. We think going out to third world countries makes us better Christians, it doesn't. Some people are called to that, some people are called to serve in their home church, some people are called to serve their city. It doesn't matter where you go, but how you go that determines the effectiveness of your ministry.
I got caught in the mindset that if I didn't do overseas missions, I wouldn't be fulfilling my calling to the Great Commission. But at the same time, I didn't feel called to any particular nation. I wasn't called to be a missionary like these people that I see in YWAM, living country to country, raising support, and dedicating 20+ years to that kind of ministry, and I felt like I had failed.
During that last week in Hawaii, I started to feel like it was ok that I wouldn't be coming back to this lifestyle, and God started to reveal different plans for my life. I love encouraging people to do what they're passionate about. I don't have to be excited about it personally, but I love seeing people on fire for what they love. I had friends in my school that want to dedicate their lives to missions in Japan, the Middle East, Inda, etc. and I was excited for them. And once they get to the point where they get there and they need monthly support, you can guarantee that I'll be writing them checks to help them and letters to encourage them.
above; some of the friends I made in Hawaii
It's 6 months later that I'm helping out with a course similar to what I did, but designed for busy people who can't take 6 months out of their life. I didn't want to do this at first. I wanted to be done with YWAM, I still felt bitter and had regrets at the start of the Discipleship Training Course, but I feel like that's changing. I'm finally understanding what all the classes that I took meant in my life, and it's all coming full circle. I'm starting to learn how to let go of the hurt from the leadership I had, letting go of my resentment toward YWAM, and just really learning where my place is in the Great Commission.
I may not be called to the front lines, but I'm called to build people up at home, help send them out, and encourage them along the way.
Over the last year, I've been learning to let go of everything that I try to hold onto so tightly, all the negative feelings; anger, frustration, irritation, and that's not to say that I don't get upset here and there, but that I learn to overcome them quicker and not let that dictate my life.
I'm learning to be more transparent in the way that I communicate. I've realized that holding back isn't doing anything for me, it's just keeping everything in. And I'm learning to just let go of the people that ultimately no longer have an impact on my life and forgiving them.
A year ago, I was angry that I was being sent to Mexico, I didn't want to go, and now I'm going back with the Discipleship Training Course held at the Rock, and I'm excited. So excited that I'm having dreams of Mexico and I'm speaking Spanish. Am I called to Mexico? Not full time, but I have learned that God really can use you no matter where you go, and He can change your heart anywhere in the world.