It’s odd to remember where I was last September.
Physically, yes, it’s not every morning you wake up in a white Toyota 10-seater with five other people (see part one). Emotionally, yes, it’s not every day you leave the safety of your town and go where God says, without a plan for food or housing, just trust in your pocket. Spiritually, yes, it’s not every night you spend wondering why God didn’t provide the basic needs you thought He would for you and your friends. Faith Journey is a normal part of our Discipleship Training Schools, but our journey wasn’t like any I’d heard of before.
So why is it weird, now, to remember those three days of last September?
When I agreed to be on staff of the July 2016 DTS, I had no thought beyond those six months. Tauranga, New Zealand meant a lot to me, but I knew my purpose: work as a teacher, and support raise so I could go back to Australia and start a kids group and write blog posts for YWAM Newcastle. I was a little bit thrown off by God asking me to staff a DTS with YWAM Bethlehem for a short season– well, more surprised that I actually wanted to. DTS was the bread and butter of Youth With A Mission, a cliche I worked so hard to avoid. YWAM Bethlehem was my social hub and safe place during university in Tauranga, but I never thought of actually being involved, beyond going to community nights and THOP. Yet inconveniently, as every week of DTS went by (yes, even those Faith Journey days!), the more and more I wanted to stay.
So it’s odd, to remember last September.
As my team chomped on their steaming muffins and sipped their hot chocolates, I texted a girl who we met at the youth group the night before (see part one ). Her mum was a teacher at a Christian preschool and they needed help at an event that day, so even though we hadn’t had much sleep, we went and moved tents, blew up balloons, and gushed at all the cute children. It didn’t seem like much, so afterwards we had some time to just listen to Jesus and rest that afternoon. But rest alluded me, and I didn’t feel any better, nor did the rest of our team.
We needed to do something. One of the biggest acts of spiritual warfare is to preach the gospel, I had heard the past month. So we pulled into the car park of McDonald’s, and that’s what I told our ragtag bunch. “Your goal in this hour is to preach the gospel to one person. Just one.” So, with hungry bellies in the face of physical food, that’s what we did. As cliche as it sounds, we offered a slice of the Bread of Life to people in a fast-food restaurant. No one “got saved”. No one “got healed”. Nor did we jump back into our van feeling remarkably victorious.
Yet that September? That’s where I learned to sing towards victory.
Wait for the Lord–
He is coming!
I hopped in the back seat, trilled the last verse of Psalm 27, and everyone joined in as the sun made a blazing pink descent over Lake Rotorua. We were hungry, tired. Yet as we sang something shifted, and in that 10-seater van, we felt hope again. I put down my ukulele and hopped into the driver’s seat once more, ready to go.
From the seat beside me, Isaiah squinted and pointed across three parking lots of the waterfront. “Is that an orange tree over there?” I looked and all I saw was a camellia tree, with pink flowers, definitely not orange. But for some reason, it still felt like an orange tree. As we drove closer, it was definitely a camellia tree. Yet to my amazement, just behind it was a tree with fruit that were very orange.
There is still a debate to this day whether they were grapefruits or just really unripe oranges. However, no one argues the fact that they were the most refreshing and invigorating citrus slices we’d ever tasted in our lives. That propelled us to go and continue to ask various people for places to stay, as we felt God guiding. As the night before, I was amazed by my team’s persistence even in the face of SO many “no’s”. I finally whispered to God, “Please, I need a home tonight”.
His answer surprised me, a whisper straight back to my heart.
“I already gave you one.”
I could see my room back at Faith Bible College, with the window that overlooked rolling green sheep paddocks and the distant Kaimai ranges. I thought of YWAM Bethlehem, the pioneering community I’d come to love deeply– their hour-after-hour commitment to prayer and missions, their extravagant Mary-of-Bethany, throw-stuff-in-the-fire-pit kind of devotion, their dance party joy. I didn’t love YWAM Newcastle any less. But yes, even in the face of so much disappointment, I wanted to stay just that little bit more.
As it got closer to midnight with no closer to having somewhere to spend the night, I offered the fact that we could go back to Tauranga, as our DTS leader had offered. Don’t decide anything without the whole team in unity, Trevor had explained. So we talked and prayed. Within that 10-seater van, we gave up our reputations that stopped us from ever doing anything that looked like failure (aka going back to Tauranga). So on that Saturday night in September, we drove home.
That Sunday morning, I woke up in my own bed with a contented smile, despite the apparent “failure” of our faith journey. I’ve heard it said that there are no bad faith journey stories, not in the end. God always speaks, and always provides what we need. And for me, in that morning in September? I needed the affirmation and confirmation that God had given me a home at YWAM Bethlehem, in New Zealand. I didn’t have to go back to Australia to be at home. It was okay to stay.
Almost a year later, I write from another room at Faith Bible College, after a winter-blue day of driving our newest July DTS students around Tauranga, sending an update email about my upcoming trip to the Himalayas, and watching a good ole comedy in our “Upper Room”.
And I smile to myself when I remember where I was in September.
Because I don’t need a home tonight, not anymore.
I already have one.