Dear Eager Young YWAMer,
I saw your sparkling eyes, when I walked into my DTS classroom holding my one-year-old niece’s hand. I saw your shocked mouth, when that week’s amazing speaker called me out by name and bragged about my Kiwi parents. I saw those hungry glances, when I told you what it was like to grow up on a YWAM campus in Hawaii, with all this being the norm. And I heard your honest, beautiful desire on the soccer field at Base Retreat– I want YWAM babies.
But I just have one request, before you do. Simply, listen to a YWAM Kid’s story. This is mine.
“I don’t wanna go.” Growing up between three countries, it’s something that I kept as a secret to myself. Every time we were in and out of New Zealand and Australia? I didn’t want to leave. For university, I chose to move to New Zealand– a childhood dream. But still, I hated leaving Newcastle, Australia– where, at one point in time, all three of my brothers were on staff.
Yet I kept quiet, silenced by the duty I held to God to be content with where He’d placed me.
Then came a two-week trip to Newcastle last March, where I found I couldn’t ignore my heart. It was still there. Very much alive. Very much beating. Very much wanting to be at home in Australia, not just the visiting sister. And my families in New Zealand, still very much wanting me to stay with them… asked me, Why not?
Fast forward to a winter morning in Amsterdam, my DTS outreach team gathered in our apartment.
Homesickness had run rampant. A few weeks out from finishing DTS, the eleven of us had been thinking of what was ahead, in varying degrees. For some, it stopped them from focussing on what was in front of them. As my teammates prayed around the circle, rawly expressing to God their remorse, something gnawed and squirmed inside of me.
A few weeks before, I’d happily discovered I missed Australia immensely. After three years of bouncing between three home countries, after a whole childhood of not really knowing my place– it was shocking to discover I really did belong somewhere. Even though Europe enchanted me– the Pacific was home.
Yet why was I so frustrated at their homesickness? They had a choice to be on DTS, to leave those places they were born and raised in. I understood, they had grown up with their immediate family around them, saw their extended family often…
And then it hit me, with choking sobs.
“I never had a choice.”
I was always far away from family. Being a missionary kid and the youngest sibling, I rarely had the luxury of choosing to leave my family to go on an adventure. I was already thrust into one– as well as left behind from many.
I mean, I felt incredibly involved in family decisions, don’t let me misrepresent my life to you. When my parents wanted to staff a DTS in Kansas City, they asked Jordan and 12-year-old me to pray about it– I saw a picture of our future house. When we were going take a trip Down Under in the middle of my junior year, we prayed about it– I was stoked.
But the initial choice?
It wasn’t mine. I didn’t choose to be born in a country different from my parents, I didn’t choose to be immersed in YWAM, I didn’t choose to leave my brothers. That all happened, with me incredibly quiet. I fought the helplessness by listing the rewards of a dual-citizen. I survived the unresolved grief by counting my blessings of a YWAM Kid. In short, I thought God didn’t care about my pain.
As I sobbed uncontrollably, knees on the hardwood floor, I found a very different God from my childhood. I found a man. The one who grabs the tissues. Who puts his arms around me. The one who lets me cry– even cries with me. Sure, he wanted my parents to be in missions, and he wanted me to be born in Hawaii. But it doesn’t mean that my story doesn’t gut him from the inside as well. And in the homesickness Jesus whispers, You have the choice– come home.
So, Eager Young Missionary. Us “YWAM babies” don’t get through wounded-free, nor do they grow up with faultless, untainted views of God. We’re human like the rest of you, and though I might not let you know that all the time, it’s true. We walk in inheritances not our own, and we act like we own the place (sometimes we do– I’m talking about you, Ark Park). And whether we like it or not, life becomes this glorious mess of knowing God and making Him known.
So, go have those YWAM babies. I’ll be right along with you.
Eager Young YWAMer
(who just happens to be a YWAM Kid)
Photo: Norris family at Waipio Valley lookout, Big Island of Hawaii; 1995. Photo by Kevin Norris.