I know some of you might be wondering why it’s taken me about two months to post the last update on my blog…well partly because I knew that once it was typed and posted it meant that it’s actually is time to close the last chapter of my life and begin the next one and also because being home is quite more overwhelming than I had imagined. But here we go!
DTS was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was challenging in every area: living in community, lack of sleep, not understanding everything we learned about, unity, staying in touch with family and friends at home and even not letting the bread bin tempt me (which I failed at many times). But in every area that it was challenging the reward was so much greater.
On lecture phase I wrote much more so I won’t bore you with recapping everything but it was a crazy 3 months! I learned things about God that I had never heard of, or at least wasn’t open to hearing before. The first 3 weeks of lecture phase I was hesitant. I saw these crazy people really on fire for Jesus and definitely not ashamed about it. I was confused, didn’t understand everything they did, but something about it all seemed real, they weren't faking it. It was hard and straight up weird. I was put out of my comfort zone very quickly, I mean goodness every introduction to a new person was like “Hi, I’m ______, what’s your name and testimony?” Vulnerability challenged? Absolutely. But I began to understand that these people didn’t ask to just hear another story, they asked because they actually wanted to know. They wanted to know not just the good stuff about you but the dirty stuff, the stuff we as Christians sometimes like to brush under the rug and not talk about. They wanted to know the areas you struggle so they could stand with you and fight against temptation. They wanted you to know that they were available to pray for you and with at any time. Did I jump on all those opportunities of openness and quick relationships? No, I didn’t, I admit. I’m terrible at opening up, but when I did I didn’t leave those broken pieces I usually hold very tight to anymore. Everyone of them, my peers, my staff, my school leaders, they took a piece and carried it with me to the cross.
There’s many topics I loved learning about, such as Hearing God’s Voice or The Bible. Then there were a few I was quite hesitant about leading to them, like The Holy Spirit or Relationships. It was nerve racking, their were times I laid in my bed wondering what in the world I was doing in Australia letting God use these people teach me things. But there were many more days I spent rejoicing with my school in the revelations that we had about our Father, the Cross, and even about ourselves.
Then of course we have those insane two months we like to call “outreach.” It’s funny, every time people asked me where I went I say “Australia, Russia, and Latvia.” they often go “Wow…Russia (with a good 5 second pause)…What was that like?!” Well to be completely honest, it was some of the hardest 3 weeks of my life. 1. It wasn’t cold…it was freezing! Going outside with anything but your eyes showing wasn’t an option. Every day was full of walking in the snow, or sitting on a train, or being stared at for being “to loud” (which might I add I think everyone else was just really quiet…or maybe we americans tend to be a little louder than necessary). But this is to be expected. Russia is a hard place to be, especially as an american. They aren’t are number one fan and most of us tend not to be there’s. Unity was something that we had to, with God, create most places we went. As a team we were attacked every day by laziness, attitudes, selfishness, hunger, and even the lack of sunshine but God revealed Himself to us every time. When we, and I speak for myself as well, decided to deal with our issues and get over ourselves Jesus would show us the beauty of Himself. His love for the Russians, His love for Moscow, for the girls that are trapped in sexual exploitation, for the homeless people who can’t escape the cold weather, for the gypsy kids who desire just for someone to play with them, for the Grandma (Babushka) sitting next to you on the train, and even for my teammates. We are called to be a light wherever we go, and if that’s all we could bring to Russia, than that’s enough. If we smile at someone who has never been smiled at (which is very possible), that’s enough. If we tell someone in our lack of Russian words and very awful accents, that they are loved by God, that’s enough. We were there for a short three weeks but I have no doubt God used us, in maybe little ways in our eyes, but in mighty ways to Him.
Then we get to one of the coolest places I’ve ever been, Latvia! This country is beautiful, not just because of the amazing architecture and snowy land but for the people as well. Now maybe i’m just biased because I met some awesome people there, but Latvians are kind people. They are serious but sure of themselves. They have problems in their society like any other country but they gentle and might I add hilarious and not afraid to speak their minds. During the 5 weeks we spent there we teamed up with the organization Freedom61 (check out their website http://freedom61.me/#_). This organization has a beautiful heart for girls working in the sex industry. They are constantly seeking the Lord and His passion for them to be free even before their own. They have a cafe open 3 days a week for the girls that we had the privilege of helping with. We cooked, made gifts, and covered the streets of Riga in prayer. Walking in the cold for 3 hours, two times a week, tough? Yes it was, there were times I wanted to run inside and find a heater, but it was so worth it. It taught me that prayer is the most powerful weapon we have and that it destroys attacks of the enemy, it kills evil, and welcome’s God’s power into an area. We got to hang out with kids, who have barely anything, feed them, play with them, help them do their homework as well as get beat very badly in the game Holly Golly (math isn’t my good subject). We were able to put on multiple church services, where I had the opportunity to lead worship for. Throughout our time in Latvia our team was split up into groups of 3 or 4. With these groups we would go to schools with one of the Freedom61 staff and do Human Trafficking prevention presentations. In total we talked to 341 students! It was an amazing feeling knowing that we possibly helped with preventing these kids from being trafficked one day.
My favorite week in Latvia is when we went to a city called Jelgava. We spent a week in a school with over 300 people, YWAMers and Church goers, 31 nations represented, of all ages impacting one city together. The week in general was so much fun! I got to meet people from Holland, Norway, Ireland, and even Uganda. We were put in teams to go on house visits with food bags, put together kids programs, and a clothing drive opened up to the community (which I worked with). During the week we also had services and worship times together. I got so much out of the week personally and made some amazing friendships.
Leaving Latvia was one of the hardest goodbyes I’ve ever had to say. God spoke to me so much while I was there and the friendships made were hard to say bye to, It’s possible I may never seen these people again. I still think about that country every day, sometimes it makes me sad I’m no there but other times I get so happy thinking about my time spent impacting that place.
Let’s be real, YWAM is a crazy organization, you meet people from all over the world, grow with them, do life with them, cry with them, rejoice with them and then you go home…the people I met have pieces of my heart but I trust they carry it well. Lifelong friendships came out of the past 6 months, and it’s pretty sweet that I have places to crash all over the earth. But most importantly I left with a greater understanding of my God. There’s so much I learned I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I’ve had coffee dates with many of you or quick chats at the grocery store but I’d love to share more. All of y’alls support has helped carry me this past year, since deciding on doing a DTS until now. You took hold of this adventure with me and for that I am so grateful! I would love to thank every one of you personally, some of you I know, some of you I’ve never met, but no matter who you are and the amount of prayers you sent my way, I am so thankful for you’re love, not just for me but for all the people I encountered, you brought Jesus to the nations-celebrate that!