Yosemite to Chico
I think it is rather humorous how we, in all our human naivety, can reach a point where it is easy to believe there is nothing left for God to deal with in our hearts. We’ve simply given enough – we’ve been pushed and pulled and wrecked enough – we should be done. We can rest for a bit….right? We’ll have some time to breathe before God goes in with pliers and bandages and continues to refine? Right?
If we wanted to rest, we probably wouldn’t be here in the first place. We came to DTS to dive headfirst into God’s heart and last week was most certainly no exception.
Sunday morning, our entire DTS crammed into a 15-passenger van and took off on a 5-hour journey to YWAM Chico. We met up with four other YWAM bases for the annual Presence Gathering, a three-day conference dedicated to corporately rediscovering “The Fear of the Lord.” What a great way to spend the second week of our Discipleship Training School! For the first few days, our speaker was a fiery Latin prayer warrior named Alejandro Rodriguez. He delivered heart-provoking messages about our identities in Christ, God’s will for our lives, and multiple testimonies of a life surrendered entirely into our Savior’s hands. Somehow, Alejandro’s language barrier (aided by a translator) added to the tangible power in the room, as we all witnessed cross-cultural walls come crashing down. Both US and international students bared their souls before the Lord and each other. We emerged from every session with tear-stained shirtsleeves and new-found camaraderie.
The YWAM Chico campus provided endless opportunities for team activities, as well. The property was spacious and full of outdoor opportunities. Couple this enormous, mountainous space with a group of people who had chosen to do their DTS in Yosemite, and, well, hiking had to happen, so we took every opportunity to explore the nature around us. We enjoyed short hikes up to hidden pools and giant overlooks in our free time.
Since the acquisition of boldness and strength was a central theme of the Presence Gathering, we dedicated Wednesday afternoon to evangelism at Chico State University. Teamed up with students from various bases, we pushed through our comfort zones and approached students with the Gospel of Christ, offering prayer and support to the young people there. The reception was, for the most part, extremely gratifying and a few of us saw complete strangers give their lives to the Lord. It was phenomenal to see what can truly happen when we set aside fear and seek God’s will.
Six students, including two from Yosemite, Marcus and Christina, also stepped up to publicly share their testimonies in the CSU main quad, which required us to be quote bold. Our efforts were not in vain as passersby slowed down and listened, some even throwing down backpacks and books to take a moment to watch God speak through us and hear our hearts.
The last few days tin Chico we gathered to hear lectures from Jachin and Sarah Pendleton, the base directors of YWAM Redding and missionaries to the Muslim world. These people are amazing. They serve as living testament to the idea that a life lived in complete service to Christ is not a life misled and that a life founded in godly vision and determination cannot fail. We listened to them recount how time and time again, the enemy has attempted to stop them, slow them down, harm them or their children, but God has supernaturally protected their mission through it all. They are doing what so few individuals dare to try – stepping into the darkest corners of the embattled Middle East with the light of the Gospel in hand. Their lectures were comprised of testimony after testimony of the Lord’s Providence in their call to Muslim people. Ears were opened and hearts were stirred as a result of their bravery and I’m very certain we’ll be seeing a flood of young people following in their footsteps.
Since our time in Chico was centered around refocus and rededication, it was fantastic to conclude our week with the baptism of one of our own! Aaron publicly renewed his promise to the Lord in the form of baptism, declaring once and for all that he belongs to Jesus alone, and that no event or struggle from the past can ever define him again. His testimony impacted us all, and it was the perfect ending to a week so full of redemption.