When I signed up for the Discipleship Training School (DTS) I knew next to nothing about what Youth With A Mission (YWAM) was. At the time I had just been coming out of an isolating season of online schooling (due to the pandemic) and had a strong desire to go on an adventure. I heard about this program in Nanaimo called DTS where I would get to live in a community, do lots of outdoor activities, and have opportunities to travel internationally. These were all things that I desired strongly and decided to register without doing much research. I have to admit I wasn’t fully prepared for what I was signing up for but it turned out to be one of the most transformative experiences of my life. However, going into DTS I had a lot of expectations that did not fit the reality.
Expectation #1: I would get be in charge of my daily schedule
Experience: The school has a structure set in place
I came into DTS not realising that there was a structured schedule set in place for the school. In my mind I thought I would get to dictate the majority of my time. Although, there was plenty of free time on weekends and most evenings. Just like there was time set aside to rest there was also time to do work. In addition to lectures we had worship, intercession, evangelism, community service, and work duties. I was used to being in control of my own schedule so adapting to the school’s routine was challenging. I struggled especially with the work duties. In the mornings we would have 30 minutes of cleaning our house before lectures. I had a habit of sleeping in so it pushed my comfort zone to wake up in time to do my part. The routine was challenging but it helped me build healthy habits and spiritual disciplines. I learnt how to develop a balanced work/rest routine. I also learnt how to schedule practices of worship, prayer and time with God into my daily life.
Expectation #2: I would not enjoy evangelism
Experience: Sharing my faith turns out to be something I love doing
Going into street evangelism I had zero experience with it. I imagined that I would have to dress up in an ankle length skirt and stand on the street corner shouting at people to repent. My limited concept of it made me almost decide to drop out of my DTS when I found out it was part of the school. I didn’t know evangelism could be as simple as talking with the cashier at the grocery store or just sharing my life story with someone. My expectation was that I would receive judgement or people would be offended ( and sometimes that did happen but it was a humbling experience) but most times I had so many impactful conversations. There were times God would give me specific words to encourage people or I would witness miraculous healings. Getting to see first hand the fruit of sharing the gospel made me realise that any slight embarrassment I felt was worth the potential of having an eternal impact on someone's life. I never would have expected that evangelism would turn into a passion of mine.
Expectation #3: That I would be going home after the DTS
Experience: God had different plans for me
There are so many opportunities with YWAM beyond DTS. You can pursue a degree, join the staff, or do an internship for example. I wasn’t aware of these options going into DTS.When I signed up for the school I was fully expecting to be back home after the 5 month course. However, I ended up staying to do their Diakoneo internship. The internship introduced me to what a life in full time ministry was like. I got to be a part of so many different local ministries that allowed me to explore my calling deeper. At this time God had put in my heart a strong desire to join the staff team. At first I struggled seeing myself as qualified enough. YWAM staff all have to raise their own support and I highly doubted I would ever be able to live that lifestyle. However I have come to realise that God doesn’t call those that are qualified he qualifies those that he calls. Even though I didn’t initially see staffing as a realistic option for me as I continued to step out in faith, God continued to make a way for me . Now it’s been almost a year since I’ve joined the staff team. Although not everyone that comes to DTS will be called to stay longer. I would strongly advise going into DTS with a heart that is open to where God may lead you next. Whether that is joining staff, doing a secondary school, or taking what you learnt back to your home community. I would come into DTS prepared to surrender your own expectations so you can be fully open to what God has in store for you.
By Sara Bonner