When my firstborn daughter, Areli, invited me to her graduation, my first thought was, “There is no way I am going to be able to leave my family and fly all the way to Texas!”
Talking with Areli on the phone during her Discipleship Training School had reminded me of the raw faith I had when I did my DTS, 25 years ago. Areli had the faith that God could get me to Texas, why shouldn’t I?
I had not taken such a trip without my husband since I had gotten married. Yet Chris, really wanted me to go. He felt that to visit my Alma Mater would be such a special time for me. Boy, was he right! God orchestrated a delightful and refreshing getaway!
My one year old daughter Aria and I traveled for about 8 hours before we arrived in Tyler, but the trip had gone better than I had hoped. One of the YWAM staff picked us up at the airport, and she was beyond friendly, carrying all the bags and taking us to the grocery store. She dropped us off at the base hotel, and we found the loveliest accommodations waiting for us. I had been given a small apartment with a living room/kitchenette and a king-sized bedroom. It was just perfect for Aria and I!
Soon came a rap on my door. I opened it and there stood Areli, my beautiful daughter that I hadn’t seen in person for 5 months! Such joy!
Later Areli took me to supper in the new Paris Fellowship Center. Such a lovely facility. Such friendly people everywhere I turned. During my 4 days at YWAM Tyler, I got to meet the students and leaders of Areli’s DTS in addition to students of many other schools.
Each day we took a long walk around the base. It looked so much the same as it did 25 years ago. Wide open spaces, beautiful and peaceful. We enjoyed the warm sunshine and the mild weather.
We visited the charming chapel and the playground by the lake. We always stopped by the lake to eat a snack. One day we visited the new SST Village.
Another day we visited Ag Tech. I loved it! What a brilliant way to raise vegetables and eggs for the base. New and better farming practices and prototypes were being developed, and then taken out to the mission field. What a practical way to bring God’s love to needy places.
We went to the Base Worship on Friday morning. It was a simple affair with voices and a guitar. The spirit was sweet and God’s presence was transformational. God gave me a breakthrough in my thinking, perhaps the biggest breakthrough of my life. I will write more about that in a later article, but it felt almost as if I had been born-again…again!
That evening Aria and I were welcomed into the girls’ dorm to participate in a pre-Love Feast nail-painting party. It was so fun to be among such sweet ladies. I got to see the bunk that had been mine in DTS.
I remembered the good times I had spent in that room with the five other girls, three of whom became my best friends.
A year after DTS I traveled to be in Maddy’s wedding, and a year after that she was in mine. I am still good friends with her and one other roommate, Sue. What a blessing they have been to me over the years.
Saturday was the big day! There was a Friends and Family Reception where the leaders talked about YWAM, DTS, and SOE. Leland Paris spoke with his kind and powerful voice, so much the same as he had spoken to my school 25 years ago.
“We have been serving Jesus together, what could be better than that!” Fran Paris said about their 50+ years of marriage.
I was impressed with the fire and maturity of the leaders. Areli’s DTS had been very much like my own: same themes; many of the same speakers; same structure with work duties, one on one discipleship, small groups, and intercession groups. Yet it seemed like the details had been honed to perfection, and the training held the depth of wisdom gained through experience. I was so very pleased that Areli had chosen to come! I was thrilled that she planned to come back for the SOE!
Next we all chose seats at the eloquently decorated tables. We were served a lovely dinner by the new students. Areli told me that the base chef had been working on the meal for days, and it was exquisite!
After the Love Feast, there was worship, and Aria began to do the cutest baby, butt-wiggle dance. She looked at the young man standing beside her and decided to raise her hands like he did.
We returned to our seats and listened to stories from the Family DTS. It was the first DTS of its kind at this base, and it was amazing! Entire families were learning and ministering together. One of the families I had known from back home. I was so amazed at how they had sold everything and came when God called them. The father and son testifed about how the son had heard God’s voice and prayed for a man, and that man had received healing in his eyes!
Then Areli’s DTS took the stage. I heard a girl talk about hearing God’s voice for the first time. I heard a young man tell about God’s creative way of showing him how to let go of his anger. I heard another guy tell of when he witnesses a healing after he prayed. The evening wrapped up with the SOE telling their stories, and each student received a diploma. Everyone was overflowing with an awareness of God’s goodness!
Sunday morning we had time to take one last walk around the loop. I hated to leave this special place. I was reminded of the many walks I had taken with God on this path.
“There was the exact spot that God told me that I was going to marry Daddy,” I told Areli and two of her friends.
Where we stopped for a snack at the water’s edge was where I heard God speak to me so clearly as I prayed about finances for outreach and my future. He gave me this scripture:
“They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jer 17:8
I still remember this scripture and think of it often. I am not a missionary depending on monthly support, or traveling to strange and exotic locations. But I do have 10 children, which sometimes requires a leap of faith to just get out of bed each morning!
I recalled all that I had learned here on this base and how it changed the course of my life. My expectation for DTS and SOE was that I would learn about how to evangelize and about how to be a foreign missionary. Yet almost every speaker who came to our school, every book that I read, every encounter I had with new friends taught me about something different. Something I desperately needed to know but didn’t know that I needed to know. Something that would prepare me for the future that God had planned, a future I had never even guessed at 25 years ago.
God taught me about marriage, raising children, homeschool, and His heart for families. I hadn’t thought much about these subjects previously. I had been focused on getting good grades in order to get into a good college so I could become a teacher. Once I began my YWAM journey, I fell in love with it! I continued with SOE and at the end of it, I pictured myself as a missionary with everything I owned strapped to my back. I was excited to go anywhere. I prayed about the next step, and all I heard God say was, “Go Home.”
I didn’t understand it at all. Yet I obeyed. A month later I was engaged to my high school sweet heart. A year later we were married. 25 years later we have 10 children. I am living my destiny, and I love it!
Now I can see that God had perfectly prepared me. YWAM was a huge part of that! I can also see that all my mistakes and missteps along the way just brought me closer to Him. What would I say to the new DTS and SOE graduates?
“God is using everything in your life to prepare you for your purpose. It is ok if you don’t have a full picture of that purpose, God does! Whatever you are picturing, it will be totally different anyway! It is usually harder but better! All your experiences give you something important, even the painful ones, even the ones that seem like mistakes or failures. Make the most of your YWAM experience! The time set aside to seek God is sacred and will bring great rewards in the future.”
As we walked back to get ready to leave, I felt so thankful for my Alma Mater. I felt thankful that Areli was experiencing it too! Perhaps there was a deposit in little Aria’s spirit that would bring her back here for her own adventure, to this extraordinary place that has brought generations to the feet of Jesus!