The bow of the ship was slippery from the spray of the sea and the rain that had just fallen. Everyone else was inside, down below, while my legs dangled over the front of the boat. I had never been sailing before—none of us had. As we serenely continued the remaining day of our sail, I watched the blurry line of white fog meet the grey-blue ocean on the horizon. It was the first calm day in a while and after endless days of seasickness, I was happy to be outside, staring into a vast nothingness. I was glad to no longer be staring down into a yellow plastic bucket.
Twenty-eight other students and I had just completed the lecture phase of our YWAM Discipleship Training School, and with utmost enthusiasm, we set sail for a six-day venture to our outreach destination, Fiji. Our DTS was a part of Marine Reach, an arm of YWAM, that consists of medically-equipped ships that take teams of students and volunteers to places in need.
We had departed the docks of Auckland quite unsure of what lay ahead. Within a few hours, we had settled into our routine of clinging to railings and stairwells in an effort to avoid meeting face-to-face with the floor. For days, all that was visible was dark swirling water and a thick covering of clouds. It was there, in the middle of the less than tranquil sea, that I made friends with that yellow bucket.
Despite the misery of swaying sideways all through the nights in our bunks and losing our appetites during the days, the experience of camaraderie and shared pursuit was worth every miserable moment. Getting across that sea ultimately meant helping others. Finally, during that morning of the sixth day, I spotted coconut husks and palm fronds floating along the top of the ocean—an indication that we were almost in sight of land. It was a glorious moment.
For the next two months, the students, staff and crew, representing 13 different countries, lived and served among various islands and villages that make up Fiji. In the stifling island heat (wearing the school’s required black sarongs didn’t help) and with all the interesting adventures (eating stingray meat and bathing in makeshift shower stalls in the middle of a village), my team experienced rustic, yet inspiring, missionary life. We’d set up temporary clinics in the village common room, where the volunteer doctors and nurses would spend days at a time seeing the endless lines of patients. Students with medical backgrounds would assist in First Aid while the rest of us visited the village schools to teach hygiene, dental care and disease prevention. By the end of a day, all the school children would have memorized our clever songs that aided in their learning of brushing teeth or washing hands.
So, how did I end up in Fiji?
It was the year before that I decided to sign up for YWAM. I was 5 months out of university and had just moved to Colorado. It seemed like everyone around me had done a DTS, and I heard nothing but positive feedback. YWAM trains and disciples students before sending them out into the mission field. At first I was hesitant to sign up because I believed that season in my life had passed—everyone I knew had done a DTS when they were right out of high school. But in mid October, it seemed like God started prompting me to get out and do something life changing. A sudden surge of excitement swept over me when I came across Marine Reach. It fit. Maybe living in New Zealand and Fiji played a part in convincing me, but I loved the thought of bringing free medical care to those without such luxuries as a nearby hospital or even a pack of bandages. My heart was won to practical missions: filling a need and watching God move.
After working and raising financial support, I found myself flying westward to become a part of the next school. During the lecture phase of the school, the phrase “Less of me, more of You” became my mantra as I set aside those months to focus on personal growth. With challenges came introspection, and in that place, you find yourself. Becoming a disciple of Jesus is a life-long endeavor. I often forget that the word “disciple” stems from the word “discipline.” What DTS did, was allow me to set up strong foundations in disciplines I didn’t even know I was lacking. God revealed that you can always go deeper with Him.
In whatever form of mission you might partake in, you are stretched at some level. For my classmates and I, leaving home for an intense half-year in an unfamiliar location with a brand-new set of strangers, left its stretch marks. It was there, on outreach, that our character and strength were tested, that we found ourselves stepping out in faith and learning to lead and persevere. It was there, in the midst of the jungle, a fishing boat, a school, while doing a skit, a sermon, or giving a hug, that we saw ourselves and others differently and heard God more clearly. We found our purposes and directions being molded into God’s dreams for us. It was there that missions became a part of us. It was there, when I found myself staring into a yellow bucket, that I learned that trials will test you and only lead you to a more glorious outcome.
There was a saying at my DTS that we all were very fond of. It came from our last speaker, Jim Hurn. “You get what you go for in God,” he would always say. We couldn’t help but cling to this statement throughout the mission to Fiji—it helped keep us going. And I brought it home with me as I serve God here, remembering that we must continually let our lives become a statement, a reflection, a song of what God is and how He loves. As we step out, He steps in. And in that, you can’t help but change.