I was twenty six, had a husband, a three year old son and a two year old daughter, and decided that our little family needed to do a DTS. It was 1979. Youth With A Mission was a pretty new mission sending organization and a couple of our friends had just come back from Hawaii where they attended one of the schools called Discipleship Training School, DTS for short, that YWAM hosts. My hunger for God and the boredom of my “stay at home mom” life (if I’m honest) dictated my new quest…get us to the big island of Hawaii and into Youth With A Mission! My husband jumped on board, we sold our 1977 sparkly blue Chevy Vega hatchback with white vinyl interior, rented out our chalet style house in the woods by a lake, canceled our medical insurance (you could do that in those days) hopped on Hawaiian Airlines and got thrown into the pressure cooker of communal living/learning/loving/hurting/forgiving – repeat – continuously – for six months. The growth experienced there was painful. It took a while to recover. Who knew living with strangers you’re suppose to love no matter how much they are irritated by your children and your parenting style could be so “enriching”?!?
I was an idealist back in those days, as in “go big or go home”. My ingrained fear and guilt and desire to be pure hearted was strong motivation for me to be “all in” in whatever challenge was presented at the school, and there was a new one each week with each new famous “spiritual giant” flown in to speak to us. My husband used to say, “it’s like trying to drink from a fire hydrant.” There were so many calls to higher righteousness and so many tears shed over our sin now repented of, so many avenues to explore in order to better “Know God and Make Him Known” (YWAM’s noble motto). We were taught about the plum line of God and how to align ourselves to it, about how much God loves us like an absolutely good father, about seeking God earnestly, about The Great Commission, Friendship Evangelism, and how Jesus won’t return until the whole world hears about him. I had taken the vow, “here am I Lord, send me!”
The first three months were a whirlwind of intensity. Things we’d never considered before were challenging us to examine our own lives and beliefs. We learned so much so quickly. Then we were sent out into the “world” to make God known to the lost…those poor souls destined for hell. And by “world” I mean Maui.
We knew the lost were miserable, even if they didn’t. How could they not be miserable, after all, they didn’t know God loved them and Jesus died for them. We needed to tell them so that they could be “saved” and feel the love of God; the one that so graciously would not let them go to hell if they only believed in Jesus, confessed with their mouth, out loud, “Jesus is Lord” and “I am a sinner”.
It turns out I’m not good at that…witnessing to strangers. It felt so unnatural. And it is, dang it, it is not natural, for me anyway. The only person I mustered up the courage to talk to on the street thought I was flirting with him. I was trying to share the love of God and he mistook it for my attraction to him. It was super embarrassing, and it’s a good thing my husband was standing right there witnessing alongside me because the lust in the leering eyes of the one we were trying to convert was downright scary. I backpedaled as fast as I could.
We went door to door one day. That’s code for walking around neighborhoods, knocking on stranger’s doors, and sharing with them the penal, substitutional Atonement Theory contained in the Four Spiritual Laws pamphlet. The only person who opened the door to us was one of Jehovah’s Witnesses! We were not successful in converting anyone to Christ that day.
We did take in a few strays. That felt like a good thing to do; something Jesus might have done if he had been there. One of those strays was a girl whose boyfriend had left her stranded on the island with a severe case of pubic lice. She had no place to shower and apply the cure, let alone sleep and eat, so we let her move in with us. Then a Catholic nun dropped off the reincarnation of Joan of Arc and Michael the Archangel. Seriously, this is who they believed they were. They had nowhere to live and her feet were badly burned from walking on the asphalt barefoot. They didn’t believe in wearing shoes. They were of a religion that believed in someone who had recently landed on earth and was named Jesus Christ Lighting Amen. We fed and housed them as they let their disdain of our lifestyle and beliefs manifest profusely. We, obviously, did not meet their standard of holiness. After three days of prayer and fasting we told them they could stay as long as they submitted themselves to the house rules, participated in our devotional times, and lived as one of us, like family. In response they threatened to call down lightning on us, but evidently felt compassion and just departed instead.
I sincerely wanted to “do” the Great Commission and preach the good news, but I couldn’t figure out how to nicely tell someone that God loves them and unless they admit they are a sinner, receive forgiveness, and accept his free gift of eternal life they’ll be spending eternity in the burning lake of fire. This was the goal. Get people saved, specifically from Hell. I really didn’t want anyone going to Hell, but I just couldn’t let my emotions fall head long into believing the “lost” were actually going to spend eternity in Hell if I didn’t tell them the good news. Besides, this news didn’t really seem like very good news to me. It seemed like an ultimatum.
Here’s a 29 minute video that demonstrates the truly Good News.