The following piece was published in 2017. While it describes a time of pioneering at YWAM Orlando that we think on fondly, we're happy to say that our campus as come a long way since this story was penned. When you're finished here, we encourage you to check out our Campus Tour to see just how far we've come!
My watch beeped 8:00 AM as I searched for my seat.
I thumbed through the exam casually, trying not to look stressed. The list of questions looked oddly like a foreign language. It appeared that my all-night cram session the night before had little effect on my ability to comprehend Business Statistics. Staring blankly at the ‘p-values’ and ‘Z scores’ before me, I began to wonder, “Why am I even here?”
It took me six years to finish college. In that time, I changed majors from chemical engineering to business marketing and seemingly, everything in between. I often struggled with feelings of aimlessness and lack of direction. I even wrestled through the idea of abandoning my degree altogether. I finally landed on the major I would finish in: Communication.
Just before my senior year, I moved to Michigan. I had been dating my girlfriend long distance for over a year, and making the move, allowed us to live in the same town. I transferred to a small college there. At that point, I just wanted to finish what I had started.
In my final year of college, I completed 50 college credits from January to December and married my girlfriend midway through the summer. By the time December rolled around, I was preparing for my final exams and trying to land a job that fit my major.
With a week left in the semester, my wife suggested the idea of going to Youth With A Mission (YWAM) to do a Discipleship Training School (DTS) starting in January. She had completed her DTS right after high school...
I had very little idea what I was agreeing to, but having no reason to object, I cooly agreed.
The snowy tundra that is winter in Michigan was setting in, but Florida promised a much warmer alternative with sandy beaches and beautiful sunsets. In the busy week that followed, I finished my final exams, and we packed up the car to drive the 1,200 miles to Florida.
YWAM Orlando back in January 2012 was nothing short of glorified camping. My wife and I lived in an RV with mostly consistent water tank refills, a Port-o-potty sat 50 yards away, and all of our classes were held in large army tents. **Our school lovingly joked: “Come to YWAM Orlando, where outreach is an upgrade.”
Joking aside, YWAM Orlando offered many lessons not learned in the college classroom. The world is much bigger than I had ever realized and much more broken. My DTS opened my eyes to the issues and severity of poverty and vulnerable children around the world, and it revealed just how much we all need Jesus. Indeed, missions is much more than standing on the street corner and praying for people. While that is part of it, the Bible is also abundantly clear that we are to care for the poor and needy.
Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. Psalm 82:3-4
On outreach in Thailand, we were staying in the northern most city called Mae Sai, right on the border of Myanmar. Many of the kids living there, begging on the streets, had no legal papers in Thailand or Myanmar, and were thus, not recognized as citizens in either nation. These were the most vulnerable to be trafficked. With no shelter, no food, and no one looking out for their well being, no one notices when they are taken.
But God has the greatest heart for these children. And in those days living on the border, God stirred in me a heart for them too. "I will bless you... and you will be a blessing. " Genesis 12:2
"The day finally arrived, and as my college peers were donning robes and square hats, transitioning their tassels, and crossing the ever-important graduation stage, our outreach team was crossing the border into Laos to feed homeless orphans. I was right where I was supposed to be."
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One day, while preparing for ministry, a phrase I had heard before came to mind “Empty bellies have no ears.” Simply put, how can I tell these kids that God loves them and will provide for all their needs if they do not even know where their next meal is coming from. We headed to the nearest market to purchase some fruit. That evening, sitting below the footbridge connecting Thailand and Myanmar, we gave food to and prayed for the children we had come to love in our time there.
Several days later, while still in Thailand, I received an email from my college back home. It was time for my graduation ceremony. In all the busyness of the last few months, I had not even realized I would be missing graduation – something I had worked so hard for and wanted recognition for, now paled in comparison to what God wanted from me.
The day finally arrived, and as my college peers were donning robes and square hats, transitioning their tassels, and crossing the ever-important graduation stage, our outreach team was crossing the border into Laos to feed homeless orphans. I was right where I was supposed to be.
College is great. A degree certifies that you are fit to enter your career. But my DTS prepared me to enter the world – to be in the world, but not of it; to see the poor and the needy, the way God sees them; to protect them, to provide for them, and most importantly, to love them.
Go to college, get your degree… then do a DTS and change the world.
Scott Martin | YWAM Orlando Staff
Scott and his wife Denae have a passion for Community Development and continue to devote their ministry efforts to that work.