Before coming to YWAM Orlando, I spent ten years of my life in the military.
During those years, I was deployed twice and lost a couple of friends. A hatred grew within me for Arabs, Muslims, and for most people in general. My heart was devoid of concern for anyone.
While visiting my sister after returning from Afghanistan, I had an encounter with the Lord at a community night event that inspired me to consider doing a Discipleship Training School. I can remember fighting back tears, even feeling someone standing next to me that wasn’t there. It seemed weird, but that night, in my hotel room, the Lord dropped a thought into my head. “If you believe in Me and believe that I breathed everything into existence, how does it make sense not to follow Me?” My life didn't really make sense at that time and the only place I knew to follow Him was YWAM Orlando. I finished out my contract with the military and applied to do a DTS. Coming to YWAM to do a DTS was a big step in the right direction for me. It allowed God to begin working in my heart and changing the way I felt about others.
After a miraculous and deep healing in my personal life, God spoke to me about furthering my training at YWAM Orlando and going back to the Middle East. In the Winter of 2015, I took part in the School of Ministry Development and, with 12 others, traveled back to the Middle East for our outreach. Once again, God surprised me. How thoroughly He had healed my heart! We were working with Syrian refugees and my heart was completely broken.
There was one specific family with whom we spent time. After bringing food and blankets to this family, they invited us to eat a meal with them as they shared their story. This family was a Kurdish family. While deployed in Iraq, I worked closely with Kurdish people and they were some of the people whom I hated. Seeing this family in the conditions they were in and hearing what they had gone through softened my heart. God reminded me that these were people that He loved incredibly. After hearing their stories, it no longer made sense to me to act in violence towards anybody. Jesus Christ himself never did any act of violence; He even died on the cross for his enemies.
It says in Psalms 34:11, “Come, my children, and listen to me and I will teach you the fear of the Lord.” Choosing to listen to God was something I had to do in order to be free from the hatred that was deeply embedded in my heart. It is not a person who can teach you to love; it is the Holy Spirit. If you believe and make that choice, God will be faithful to show you His goodness and deep love for every person on earth.
Finishing up my time in the Middle East was freeing. I didn’t have to carry that hatred anymore. I didn’t have to carry the burden of trying to fix every problem in the world. I found that if you simply walk with the Lord and, in obedience, do what he says, everything falls into place. Now I find my heart beats for the Middle East and God is calling me to plant myself among these people to minister the love and truth of Jesus Christ to them. God works in complete and mysterious ways!
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Curtis | YWAM Orlando Staff