Youth With A Mission is an organization with various, exciting opportunities. Whether you’re doing a Discipleship Training School, ministering in the slums of India, building homes an Earth Bag Home in Haiti, or pursuing a degree, you will get a comprehensive, life-changing experience. One of our staff, Cindy Hunt, who recently graduated from the University of the Nations with her Master’s Degree gives us a glimpse into her process, the challenges therein, and the ultimate payoff!
What is your master's degree and why did you decide to do it?
"I just received my Master’s in Spiritual Formation and Discipleship through the University of the Nations (YWAM).
I decided to pursue it because, ever since I was a high school teacher running Bible studies out of my classroom, I’ve been interested in how people grow in their faith. How do people grow and how do I facilitate growth in people? I’ve ministered in Central and Eastern Europe, and I’m getting more opportunities to minister in Asia. I wanted to explore the different universal elements that are involved in the development of one’s faith and contrast those with culture-specific elements. What I loved about my cohort (fellow students) is that we had people from everywhere - Asia, India, South Africa, Brazil, Europe, the States, and I was really able to explore that. As I looked for a degree program, I found various programs, but this is the one I wanted. I’ve always had a deep interest in staff development. In YWAM we major on beginning; we lay foundation really well. But over the years I’ve realized that I have a heart for people who have been in the Mission for 5 or more years; that’s about the time when they’re trying to decide whether or not they’re going to make this a career. If you’re not growing yourself, it’s harder to stay healthy in ministry (in YWAM). If you’re not growing yourself, you’re probably not discipling as well as you could be. So I wanted to explore that. How do you, when you’re in full-time ministry, keep growing?"
How has your journey toward your degree influenced your work at YWAM Orlando?
"For one thing, it was great to be a student and just receive! I’ve been in YWAM for 23 years. In ministry, it’s easy to give and give and give…and give some more. So, to spend a couple of years where I was just being poured into was lovely.
Another thing I liked about pursuing my Master’s was the degree program itself - in every module we had to do something in our ministry context, and my assignments were varied. At one point I formed a small group and asked each member to answer journal questions. Another time I was tasked with creating a worship experience not typical in my context. Throughout all of my assignments, I interviewed people about their participation in them. I didn’t have to have this successful ministry - that wasn’t the point. Rather, my goal was to create experiences, interview the people who participated in them, then write about it. I had a life coach for my degree track who helped me discover that I’m an intuitive person. I think quickly, I arrive at conclusions somehow, and I think everyone else should know that too. The coach helped me to externalize my thinking process more, and I was able to create some new ministries because of that. The Clermont Christmas sing-in came out of a coaching time; it was something I would think about, but it was always internal. Once I vocalized the idea, it came easily; there was support for it and it’s been one of my favorite ministries to be part of. I also formed a Staff Training Resource team that helps me train staff at other bases.
My capstone was a seminar, the purpose of which was training teachers (within YWAM), and it went better than I could have asked or imagined. Most of the participants were from YWAM Orlando, but at least people showed up! I’ve heard three separate Training Department Staff reference the seminar (in a positive way) as we moved forward with preparing for and planning the fall DTS."
On a personal note, how has it impacted your interpersonal discipleship experiences?
"I got to walk closely with a staff member who went into the field long-term, but returned due to various factors. My studies helped me recognize that the American Christian experience is very performance-oriented. This staff member went overseas and discovered weaknesses in herself she didn’t know were there, then she needed to pull out of that experience. She discovered truth about herself that she otherwise wouldn’t have discovered. I was less concerned about her being a “successful” missionary than I was for her ability to embrace who she is - warts and all - and know that God is with her, no matter what her path is. I also wanted her to know that I’m with her. Before the Master’s program I would probably have seen her experience as regression, but now I look at it and I see a woman who understands herself and God more. Even though it was hard, that experience had her moving forward, and that’s to be celebrated."
Time in Australia -
"The gathering in Australia was a cool opportunity for YWAMers from all over the world to gather and celebrate what God is doing. It’s cool to hear about what God is doing in YWAM globally and what the global needs are. I know that I can be part of meeting those needs, so I’m not overwhelmed by situations in the world that seem so out of control.
In addition to hearing about YWAM International, there was a commencement ceremony for myself and several others.
Tom Bloomer, the Provost of the University addressed the graduates. He commended us for our perseverance, hard work, and discipline - three words I don’t usually attribute to myself. I sat there and thought back on my journey - I got every assignment done, all while juggling ministry and family (for every major assignment someone in my family got sick!). The Lord has really increased my capacity to pursue a goal and to persevere, and I’ve figured out what I need in order to do that. I have a confessor in my life (someone to whom I confess my bad attitude and my procrastination regularly). I’ve also intentionally put encouragers in my life. Before the degree, I was less intentional, but I took the initiative to surround myself with these people, which I’m sure helped me finish my Master’s.
I would love to see Training Department leaders at all the major YWAM bases do this Master’s program because in it we take a look at how people grow authentically. It’s not just about behavior modification. It’s about heart transformation."
If you're looking for a unique study experience that combines academia with the deep, transformational work only God can do in your life, click here. YWAM International (University of the Nations) is full of exciting opportunities to learn, travel, grow, and accomplish the dreams God has given you!
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Cindy Hunt | YWAM Orlando Staff