When I was 18, I graduated from high school with a 4.0 GPA, a plan to become a teacher, and a scholarship that pretty much guaranteed me a job once I finished college. College continued to shape that plan, and I chose to major in math and get my teaching license so that I could become a high school math teacher. After graduating from college, I was hired as a geometry teacher in rural North Carolina at the same school as my best friend. My skills in the classroom and in the subject matter were quickly recognized, and I was invited to be part of leadership teams in the school system I worked for that created new curriculum for the county. I met a guy, started dating, and, before long, got engaged.
My life was falling into place, in every way.
One major catch: I was absolutely miserable. Notice that nowhere in that paragraph of my accomplishments did I say that I ever focused on my relationship with the Lord. In college, I decided to walk away from Jesus and walk towards a life that our culture promotes and promises will ensure happiness.
One night, I finally stopped running. As a 23-year-old, I honestly evaluated my life, and I realized I didn't want to get married to the man I was engaged to. I missed having Jesus in my life. For the first time in five years, I prayed a simple prayer:
“Jesus, if you don't help me, I can't keep living this life.”
The neatest thing happened: Jesus responded. For the first time since I started running from Him, I felt actual, deep, real peace. In that moment, I knew that He was what I both wanted and needed. In the following weeks, Jesus began to piece my broken life back together and draw me towards Him. I broke off my unhealthy engagement, and God showed me how faithful and gentle He was in that time.
I was still teaching at the time and loved my students, but I also didn't feel I was where I was supposed to be. I felt like the Lord kept putting missions on my heart, but I had a stable job as a math teacher. I had no idea how to step into missions. It was so overwhelming to think about trying to figure out where to go or how to get there. I had lunch with a close friend one day and explained to her how I was feeling. She had done a Discipleship Training School (DTS) a few years prior and told me that Youth With A Mission offers specialty DTS's, such as Photography, Justice, Sailing, Sports and Fitness, etc. I had really gotten into photography at that time, so doing a Photography DTS immediately piqued my interest. She explained that a DTS was five months of intense focus on your relationship with the Lord and on missions and that you get the chance to travel overseas.
I went home and googled Photography DTS's and found several, including one YWAM location in Orlando, Florida. Looking at the website, it became a little more real. If I stepped towards this calling that I felt like God had put on my heart, I was giving up a consistent salary, living in a house with my best friend, and a known plan for my life. However, I knew that, if I stayed where I was, I was going to be missing out on something. Jesus had graciously been putting my life back together, but I knew that, if I was going to really move forward in my walk with the Lord,
I was going to have to make a change from my current life.
I deliberated, I prayed, I sought the counsel of wise friends and family. I came to the conclusion that I wanted Jesus more than I wanted the stability that came with a job, a house, and familiarity. So, as a 25-year-old woman, I did my Discipleship Training School. I moved away from my friends and family. I lived in a room with 7 other girls, most of whom were just out of high school. I submitted to leaders in my school who were younger than me — much younger. I traveled halfway around the world to Southern Asia for my outreach, and my life was forever changed.
Now, three years later, I look back at that turning point, that moment when I actually decided to follow Jesus and do my DTS. Because of that decision, the Lord revealed Himself to me during my DTS like I had never seen before. He has shown me what it means to truly walk with Him.
I have traveled to the Middle East and shared the love of Jesus with refugees who fled a homeland torn by war. I have traveled back to the Middle East to work in a safe house with victims who were rescued out of sex slavery from ISIS. I have staffed a DTS and watched students grow as the Lord changed their hearts like He changed mine. I wake up every day, knowing that I am exactly where Jesus wants me, and I have the kind of peace that comes from walking with the One who made me and knows what He made me to do.
Here is the conclusion that I have come to: Jesus is worth it.
Whatever you are giving up, Jesus is better. When you follow Jesus into what He is calling you to, you will gain more than you ever thought possible.
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W Kay | YWAM Orlando Staff