For ages, gatherings of epic proportions in Jesus’s name have acted as a catalyst to jolt generations together for the sake of the gospel. And, the gospel at its core is about GOING! Outside the church walls, into the streets, neighborhoods, schools, and unreached areas of the world. This is why we gather.
“And though one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.”
How strong are 140,000 believers when we galvanize at a stadium for 12 hours, praying, worshipping, and responding to the call of God?
Within our generation we will see the completion of the great commission-the translation of the Bible into every language on Earth and missionaries sent to share the gospel in these native, heart languages. Never before has a generation been able to say that. Not William Carey. Not Hudson Taylor. Not Jim Elliot. Not Keith Green. This realization is simultaneously humbling and stirring. I feel the weight of the fear of the LORD, at the same time the fire of the Holy Ghost. I am compelled by two questions.
Do I understand the significance of why God allowed me to live at this juncture in history?
What is my role in His story that is being written?
If you have never heard of Keith Green, I encourage you to research his music and messages. He was highly anointed and even more passionate about the mobilization of people into missions. According to leaders that were around for the Keith Green Memorial Tour (September 1982-February 1983), which saw 100,000 people step into the mission field, there has not been a greater mobilization of people into the mission field until now—with The Send. Back in 1982, before The Keith Green Memorial Tour began, Melody Green (Keith’s wife) wrote, “Keith knew he could draw big crowds. He also knew the Youth With A Mission leaders had the experience and anointing to pull in the net and help people get to their next steps. And Keith wanted to call forth a new generation of missionaries.” Nothing has changed 38 years later! Major influencers are filling stadiums, YWAM has the same anointing, and God is mobilizing a generation to reach the lost!
What next God?
I want to put one ear towards the harvest field and one ear towards heaven to get my next instructions to go wherever, and do whatever for the sake of the gospel.
“Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’”
This truth has not changed. In devastated neighborhoods, in the most desperate states, in the darkest nations—The harvest is ALWAYS ripe.
The Send is about sending out laborers. YWAM is about moving in obedience to God’s direction. We are The Send. We are YWAM. From everywhere, to everyone. Until all have heard.
To know God, and to makeHim known. This is the motto of Youth With A Mission, the international missions organization I serve with. Not only is this our mission statement, it is also the first two of our 18 foundational values, “To know God (1)”, and “To make Him known (2)”. I love the simplicity of this direction, because when you boil it all down, it is what life is really all about.
The first step
It was a huge shock to everyone around me, even myself to this day sometimes, when I decided to become a missionary in 2016. Having come out of deep addiction of 6 years before entering 3 rehabs, I was the furthest person you’d expect to see here. Probably the “without a job” part made sense 4 years ago, but not the “without a job because he is a missionary“. Ha! I was totally living for myself, and I was the center of the universe back in May of 2015 before I entered my last rehab. The story goes, I finally brought myself to a point of surrender about four weeks into that program when I felt God’s love for me for the first time. It was game-over after that! I was hooked. I experienced the emotion of “love” for the first time in June of 2015. Prior to that encounter, I was so consumed with myself that I did not ever really love, or allow myself to be loved. Everyone and everything around me was a resource to get me to whatever I was looking to gain in the moment. My self-absorbed lens of life stifled love from every crevice and corner of my life, which God describes as the greatest emotion, even amongst Faith and Hope (1 Corinthians 13:13).
The moment that changes everything
Something changes when we allow ourselves to be stripped before God. No mask, no pre-supposition that I know God already, but real, vulnerable openness to a savior. What I am describing is the moment that changed everything for me. A true encounter with God. I did not understand at the beginning of my walk with God, when the founder of Shiloh Ministries was asked “What is your prayer for every man at that ministry?” She would respond, “A God encounter. More God encounters.” The reason she prays this one thing for everyone is because an encounter is what changes people. One encounter with God can accomplish what one hundred counseling sessions could not. The point is, we serve a powerful God and in order to know him, you must meet him, and this meeting will be the most overwhelming, indescribable moment of life. Being Christian does not mean living by a moral code, or about being principled, but rather allowing the one who created this Law of Nature to reframe all of your life, your very existence.
To Know God
I am grateful to be discipled with YWAM, a mission that understands knowing God is paramount. It has helped steer my natural tendency of becoming consumed with work, or in our case “ministry” focused. Seeking the project, rather than seeking the one whom the project is for, is my first inclination. I am a goal oriented person, so reframing of goals and redefining success are very important components that I had to come to grips with during this journey. Understanding that my identity, who I am, who God says I am (as a child of His) is vital. All else hinges on this realization. A truth I have walked through which no one can discount is this, “you don’t really know yourself until you know Jesus.” Finally understanding that in spite of me, “in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) is a remarkably freeing statement. While I was still self-centered, caring for no one, stealing, and lying–Jesus died for me! He didn’t die for the Anthony that is living now, He died so I would have the opportunity to live now. I love Jesus and do my best to genuinely love the people around me, but he died for the version of me that cared neither for myself, or the people around me. The result of understanding that statement is this, Jesus did not die for me because He knew I would be a missionary, but He died for me because he loves me. He loves me whether I am accomplishing anything for His sake or not. Whether I am still roaming the streets with a pint of vodka in my belt strap, or I am preaching in front of thousands, Jesus’s love for me is the same! It never changes. I am a child of God irregardless, therefore striving to achieve is stripped from my personal expectations because the ultimate definition of success, or what the Bible calls “eternal life” is this, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and the one whom you have sent.” (John 17:3) If you believe that there is something after death, or that there is a heaven or hell, then this verse is the road map from point A to point B. Each time I read this verse it chips away at the block of religion that has crusted up around me through years of never actually encountering and pursuing God for myself. Finally, knowing God, really knowing Him is what life is all about.
To Make Him Known
Now do we just spend our time alone in a room, with a Bible, a cup of coffee, and KLOVE? Heaven’s no! James says, “Show me your faith apart from your works, and I’ll show you my faith by my works.”(James 2:18). Such a confident statement that my personality appreciates! As mentioned above, I love being active, pursuing, and creating alongside God for His name’s sake. So reading chapters like this in the Bible which promote living a life that exemplifies the relationship you have with Jesus is water to my soul! Prior to coming to YWAM I thought all missionaries were old, white, married couples. I thought the wife wore a bonnet (no slight to bonnet wearers!) and the husband had spent years in seminary and pastoral training. So the thought of becoming a missionary wasn’t in the solar system of my thought process, but boy did all that change coming to YWAM Tyler. I was startled running into a former X-Games athlete, meeting men and women that struggled with addiction, divorcee’s, hearing from people that struggled with eating disorders, vanity, homosexuality, the list could go on. And these were conditioned missionaries that had been around the world several times over, impacting lives every step of the way. Again, a little religion broke off. Then 1 Corinthians 1:27 came alive, “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.” That was me! That was these people!? How could this be? It is all possible because of what was described in the previous section, Knowing God is paramount. Out of overflow of intimacy with a living God our life begins to move. You see a true faith—a living faith—has the natural outworking of good works. And good works—no matter how good—can’t produce authentic faith. Faith is always a gift and never earned. It begins in that moment which you will never forget, and works its way out each day.
Why is this important? Why did I write this blog? It’s so we can ask ourselves a few timeless questions that are needed for recalibration from time-to-time.
Are we living out of religion or relationship? Is it obligation that we are carrying through life living principally, or is it a passionate pursuit of Jesus, really knowing Him, and the by-product is living principally?
Do we have a ‘works without faith life’, or a ‘faith without works life?’ Both components are required, otherwise the potential is becoming humanistic, or Pharisaical.
Finally, have we each had this moment where: A.) We really meet God and B.) We allow Him to rearrange everything? If so, does He still have the key to rearrange our furniture?
I turn 4 years old today!🎉 Back on June 16th, 2015 alone on a bunk bed in Mason, TX, around 11pm, I ACTUALLY made Jesus LORD of my life!!! 🙌 I was broken, alone, and worried, but boy does that all change when you commit to Him!
I couldn’t help but post this video that was made this week for a friend that hosts a Bible study called Believe Ministries, in Athens, Tx. There isn’t a better way to celebrate this type of birthday, than by reminding yourself of where you have been, and what God has done in your life!
In the Old testament, Israel would build altars to the LORD for obvious victories which the LORD intervened in on their behalf. These altars are still celebrated to this day through festivals. It is crazy to think, but Israel is either in a festival, or preparing for a festival at any given point throughout their calendar year. What party animals! But these celebrations have a purpose. They are centered around testimonies of God’s faithfulness, and the point of these celebrations is so the stories of these monumental moments are told throughout the generations. Israel understands their success as a nation is contingent on the individual understanding what God has done, and who God is. These truths are only communicated through the telling of stories of their nations history, or their testimony.
This year, like Israel still does, let’s celebrate and acknowledge triumphs in our lives by telling our story. Testimonies simultaneously remind us of where we have been, and who God is – the source of our strength.
Unashamed of the past, which is shaping my present. Living unashamed of the Gospel now and forevermore.
The past 60 days have been like a fight scene from Avengers; action-packed, with tons of characters! Back on March 28-April 10, I led an outreach to Hobbs, NM & Lubbock, TX. Afterwards, we came straight back to YWAM’s annual worship & mission’s conference, INSPIRE, on April 12th & 13th. I was barely getting off the carpet with God, when the 3rd annual Unashamed Retreat kicked-off, on April 28 and ran through May 3rd. While writing this, I am in Virginia Beach getting ready for round-two of INSPIRE, April 17th & 18th! In which 50 YWAM’ers are collaborating alongside a local multi-site church, New Life, to see the “Hampton Roads” area Inspired and unearthed for His names sake!
Here are a few stories from each of the events just mentioned and the implications they are having on the Kingdom.
The 806 Outreach, March 28-April 10
This outreach was unique because it was the first time I led the same group of missionaries, on separate outreaches, to different locations. A little explanation about these “outreach teams” at YWAM is, there are various “schools” that you go through which teach and emphasize different spiritual aspects. The first school all must complete upon entering YWAM, is called Discipleship Training School (5 months). After graduating, and if God continues leading you into mission’s, the next required school is, School of Evangelism (5 months). So, the group that came on “The 806 Outreach” are the same School of Evangelism students I led for 4 weeks back in the Fall to South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia Beach (more to come about VA Beach), for their Discipleship Training School. All that to say, it made for a family dynamic, that was natural, comfortable, and helped create an atmosphere for Holy Spirit to have free reign to move through us, because trust had been established and their weren’t any weird “getting-to-know-each-other” phases.
The ministry of this outreachin West Texas consisted of leading 11 services, with 6 different ministries in 10 days. Over the course of 4 days at Trinity School we taught 18 Bible classes for Junior High and High School students, led 2 Chapel services, and facilitated 2 small-group periods. There was unfettered collaboration with Church on the Rock, the Lubbock Dreamcenter, The Wesley, and Kingdom Come Ministries, all of which are established relationships that reach new depths of trust/influence with the passing of each trip to Lubbock. But, a unique aspect of this trip, which wrecked me on a personal level as much as anything, was spending time as a YWAM family, with my blood family.
As mentioned before, this was the second trip I led this group of students on. The previous trip took place back in the fall during the month of October. Personally, October was a significant month because it was when we found out my mother had a serious form of cancer that required emergency surgery and treatment plans. I was across the country entering our second week of outreach, when I got the call in Virginia Beach. In a moment of desperation and vulnerability, I was surrounded by this team and poured out upon with empathy, and God’s words. Tears were shed, and words were spoken that I will never forget. Each were so filled with faith, that the atmosphere couldn’t help but lift mine. It’s amazing when we surround ourselves with people that truly seek God’s heart in situations. The degree of peace, assurance and hope that is imparted in us when we link arms is supernatural. In many ways, this group carried me when I felt helpless, and I know the implications of their prayers will never fully be evident this side of heaven.
So when we decided Lubbock was the outreach location, with this team, I was compelled to create a space for them to meet and know my family, whom they spent hours praying for six months prior. My two families getting to know one another. We went to church services together, grocery shopped, shared meals, even went to the driving range, my family, with my YWAM family. It was an intertwining of my two hearts like I’ve never experienced, AND THEY LOVED EACHOTHER! We went to my aunt’s house during the college basketball Final Four for a bar-b-q, and stayed for 8 hours! I have not felt that comfortable with the combination of two very important areas of my life, since I was a teenager, and back then it was something very different that brought us together. Now, the commonality is Jesus.
INSPIRE, April 12 & 13
Immediately following Lubbock we rushed back to Tyler for our annual Worship & Mission’s conference called Inspire. This two-day conference is designed to restore hope in Christians to a degree in which the only appropriate response is to, “Go.” Leading up to the event we felt that God was going to unearth things within the people after an encounter with Him. Through worship, speaking, arts and prayer, Inspire took the 900 people that attended through a journey of encountering God, intentionally creating space for Him to speak, then processing the dreams, purposes, and direction that God imparted, alongside YWAM missionaries.
Specifically, my responsibilities were coordinating and hosting the livestream for the event, which can be found on YWAM Tyler’s Facebook page under videos. In addition, I organized a space called encounter that saw over 300 people receive ministry, by 60 missionaries throughout the weekend. It is a conference unlike most, because it has the DNA and heartbeat of Missions. For our campus and many that have been involved for years, there was something special about this year’s event. God was unearthing dreams in some that had been unspoken, or dormant for years, and there was an incredible moment on Friday night which physical healings were taking place, freedom came to others, and prophetic visions were appearing to some that typically don’t experience that expression of Holy Spirit.
All in all, it felt like a continuation of the national event we went to in Orlando back in February called, The Send. I saw how because of our obedience to go to Florida, it led to a friendship with one of the worship leaders at The Send (also a YWAM’er) who came to lead worship Friday night of Inspire! It’s humbling and inspiring seeing efforts in months past, have impactful consequences on current projects in my life, and to bring our community in on that, is just icing!
Unashamed Retreat, April 28-May 3
Fifteen days after Inspire, I coordinated an annual men’s retreat for the third consecutive year. This is a project that’s near my heart, and one of the primary focus’s I had upon coming back to YWAM, because it was started for the ministry that I credit for saving my life, Shiloh. This year was special because it was the first time we had another ministry join the retreat, Victory Life. There were 42 men leaving shame behind, entering into the plans God has for their lives, unashamed of the Gospel.
Watch the video below to take a glimpse into the Unashamed Retreat!
Words like: “fire, passion, movement, momentum, signs, wonders, uncompromising and revival,” have been used to describe the two weeks I just spent in Florida. I can only imagine this is how the beginning moments of the “Jesus Movement” of the late ’60’s looked – in fact, those that have been involved with both have said so much.
Here’s a little context of my latest outreach. I led a Discipleship Training School to Florida for two weeks to participate in a national event called, The Send. It was a one-day stadium event, but in actuality it is a revival movement that came to a head for one week in Orlando. Ministries like Bethel, Lifestyle Christianity, IHOP, and Christ for All Nations joined YWAM for a week of evangelism in Orlando. Leaders like Bill Johnson, Francis Chan, Daniel Kolenda, Todd White, Michael Koulianos and Mike Bickle, joined Loren Cunningham and Andy Byrd (both YWAM) to spark a generation. Friends, the prayer and worship movement has ignited with the missions movement, and the stories are unlike anything I have ever seen. Here is some fruit that came from that single day; the implications will be felt for years to come.
The Flood 2.18-22.19
The week leading into the stadium we spent in Orlando alongside 1300 other missionaries. We called it “The Flood”. It was a highly organized outreach that was bookended each day with worship celebrations led by many of the collaborators involved with The Send. The heart was to “Flood” the streets of Orlando with prayer, worship and evangelism. There were 142, fifteen-person teams from YWAM, Lifestyle Christianity, Bethel, Jesus Image and many more. Each day was like an army being sent out, “to proclaim the gospel and set the captives free.” (Luke 4:18). GOD MOVED THROUGH ACTION. Kim, a DTS student from Missouri, shared a story during a debriefing time, “Last Thursday, my team was doing evangelism in Orlando at shopping centers. As I was walking out of Target I ran into, Bill. He was laying on the bench so I approached him. I talked with him for a bit and asked to pray for him. He said to pray for his general health, but during the prayer I felt the need to pray for his left ear. As it turns out he had hearing loss in that ear. But after praying God healed his ear, it opened up, and now he can hear over 85% better!”
You guys, through this activity 16,334 seeds were planted, 540 salvations occurred, and 824 healings happened! In five days of concentrated obedience Orlando was turned upside down. By the end of the week any location we went to, (shopping center, mall, college campus, etc.) people would ask if we were with The Send, and if we would pray with them! I have to imagine this is what revival looks like.
The Implications for YWAM Tyler
As mentioned, I was with 43 other YWAM Tyler missionaries. Some were young, and some have been with YWAM for years. But irrespective of the longevity of being a YWAM missionary, ALL were impacted and encountered by God equally. For the Discipleship Training School students, (of whom many were on their first mission’s trip) they were exposed to passionate, radical, faith-filled believers that were willing to go wherever, and do whatever for the sake of the gospel. As for the more seasoned missionaries, it was a time of revival in our own hearts. Almost a Revelation 2 moment for myself where God was taking me back to “my first love,” and reminding me of the passion and attitude I had once joining YWAM. It was impossible to not be stirred watching others being “marked” for the first time by God for mission’s! In fact, through a YWAM Tyler promotional table inside the stadium, 39 people expressed interest in becoming a missionary, specifically through YWAM Tyler, and 6 filled out applications-on the spot-for Discipleship Training School so they can come become a missionary! In the video below you’ll see a time lapse of all the conversations we had at our Mobilization table.
You guys there is another outreach in just 16 days as I am writing this, to Lubbock, Texas! We are praying for the same kind of fruit in Lubbock that we saw in Orlando. Want to be involved at some level? Please reach out to me!
There is also YWAM Tyler’s own Worship & Mission’s Conference happening in 31 days, called Inspire. Another testimony of collaborative relationships that were sparked during The Flood, was with one of the worship coordinators for The Send. After meeting him and praying I felt there was something more to this connection – like inviting him to Inspire. So I brought this opportunity back to YWAM Tyler’s leadership and they loved the idea! Long story short, we are pumped to have Seth Yates, and Upper Room join us for Inspire this year! To find out more, jump over to ywaminspire.com.
“Our greatest fear should not be of failure, but of succeeding at things in life that don’t really matter.” -Francis Chan
Thanks for reading and taking action! Until next time.
My latest, totally unexpected, nearly inconceivable ministry trip took me to Lubbock for a Mini-SST.
What is a “Mini-SST”?
Season of Service and Training (SST) is a summer camp YWAM Tyler hosts for teenagers from around the world. These are two-week camps that mirror the Discipleship Training School, just on a much smaller scale, and are contextualized for Generation Z teenagers. Throughout the school year, YWAM’s SST Department organizes and leads “mini-SST’s” at schools and churches all around the world.
Personally, the past year God has laid it on my heart to redeem a past relationship. It is one which truthfully, prior to last spring, was not even a blip on my radar, let alone urgently pursued. But surprisingly, it has been uncomplicated, straightforward, with little drama. And like all shattered and strained relationships, God wanted reconciliation, so He set me back up with Trinity Christian School – my elementary and junior high school. In all seriousness, only God could have opened this door at the place where I was definitely not a model student and really did not leave on the best of terms. But, doors just happen to open when God is ready and the fields are white for harvest, “I know your works. Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut” Revelation 3:8.
We had a daunting mission before us. Not only was I at my junior high alma mater, but our YWAM team of 17 missionaries were tasked with grabbing the hand of 109 teenagers and placing it inside God’s hand in all hopes that these teens would encounter God in a way, or ways, they never have before. But, these weren’t just any teenagers, we are talking teens who have 1) grown up in church, 2) have gone to a very well-run, well-prepared, well-taught Christian school their whole life, and 3) come from very privileged homes. I admittedly didn’t know where to start.
To give a little background, I have been working alongside the Student Affairs principal of Trinity High School since the spring to organize outreach opportunities for the high school. Trinity already offers 13 outreaches for their high school students all over the world, so we have been in discussion about potentially having YWAM Tyler design and lead a few of those. Thankfully, this year YWAM Chicago will be a location for one of these trips! As for the next couple of years, we have a much larger vision that involves most of Trinity and many from YWAM Tyler. Whether it was the case or not, this “mini-SST” with the junior high felt like YWAM’s trial-run with Trinity Christian School. So, not feeling pressure to perform or manufacture anything, we took a shot at it, anxious to see how God was going to encounter these kids who have grown up in such a well-taught, well-prepared, very privileged school!
The week of November 12-16.
Each day we began with worship, followed by a teaching that is typical to YWAM campuses all around the world. For sure the worship was captivating, and yes there were “ice-breakers” and engaging games sprinkled in between, but boy the first four hours were all over the place! It was like every student received a morning espresso shot prior to getting dropped at the front door. It felt like a mix between Christmas Eve and recess. The students did not know what to expect. Really no one knew what to expect, and rightfully so. Trinity had never done anything like this for “Missions Week”, and YWAM had never been to Trinity. Thankfully YWAM’s SST team works with teenagers year-round and this was just another walk in the park for them. It took some adjustments, but we finally had the students’ attention. With the help of the Trinity faculty, we grouped the students with a Missionary, 8 students to every 1 YWAM’er. Let the relationships begin.
Apart from making the connection, my responsibility was to organize the outreaches every afternoon. Including the parents and faculty going out with us, there were 132 people. To ensure no one would slip between the cracks, we separated into 6 different outreach groups of about 22, led by 2-3 YWAM’ers. We were spread all around Lubbock! From evangelism at Texas Tech, to Adopt-A-Block with the Lubbock DreamCenter, to paying and praying for people at the laundromat, we did not hold back. It was our heart to stretch and open the young students up to a world many had yet to experience. And the stories were incredible! The young, future leaders of the church were bold, relentless, and fearless. I saw 13 year old girls approach 20 year old college students without hesitation and ask if there was anything they could pray for them about. I heard an 8th grade boy hear from God during a prayer time that he would, “see someone with a top-hat at 2:30pm.” And he did! But, without a doubt the best part of the outreaches came when one team came back from the homeless camp, Paul’s Project, having led two people to the LORD! One was a woman who was living there, but the other was a Trinity student who said, “I think I felt God’s love for the people there, and for the first time I could feel the same kind of love for me.” She gave her heart the LORD right there, alongside a YWAM’er!
These are just a few stories from the same outreach team that went out together, but each team had similar encounters. God moved and impacted the students in a way that can only get the attention of kids who seemingly have it all. They would pray during intercession times for the outreaches and God would give them pictures, names, or visions and they would run into them an hour later! I saw a red balloon during one of these times. Random right? And 2 hours later at the South Plains Food Bank GRUB Farm, a man named Ramon walked in with a bouquet of flowers attached to a red balloon. Of course we prayed for him, of course God spoke to him, and of course only God could have orchestrated that! There was instance after instance of God doing similar things, and it was blowing everyone away – including my former teachers. They were shocked to hear what I was doing now, and even more baffled to see it, haha! God had truly incited a transformation, and it was in conjunction with the seeds they had planted years before. Ms. Kuss, my 5th grade teacher told me, “Your life is an answer to my prayer,” and I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to express my gratitude to each teacher in person. It was even funny to see one of them the first day, and find out she brought all my former yearbooks the following day. Needless to say, my YWAM counterparts loved it… All in all, each detail, teaching, outreach, and relationship was what was required to grip the attention, and heart, of the people at Trinity.
re·viv·al – a restoration to bodily or mental vigor, to life or consciousness.
I recently led a four-week outreach up to the East Coast and back down to Texas. There was a mix of mega-churches, hurricane relief, college ministry and a major national event we served on this trip. I was with a team of 26 that were primarily Discipleship Training School (DTS) students. For those unfamiliar with Youth With A Mission (YWAM), a DTS is the entry-level school that all YWAM’ers must complete. For most coming to YWAM, the “DTS Outreach” is their first taste of missions, and for all, it is their first chance to share about their new-found relationship. Around the globe I have asked missionaries about their DTS, and almost always the first response is a story from outreach. Personally, DTS Outreach forever changed my life, which I have written about on this site. No eight week period of my life has done more for re-framing and organizing my goals, ambitions, and dreams for my future than what I experienced on my DTS outreach to New Orleans, South Korea, and China. I remember it like yesterday, sitting on an over crowded train, late at night, passing through Beijing after a long day of ministry when one of the most fulfilling moments of my life washed over me. Or, how 48 hours into that outreach, I was standing in front of 20 teenage boys inside a juvenile detention center outside of New Orleans; only 16 months removed from being in jail, and 13 months since becoming a Christian myself. There is just something about Outreach and how the Bible, Jesus, scriptures, truths, principles, and Holy Spirit come alive when you put them into application. Of course, it is not isolated to special trips called “outreach” in order to experience these things; however, for most it is the first time there is intentionality to share their story of God – and He honors that. So through that deliberateness, the most memorable experiences are created. It’s like a first date with the woman you love x Christmas morning x what I am sure the birth of a child is like! God comes alive and you never forget it. It breathes revival into your life.
I share that to give insight into the awesome privilege and responsibility I have before God and the students I am fortunate to lead on these trips. Yes, God will move despite the leader, but also yes, the leader of these trips can significantly facilitate encountering God for the students. Not all that come to do a DTS go on to become full-time missionaries, but I believe all that graduate DTS are forever changed, and the outreach portion is a central brush stroke in the mosaic that is created within a person’s life. Fortunately, the location God directed us towards back in June happened to be experiencing revival.
This past group of students from all over America were special. Never have I led a group that caused me to look in the mirror each day and evaluate my own attitude. They were hungry for God, it was raw, it was revival in their hearts. Each day had its own hurdles, as all outreaches face, but from top to bottom they were there for each other, good attitudes, focused, deliberate for things of God. Couple that with real, passionate, unembellished focus of each organization and ministry we worked with, and it was an outreach leaders dream come true. Here are a few stories from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia Beach
Gospel Hut, Raleigh, NC – This was the easiest, most noticable depiction of revival on our trip. As we gathered in the medium-sized living room of a college house shared by four girls, I could sense this meeting was different. We joined a weekly worship and prayer meeting called Gospel Hut, which is geared towards college students in the Raleigh/Durham area. There were 75 people in the living room! We worshiped for an hour and it was the loudest I worship set I have ever been a part of. There was a moment when I looked around and saw dozens of millennials singing-crying-laughing and it took me back to my days at Shiloh. The worship was vulnerable and sincere; identical to how it was with the guys having their lives restored during the worship times at Shiloh. There was a literal restoration to body and mental vigor as the definition describes. Especially at the end as the leader of the group asked to pray for the leaders of our team. I stood in the middle of several as they waited, listened and shared what God spoke to them. A certain word is still ringing in my spirit. It is partly because of the anticipation, but also because of the responsibility it carries, which slightly nerves me. He said that God was going to extend the tent pegs of my influence, and it wasn’t just in the material realm of assets and resources, but also in people. He felt that in the coming season individuals would come into my life that would be people I walk most closely with. Not just ministry friends, but individuals I would walk hand-in-hand with, discipling and imparting into. The atmosphere can only be described as revival.
Oak Tree Academy, Virginia Beach, VA – Our first two days in Virginia Beach we were charged with helping an annual seminar at a local Christian school called the “RE-Conference”. Typically the themes of this conference begin with a “RE-” word such as, Regenerate, Reconcile, Restore, etc. But unusually, due to the Hurricane, as well as the unexpected death of a principal, there was not a theme at this years “RE-Conference”. Our involvement the first day was nothing more than sitting at a table with a group of teenagers. The ratio was one YWAM’er to four teenagers processing in small groups, and building relationship – or trust – with the teenagers. The second day, we shared a little more from the stage about missions and ways they could live missional as teenagers. And at the end of the second day we performed a production we brought on this outreach that was based on three of the DTS students real-life testimonies. It was a powerful strategy for those two days. The first day did not seem very involved, but it was invaluable to establish relationship with each student. The second day was a totally different dynamic from the start. The students walked in looking for their new YWAM friends, talking, laughing, and opening up. Then came the Drama Production. It is a powerful production that touches on real life issues – pride, vanity, substance abuse, insecurity, abortion, and greed. It is a relevant message that illustrates perfectly the redemption that is possible through a life surrendered to Jesus, because it is their stories. Each teenager was glued to the play. At the end a DTS Student shared her testimony and it was as if she was on fire. Impassioned, and direct she challenged the teenagers to consider their life, then consider Jesus. We separated into small groups for the remaining 20 minutes of school, for most groups it wasn’t enough time. An hour after school had let out, when all the groups had finished and the dust had settled there was four teens that gave their heart to God, and ten recommitments to Jesus! And this was at a Christian School! We hung out with many of the kids at different places throughout the rest of our time in Virginia Beach. It was remarkable to see the lives changed. I was thinking back to the “RE-Conference” a few days ago and was thinking they missed the theme, it should have been RE-vival.
Oak Tree Academy
Hurricane Relief, Myrtle Beach, SC – Hurricane Florence and Hurricane Michael were tragedies, but in the midst of the storm, myself and the outreach leaders actually viewed these catastrophes as confirmation that we chose the location we would be the most benefit at. Not only was there a major hurricane that hit the area we travelled to a week in advance, but while in Myrtle Beach Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida. It diminished to a Tropical Storm by the time it made it to South Carolina, but by that point the area could not handle any more rain. It was agonizing, but even through the turmoil Jesus moved. After a long day of ripping out moldy sheet rock one of the DTS students led the owners of the house to the LORD!
Hurricane Florence Relief
Together 2018 – For those that have not heard, Together 2018 just passed a few weekends ago, and our outreach team, along with all of YWAM Tyler had the privilege to serve at this national event. Over the course of two days at Texas Motor Speedway 90,000 people packed the stadium to hear from over 60 national leaders, and prominent religious figures and christian artists, including, Francis Chan, Hillsong, Lecrae, Tony Evans, Ravi Zacharias, and even a few YWAM leaders, Loren Cunningham (founder) and Andy Byrd.
It was an amazing weekend that brought in thousands of salvations and equipped hundreds to go back to their college campus and begin a campus ministry. Here is a video that depicts the weekend from the perspective of YWAM’er. Enjoy! Together 2018 Recap Video
This is my most recent update, November Newsletter. If you would like to receive one of these in the mail or electronically, please shoot me a message!
“Hey Anthony, I am so sorry, but the Pastor wants to talk with you.”
As Sonya Leal, the leader of YWAM “The Valley” startled me out of worship on our last day of ministry in McCallen, TX, I thought, “What could have gone wrong already?” We had four services that day and this was the 8 a.m. service that I desperately needed the worship time to get re-fueled and focused for the rest of our day.
“No worries, where is he?” I responded.
“He is in his office. I think he wants to ask you to preach.” She said.
I shouldn’t have been surprised given the Hispanic culture we were in. Over the previous week it had grown common as each day unfolded to have a service-or two added for that night, asked to add a worship set, told there would be no translators available, or even have the service cancelled altogether because of “double booking.” Most of the things that I have never run into working with Anglo churches in other parts of America. For that, and other reasons, it made this Outreach feel like a foreign location.
As I walked into the pastor’s office the atmosphere was solemn. He was leaning against a desk, visibly vulnerable. He spoke straightforward, “I apologize for the late notice, but I was unaware of the size of your team coming to my church. I want to ask you something, would you feel comfortable sharing with my church this morning? But,” he paused, “before answering, it is important for you to know something. The people are in turmoil, they are fighting amongst each other, and they are wounded. I know your team has an emphasis on missions, but would you please minister to my church?”
Continued from Newsletter
I hesitated. Not because of the short notice, nor the appeal, but because of how open and up-front he was about the issues plaguing his church. This was an important request the pastor made, that carried immense implications. I said, “Yes,” totally aware of the formidable responsibility I had before this Pastor, his Church, and God.
Luckily throughout this outreach we went from speaking engagement, to service, to church meeting; all-in-all totaling 19 different opportunities for preaching, ministering, and sharing over the course of eight days. So we spent hours that week, in between these services, asking God what He would have us share at the next meeting on the schedule. What did He want to communicate to the people we were encountering in “The Valley.” The day before this story we were in one of these intercession times asking God what to speak about for that evening’s services and one of the guys on our team, Wes, spoke up. “Well, I know this doesn’t have to do with tonight, but I feel like Anthony is supposed to preach tomorrow.” He had my attention. Wes continued, “And whatever you’re going to preach about, God is going to speak to you.”
This helped explain what was going on internally for me during that moment. We were gathered around waiting on God to speak and I felt like God was highlighting a significant verse for me in my journey I had not thought about in awhile-1 John 3:16. It says, “By this we know love, the He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” So not knowing, or having any scheduled preaching time on the horizon, I moved forward with two things: a buddy saying I would preach the following day; and two, the verse that I should preach over.
And sure enough that is exactly how it happened. The pastor asked; I preached over 1 John 3:16; and the altars were filled at the end of the service.
This picture was taken during the altar call at the end of the service. Wes, on stage with the beard, had a message for the church, as well as the Pastor, which is seen in the sport coat with his grey head bowed. Wes felt like God told him that this church had lost their “warrior cry” for what God was calling them to. The enemy had stolen their voice , so as a prophetic act we were to re-capture that fighting spirit. So impassioned, we called on everyone in the church to scream at the top of their voices as a symbol to Satan and to God that we were committed to fight for all God has placed on our hearts! And that is what we did.
Afterwards the Pastor beckoned Wes and I. We sent the rest of the team onto the next church service that began shortly after, and the two of us joined the Pastor for breakfast. He was moved. The Pastor said that morning, “God exposed a lot in my life.” He could see how he had been operating and leading his church out of intimidation in recent months, but moving forward all that was going to change. Hallelujah!
I could go on and on about the victory in that church , but the point is, God had His way that morning. There was breakthrough and chains were broken. We were obedient; stepping out in extremely uncomfortable ways. But it was exactly the way God wanted it. And God did what we could not – He brought revelation, perspective change.
I have never been a part of a team where God spoke so clearly and consistently throughout an outreach as He did while in South Texas. It was revival. We spoke at 19 different gatherings from Sunday to Sunday. And before each opportunity we asked God what was on His heart for the people. He spoke. We obeyed. He moved. Salvations, healings, and lives set on a totally new course of direction.
During this season, very few things are more gratifying than seeing people I have cried for, prayed for, laughed with, counseled and shared life with for months say “yes” to God. And that is exactly what I have experienced this month with Jonna, Brody and Landon coming to YWAM Tyler.I met these three in Lubbock on a recent trip where I planted a seed, then watched God lead them over the course of eight months to YWAM. Exactly what we are hoping for during our upcoming South Texas Outreach.
Make no mistake the statement Jesus made in Matthew 16:24, is not painting a picture of a plush life for followers of Jesus “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me.” Let’s break it down.“Deny himself,” these words mandate sacrifice. Putting our plans, our desires, our pleasures and comforts on hold to seek what God wants for our lives. This is hardly what someone wants to hear when entering a new relationship. But Jesus knew that it was necessary before the next phrase can be satisfied, “take up his cross.” Carrying your cross can only be fulfilled by you, and that is your reason for God placing you on the Earth. Much of what motivates me is seeing others find their purpose, which creates ever-lasting motivation. You see the sacrifice aforementioned doesn’t seem as detrimental when you are operating within the framework of your purpose and calling. But it is impossible to locate that purpose if our thoughts are consumed with ourselves-goals, ambitions, perceptions. The succession of denying your human goals is necessary before acquiring Godly ambitions. Then, the only way to accomplish the Godly ambitions is to “follow me.” This is undeterred, committed, determination to God’s direction. This sentence could hardly be described in a PhD dissertation, let alone this blog post. However, as I sit here this afternoon, I am compelled to say that for me it is simply constantly “drawing near” to our Father-and this can look a thousand different ways. Following God can one day be apologizing for behaviors, as you’re committed to becoming more like Jesus. The next day following God could lead you into a conversation with a stranger at Starbucks. And for those that we meet on outreaches, we pray that following God will lead them to a decision that’s greatly sacrificial, and highly centered around “finding your reason for God placing you on the Earth” and come to YWAM for a Discipleship Training School. That is why we go on outreaches. So other’s can meet the God that saved our lives, hear they have an option to follow God, and share the hope that God has a purpose for everyone we meet.
Until next time.
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It has been awhile since writing on here, but it hasn’t been because of negligence, and definitely doesn’t mean I have been sitting still! Instead of communicating through my blog, over the past six months I felt like I should mail out some tactile letters instead. So to update my electronic friends I have attached copies of the Newsletter’s I have sent out since February. Enjoy catching up!
As you can see, the LORD has been doing a ton. 2018 has extended me in areas I wasn’t expecting, but through the stretching God has opened the door for several significant “firsts” to take place in my life and ministry. One, was being asked to oversee and manage the Call Team in our Marketing office. It was the first time daily coordinating people within an office framework. Another was getting to lead my first Foreign Outreach (sort of) to Puerto Rico. On the team of thirteen, two were YWAM’ers, three were family members, six I met through ministry, and four were Shiloh graduates. This diversity created a dynamic only God could have scripted. And just recently I had my first job change. Which now gives me the privilege and responsibility of leading domestic Stateside Outreaches for all YWAM Tyler schools. This means being on the road for close to 20 weeks over the upcoming year all across America!
I am determined to begin writing on this platform more frequently, and I’m pumped for whatever is next. Check-in to see how it unfolds.