The concept of Destination Paradise began in the mid 1980s as a university project completed by Chris and Lynn Toney. As part of a degree in business with an emphasis in the recreation industry, Chris and Lynn created a hypothetical company they called Destination Paradise.
Central to this concept from the beginning is the idea that by taking time out from ‘normal every day life’ to learn and grow and experience – changes people. Over the years the idea shifted from a business to a ministry concept. The name Destination Paradise played a big part in that transition, Paradise (paradisos) being Heaven in Greek.
Chris and Lynn Toney (campus leaders) and their three kids began serving with YWAM in 1997, working with Mercy Ships (which was part of YWAM at the that time) on board the M/V Anastasis, world’s largest hospital ship, bringing both spiritual and physical hope and healing to the poor and needy across the globe. Chris served as a deck officer and Lynn as a photographer. Meanwhile, the concept of Destination Paradise did not fade.
In March of 2003, the Toneys relocated to the Mercy Ships International Operations Center near Tyler Texas where Chris served as the technical training director for Mercy Ships while at the same time forming the foundation of Destination Paradise, which became a YWAM ministry in July of 2003.
The first YWAM DP Discipleship Training School (DTS) lecture phase began in February 2006 aboard one large sailing catamaran departing from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and sailing throughout the Bahamas. Additional lecture phases have taken place in Venezuela, Grenada, Curacao, The Dominican Republic and Belize. A second sailing cat joined the fleet as well.
In March of 2008, YWAM DP sailed into the Caribbean/Central American nation of Belize and conducted a DTS in the beautiful blue waters and among the white sand beaches. While there, YWAM DP leadership felt a clear call from the Lord to remain in Belize and establish a permanent presence in this nation. YWAM DP conducted four more DTS schools in Belize aboard the sailing cats before signing a lease on a beautiful beachfront property north of San Pedro in Northern Belize. YWAM DP continued to conduct its sailing DTS programs (aboard the sailing cats) and also introduced Diving DTS schools from the land base where scuba diving became a solid focus during free time.
In 2011, YWAM DP shifted to solely land based trainings. The sailing catamarans were sold and plans were made to expand the campus as DTS schools continued to grow. In January 2012, YWAM DP moved 3/4 of a mile south to its current beachfront location. The 5-acre campus provided additional space, accommodating more than 90 people (40 students, 25 staff and up to 25 guests). YWAM DP now conducts DTS schools during each of the 4 academic quarters (4 DTS schools per year) and also two University of the Nations second level schools per year. Bible School for the Nations and Foundations in Counseling Ministries both joined the YWAM DP course offerings in 2013, and in 2015, Destination Paradise launches its first School of Worship.