The Greatest of These is Love

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A recent theme that has kept coming up in our team is how to love one another well, no matter the circumstances. Although it’s been challenging at times, God has been using both ministry opportunities and our daily time as a team to continue teaching us this valuable lesson. In our weekly Bible studies, we have been going through the book of James, and the Lord has been teaching us all a lot. Something that really stood out to me personally was James 2:13 which says,


“…Because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”


Living in tight spaces/community with others can be very trying at times; outreach has taught me this lesson faster than anything ever before. This verse has really impacted how I treat others, showing me that in order to live in community, I need to give others mercy and grace even when it’s difficult. Jesus didn’t show me mercy because I deserved it, so I need to do the same for others.


This week has been very focused on building relationships with all the wonderful people we have connected with in Tokyo. Monday evening, our team organized and hosted a game night for the staff of YWAM Tokyo. It was an awesome evening of fellowship with the staff and leaders and an opportunity to give back to the people who have been supporting us since we arrived in Japan. We were also joined by an outreach team from YWAM Kona’s School of Worship. Tuesday night we were able to attend The Living Room worship night with YWAM Tokyo. The worship night is open to everyone, and many Japanese Christians attend, so it’s an awesome experience to pray and worship with Christians from the opposite side of the world.


Friday we traveled to Ichikawa to hand out flyers promoting the children’s ministry we would be hosting Saturday. The church we were partnering with were beyond excited to have us there, cooked us an amazing Japanese dinner. Saturday morning we were off to Yoyogi Park where we are involved with a weekly homeless ministry. There we helped the other volunteers to conduct a mini church service, and hand out bread and hot coffee to the homeless. I was very honored to be asked to share a message as part of the service. God put it on my heart to share my personal testimony of battling drugs and alcohol with these people. I shared how God has used the darkest moments in my life to pull me closer to him, and how if God can love me through the things I have done He can love anyone. And the best part is that we don’t have to do anything to make God love us more, He loves us unconditionally and He longs for a relationship with us.


Later that afternoon we headed back to Ichikawa to begin our children’s ministry. We were super excited to see the little church we were in packed with kids. Over the course of several hours we sang songs, performed skits and few members of our team shared stories and testimonies about Gods love for them. After the program finished, we took all of the kids to a local park to play and love on them. Our team felt super refreshed to experience child like faith in action. All in all it was a day full of love, laughter, and a whole lot of Jesus.


We have now arrived safely in Osaka after many travelling adventures, and have been so blessed to be able to stay at the YWAM base here. These next two weeks are packing a full ministry schedule; our team is anticipating the Lord to continue moving in big ways. Please continue praying for our team that we would finish strong and keep stepping out in boldness as we have hit the halfway point in our outreach.


Thanks to all of our supporters, we would be here without you. Much love, Craig Zylstra on behalf of Team Japan.

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The Big Picture

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Since leaving Belize and arriving in Costa Rica, I can’t count how many times I’ve heard the words, “so there’s been a change of plans.” Travel here was filled with many ups and downs causing us to quickly swtich from Plan A to Plan H. In preparation for this outreach, our team was greatly encouraged to “hold things with open hands,” and let me tell you, that got out into practice faster than any of us expected. The first day of ministry began with a one mile walk to a coffee tree farm. There we spend 7 hours daily, clearly the land by cutting down and digging up the tree roots. This property is owned by an organization called Strong Ministries. They are immersed and well involved in the community around it. The farm, once no longer covered in trees, will be used as extra space for Strong Ministries to host missionary groups and events.


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During the past couple weeks, it’s been difficult to see the big picture in clearing that tree farm. Being there in the moment I was struggling with God. Telling Him that I was wanting to be touching people’s lives first hand, sharing with them the love He has shown me and not digging up stumps. As I was chopping down a rotten tree with Shahnee, God responded to me by telling me that if I was off somewhere else sharing with people, than the people that are going to find God through the development of that land would not find Him. I am apart of the stepping stones for God’s kingdom to come in Costa Rica. If I decide I don’t want to develop that land, than how will those coming here, ever come. My expectations were different than what God had planned for our ministry, but that’s the beauty of Plan H. God’s kingdom will come to Costa Rica and if I want to be apart of that than all I have to do is say “okay God, use me.” Even if God using me means spending 3 hours hitting one tree with a machete. The irony in all of this is that Audrey (a.k.a. Mom) was wearing a t-shirt that reads, “The Big Picture.” God sees the big picture and I get to be in it, all I have to say is “okay God.”


Stephanie Braaksma

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Jesus Be The Center

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“Jesus, be the center” has been the plea of my heart. Things feel off, ministries are exhausting, and people get snappy really quickly when He is not the center. That was the theme of the team as a whole and me as an individual. Jesus wasn’t the strength. He wasn’t the core. He took second place to ministry and then food and then sleep. And it showed- in my heart, in my actions, in my ministry. And the team’s as well.


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After a team meeting the other night, all the girls felt off, and we went in the room and starting fighting a major spiritual battle. We all knew something in the team was weird, and after prayer and talking, we realized it was the team unity, which was affecting ministry and free time.  And the team unity was off because we, as a group, had been so busy and exhausted after a full day’s work, that we didn’t make time for God-both as a group and by ourselves.
Picture a cup. You want it 100% full of Jesus so that it can be poured out in all of it’s glory onto others. Our cup wasn’t full of Him. It was only about 30%. Which was not good.
And the enemy wants to smash that cup into smithereens, making us think all is hopeless and broken and done. He wanted us to believe that’s how we were. We weren’t.

God doesn’t just fix things.  He doesn’t just glue it back together so the cracks show, He makes them completely new and restored. And then you’re wonderful and whole and new again. 1 Peter 4:11 says, “…if anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Christ Jesus” I need to rely on HIS strength for HIS work, not my own.

image2It was a lesson worth being up until 1:30 AM learning. Because if Jesus isn’t at the center, then nothing functions right.
And since  the revelation? Things have been great. Morning quiet times have been more frequent. Unity has been improved. Ministry has gone more smooth. It’s amazing how Christ will work in us when we fix our eyes on Him above all else.


Maddy Ackermann


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The Feet of Good News

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How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

Isaiah 52:7

No matter who you are a cool drink of water in the hot sun refreshes the body; similarly, no matter who you are the Gospel of Jesus Christ refreshes the spirit.

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For the non-believer the Gospel revives the dead spirit. This past week we had the privilege of ministering to the neighborhood of Santos Pamba located within the city of Quito. Throughout the course of two days we were able to pray for many families who may not know where their next meal is coming from and do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. People are ready to hear the Gospel here, and it was a blessing for our team to witness over 10 individuals come to know Jesus. One family that we were able to pray for had just recently lost their mother and they were really hurting. We spent time praying and sharing Jesus with them, and then we spent the rest of the day hanging out with them. We ate an American lunch of chili dogs, played soccer and played an Ecuadorian game called Ecua-volley. They were so blessed to be a part of a genuine community during a hard time for them.
Processed with VSCOcam with b1 presetFor the believer the Gospel restores the weary spirit. In one of our house visits we stopped at a home that doubled as a barber shop. As we introduced ourselves and started to ask questions, we learned that the man and woman were missionaries as well. They typically do ministry on the coast of Ecuador but were in Santos Pamba living with their daughter for a short time. It was so mutually encouraging to hear their love for Christ. I am reminded every time I meet another believer of the power of the Holy Spirit to unifying the church. There is an instant connection and mutual love even if you don’t have the same culture or speak the same language. Being together is good enough. We were able to pray for their ministry on the coast, and they prayed for us as well. It was so refreshing to be with other believers and so encouraging to be reminded that when we work for the Lord, we are always successful even if it doesn’t seem like it in the moment.

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The Gospel is amazing. It is for everyone no matter what the do, who they know and even whether they have a relationship with Jesus or not. It never loses its power; it is strong enough to save us from the penalty of sin the day we are saved; it is strong enough to to save us from the power of sin that tempts us everyday, and it is strong enough to one day save us from the presence of sin when we will finally meet our Savior Jesus Christ face-to-face.


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Getting our Backpacks from YWAM DP to Costa Rica

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We gave this outreach to God from the very beginning, but couldn’t have ever anticipated what that could mean. It’s crazy to think that it has only been six days! The time has passed in that herky jerky way that it does when we zoom through the country side for six hours, then wait anywhere from two hours to two days until the next burst of transportation.

Day 1: Just six hours after Christmas day ends, we are up, packed, fed, and walking out to the dock for the flurry of hugs and well wishes. The thirteen of us pile into the Coastal Express boat with our backpacks in a mountain in the middle, and we’re suddenly shooting through the water away from base and toward town! The transition between lecture and outreach has officially begun. We walk through San Pedro to the airport, and get to take Tropic Air instead of a water taxi to the mainland. Then we hop into the airport van to the bus station, grab the second bus to Punta Gorda, and set up camp in the gorgeous penthouse suite of a cozy little inn for the night. Day one, complete.

2 Day 2: We walk out the door and down the street to where we buy boat tickets, and go through our first border control experience. We were officially leaving Belize! We squeeze into the boat for Guatemala, but after one of the engines stops working, leaving us at a less than zippy speed, we transfer boats mid-voyage! The delay means that it is now too late for our driver to get us across the border of Guatemala into Honduras and back before it closed at 6pm. Paul, our contact, offers to let us crash for the night. We hand off our bags into Paul’s van and appease the immigration office before getting in the bus to his ministry. We settle in for an evening of conversation, basketball, and good food, and got to build some amazing new relationships with the people there.

UntitledDay 3: The thirteen of us, Paul’s wife, the driver, and Brandon, the doorman, strategically fold ourselves into the “bus”, a glorified fifteen passenger van with our bags strapped to the top. We ride across the border into San Pedro Sula, Honduras. We stiffly unload into a hostel for what ended up being an extended stay. Our amazing leaders, Travis and Josh, stayed calm, attentive, witty, and wise through the next few days of combatting complications with getting bus tickets for the rest of the way to Costa Rica.

Day 4: We eat, worship, and watch a Holy Spirit movie in the hostel.

Day 5: We walk to the mall and break up into small groups for ministry; each group walks, prays, and acts according to what we feel the Holy Spirit is leading us to do.

Day 6: Before sunrise the hostel keeper drives us to the bus station in three groups. We slump into the lovely seats of the charter bus which took us across the border and into the city of Managua, Nicaragua. We walk all the way down the hallway to the convenient bus station hostel where we slept that night, none of us conscious for the turn of the New Year!

Day 7: We find our seats in another charter bus that takes us into Costa Rica! Where we get to meet Darrel! Darrel leads us through San Jose onto another bus. We just love buses. The bus brings us to Grecia, a suburb of San Jose. We walk to the beautiful Strong Ministries base and get to unpack into our cabin-style rooms, one for the girls, and one for the guys.

Team Costa Rica still stands strong. We learned about faith in our times of intercession and mall ministry, trust in each other and our leaders during the potentially stressful moments, and the eternal power of having a good attitude and loving the best we can. Our cultural blinders are being lifted; we’re getting to experience first-hand how God moves. It’s not always as glamorous as we expect, but the effect is worth the discomfort when we are in His will. The funny thing is as long as we are seeking Him, we can’t escape it, any of us.


To see more pictures stop by our Facebook album:

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