Personally Encountered

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Through these last couple of weeks here in Paraguay a constant word that keeps coming up for me is “fun.” God is continuing to remind me that doing life with Him is so insanely fun and I have experienced that first hand these last 5 months. He also has been revealing Himself to me through the many little things, as well as the big, crazy moments. He shows up! He is real, and alive, and moves! He cannot be contained in a small box. He is so cool. I have been touched by God and His never-ending love for me during this outreach and through lecture phase. This past week we got to explore some of Paraguay and go see the Iguazu Falls and wow was it breath taking! Seriously one of the coolest things I have ever seen in my life. We also got to take a boat ride down at the bottom of the falls, where we got drenched but was definitely a moment I will put in the books. Also, during this week we got to work with an orphanage, which is right down the street. During this time we played a ton of games and just loved on all those sweet kids. They have been through so many hard times but still somehow can smile. That for me is seeing God first hand. Seeing Him give those kids happiness and joy. Again, God is showing me that having fun and showing love is how we live day to day with Him.

There are 10 days left of outreach and I have been reflecting a lot on what God has done in my life over these past couple of months. I came to DTS wanting to grow in my faith with my Father and wanting to see Him move and do crazy things, and boy has that happened! I have learned about the best Father, a Father who is kind and one who is passionate about me! A God who will always want the best for me and is only good. I have become even more in awe of my Papa. God has shown up in this beautiful country and in these beautiful people. They bring His kingdom to earth by being in community with each other and I have felt extremely blessed every time they invite us over for dinner or for a pool party. (which is always needed for this heat) The people here also say over and over how we have made an impact on their lives, churches, and their own individual faith. While, for me, I have felt most impacted by them and how they love the Lord with everything they have. They show Gods love well. They love each other with Agape love and I have felt Gods presence in almost every home we are in. They have a mindset of how their home is a way for the kingdom of God to touch this earth and that is why they are so hospitable and generous with what they have. It is simple loving and it is beautiful to see. I have been learning more and more that to bring the kingdom of God onto this earth is to simply just love, and these Paraguayans do it well. That to be in relationship is being close to God, because God Himself is in relationship with the Holy Spirit and Jesus. He has called us to be together with family and friends and to love! So simple.

Another thing that God has shown to me during this time is that He is big and that He provides. We were praying for the patients of a local hospital in the city of Asuncion and we saw healing for one of the patients that we prayed for who was dealing with kidney and liver problems. The power of prayer and the power of faith are so strong, they have no limits. We went into this day and every other ministry day believing for nothing less than healing. God will move and work if we put our trust in Him.

Another sign of Gods provision was at the tribe that we went to for 5 days. Absolutely one of my favorite times here in Paraguay. These people were one of the only tribes who believed in God and while every other tribe was in poverty, these guys were booming with their success! God has provided for them with the machinery, land, money, and every other need that they had. While they still have their difficulties, they continue to trust in the one who provides and He has never failed them! So cool to see! I also loved the kids in this tribe. They were around us 24/7 from the time we woke up to the time we went to bed. They would run around, jump and even climb up onto us. They would also just want to hang out with us. Reminds me of God. He just wants to hang out and chill with us. No conditions or expectations. He wants to love on us 24/7 and be with us through our everyday lives. God is real and He is fun! He has great plans in store for everyone of us and I will continue to pray that those kids will forever feel the beautiful love of God.

I have personally encountered the love of God. It has pulled me in and has given me a big sloppy wet kiss on the cheek. We are forever changed because we follow the most perfect loving Father. God is so good, and He overwhelms me with His greatness. Life is easy with Him. He doesn’t make it confusing, hard or difficult. To live everyday with God is to have fun with Him and to love. My heart has been touched by the people here and by the heart of God. The more I seek him, the more I find Him, and the more I find Him, the more I fall in love with Him. He is the best Father ever.


Emily Pankratz



Accepting Freedom

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For a reason I cannot explain, I decided it would be a good idea to go for a run under the sweltering afternoon sun yesterday (Saturday). The first mile was a painless cruise, and I smiled and waved at each passerby. Shortly after that first mile I began to feel the intense heat on my face, but shrugged it off and kept on rolling. Eventually I decided to turn around and felt an instant wave of regret. The wind was to my back and the sun was directly on my face. I felt like I was running through a wildfire, and I’m sure I looked about that way too! I stopped for a second to wipe the sweat from my eyes, and then pushed on as hard as I could until I reached home (funny how I now refer to YWAM DP as home). But I didn’t stop running once I made it back onto the path that leads to my casita; I kept going and going until the very edge of our dock and ran straight into the ocean. There was a half a second of air, and then my body immersed into what felt like a cool satin blanket. I stayed under as long as I could as the crisp water tickled my toes and revived my fingers. The ocean felt so invigorating I almost opened my mouth to take a big gulp, but quickly decided against that plan. I eventually came back up to the surface to breathe, as that’s usually necessary (I’m not a mermaid yet but I’m working on it), but the surface just wasn’t as exciting. I went under again and again as I was only alive when I was consumed by this big blue puddle of joy.

As I was reflecting on this joyous moment yesterday, I came across a word that would describe the experience well… freedom. Simple yet profound, like all my favorite things in this world. On my run I was trapped under the hot sun and by the beads of salty sweat running down into my eyes.  But when I took that leap of faith into the water I was free.

I think that little situation of mine is a nice analogy for our relationship with the Lord.

“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” – Galatians 5:1

This past week was ironically called freedom week, and it was taught by the founder of YWAM DP Lynn Toney. Lynn is a passionate woman whose light shines so brightly it blinds those around her in God’s love. During freedom week we talked about being free in Christ, and the amazing life we can live when we are free in Christ. Of course true freedom requires a leap of faith, as I had to take a small jump and experience a second of free fall before I hit the water. But once we do take that leap of faith we are all consumed and covered in his love. I learned that in many different forms this past week. I learned a lot about myself and how the inconsistent and twisted ways that I see myself are affecting the ways that I see God.  I had to approach situations from my past in oder to experience freedom. I had to run a long, hot, sweaty path that I didn’t particularly enjoy in order to experience freedom, but boy was it worth it. Christ accepts us wherever we are, carrying ugly loads and scars, but he doesn’t want us to stay there. I gave him my heart years ago, but as I get closer and closer to him he is asking for more than my heart. He wants my life, my thoughts, my decisions, and most importantly he wants the weights that I am not strong enough to carry. And when I finally surrendered those weights to him He set me free. 

“He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.” – Psalm 23: 2-3

If I could give myself a personal “theme” for this season in my life here in Belize I would call it “dare to hope” because the Lord has been beckoning me to hope in the plans and purposes he has for my life (especially because I currently don’t have a clue what’s next for me). Well, in that, the Lord has asked me to accept the blessings that he wants to freely give me. For most of my life I have been carrying the load that I have to earn and work for love, because if I don’t deserve it I won’t receive it. If I made a mistake I lost love, and had to work extra hard in order to deserve any. Well this twisted way of thinking influenced the way that I saw God. I thought that in oder to receive love from the Lord I had to work for him. I had to serve until my eyes bled, and then he would show me his love for me. If I sinned, then I would lose his love and would have to work extra hard and put myself down because that’s what I deserve. Well, in an interesting series of events this week, the Lord revealed to me that weight, and how unnecessary it is for me to carry. One day in class Lynn asked us to write a letter to ourselves from God and to wait and pray until He speaks to us. Immediately I began thinking to myself what God will probably say to me. He’ll tell me the things I need to do better and the things I need to do less of. He’ll tell me where I was wrong and why, and how I need to try harder to do better next time. But when I sat down to hear from Him, I waited a moment in silence and heard “I love you. That’s it.” And that was it. That’s all I heard. I got no other word from the Lord. And then it hit me. I try and earn the love of the Lord. Who am I to say that I can earn the love of the creator of this universe. If I’m going to get it, it’s going to be a gift, and that’s the beauty of it. But that is so hard for me to accept, because I have lived opposite of that for my entire life. **pause for quick dance party outside at the palapa** Anyway, since I have gotten to DP I have been overwhelmed by an increasing and overflowing joy. And at many times I have felt guilty for feeling so much joy. No Lord, shouldn’t I be suffering? Shouldn’t I be struggling? Why are you blessing me? I couldn’t understand why the Lord would want to bless me without any effort of my own. All I did was jump on a plane, and now the Lord keeps giving and giving. He has given me amazing new friends, a wonderful casita full of girls whom I love with my whole being, delicious food at every meal, and THE OCEAN. I do not deserve any of this, but the Lord gave it to me anyway. It blows my mind, and before this week, I was afraid of it. Despite what others have shown me in life, there is nothing I can do to earn or lose the love of the Lord. He has given me his whole heart because he loves me, and that’s it. A basic concept of freedom in Christ is accepting his FREE love; and it is that basic concept that was keeping me from freedom in Him. I was chaining myself to myself because I’m not perfect. I was constantly telling myself that I wasn’t good enough to earn love. I am scared of failing, of falling short, of expecting to feel his love but not being able to. But living in the freedom of Christ requires faith that His love will carry us through this life into the eternal. It requires hope. It comes in a full circle. The Lord revealed to me a weight I was still carrying, asked me to announce in front of my class that I have to forgive myself for trying to earn his love, and He asked me simply to dare to hope that I could sit in my room for the rest of my life and he would still bless me because He just loves me that much. When I obeyed Him and let go I was immersed so surely in his love, just like I was in the water after my run, and today I have felt his love with a new and overwhelming depth.

I encourage you, as Lynn encouraged me, to ask the Lord what unnecessary weights you are carrying, and give them over to Him in order to experience the freedom of Christ. It is a wonderfully beautiful thing.

“Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30




Life In HD

  |   Alumni, DTS, Lecture Phase, Staff   |   No comment

A couple weeks ago I had the very awesome opportunity to teaching foundations week for this January school. I had never taught before and it was something I felt prepared for and unprepared for all in one. I have never really had a problem with public speaking before but four hours a day, five days in a row is a lot of time to fill. I have gained a whole new respect for speakers who come to teach every quarter. But that’s not really what I want to talk about today. I want to talk about life.

Faith. Life. Adventure.

It’s one of the many mottos we choose to live out here at YWAM DP. Since I’ve been on staff I’ve had many opportunities to reflect on these three things. But teaching on foundations brought me into a brand new place of learning what “Life.” really means. Throughout the week I taught on things like truth, the bible, God (who is He / what is He like), the value of man, sin and salvation. It was a full week to say the least. But through this week I saw the students listen to what I had to say and listen to what I felt like the Father was telling me. They responded, they prayed, they encouraged.

Each school carries a different attitude toward the DTS process. Some carry an attitude of determination, some an attitude questioning, some an attitude family. Of course, every school carries little bits of all of these. But this school…they carry encouragement. They were constantly encouraging each other, their staff, and even me while I taught. It truly was a blessing to teach them.

They encourage life. They encourage boldness and honesty. They encourage fun when needed and seriousness when needed. They constantly encourage each other to do what they need to do to get freedom, to get more of God.

My bible defines life as this: the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body; period from birth to death; a way or manner of living; spiritual existence transcending death; salvation.

A way or manner of living. I think this school has decided the way they want their lives to be. Full. Alive. Awakened. These guys have decided they are tired of going through the motions, living in black and white. They have woken up. They are choosing color. They are choosing a life lived in HD! Being around 27 students who are living in HD is ridiculously inspiring. They fight for it every single day, but they are determined to make HD a life long attitude. Through them God has (re)taught me to continue to seek after what update He has in store for me next.

I’ve lived in Belize for quite sometime now and have gotten accustomed to the white sand and the blue ocean. I’m used to the palm trees and the parakeets. I walk around without shoes on and wear shorts almost everyday. Now, I realized that for most people…I live in paradise. Because, well I do! But to me, right now, it’s just home. This is just how life is. We get a lot of sun and sometimes it’s blinding. I walk out my door mid morning and the sun reflects off my white porch and the white sand and the bright white clouds, and just for second I can’t see anything. If I’m not in a rush to get somewhere I will give my poor eyes a second to adjust to the blazing sun until I can confidently walk down the steps to wherever I’m heading. I walk into my everyday, my (ir)regular life. Every so often after my eyes adjust to the sun, God stops me. He asks me to wait and look at this place He lets me call home. In those rare seconds I’m reminded that God has given me a life that I can live fully alive.

During my DTS was when I started living fully alive, after being on staff, leading outreaches, small groups, working around the base, being a student in the FCM (Foundations for Counselling Ministry) I have continued my adventure in living fully alive, I have chosen to live in HD. One day when I leave this place, I will continue to walk in that choice, because now that I’ve felt what its like to be fully alive, I couldn’t go back to standard living!





Paraguay Week 5

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This has been a week nothing short of an adventure. We got the opportunity to stay with the Achè tribe in the jungles of Paraguay. They are a Christian community, who live simply, but love so well. We were constantly surrounded by wonderful children, and although everyone spoke a different language that we’ve never heard before, there was nothing stopping us from building relationship with them. We’ve helped clean up around their tribe, picking up trash, burning piles of leaves and grass, and chopping down bamboo trees using machetes. Once we were done working for the day, we started walking to the river that is right by their tribe. When they see us walking that direction, we’re instantly surrounded by groups of children, running with bare feet in the hot red dirt. They grab our hands and we all start running, and then when we’re almost there the kids start ripping off their clothes and just jump right into the water, without any fear, and without a care in the world. Walking around the community was an adventure in itself. You get to see all types of animals, like dogs, cats, chickens, ducks, sheep, pigs, turtles and monkeys. Then you walk through the jungle to the house the boys were staying at, and you get to see the most beautiful sunset going down over the horizon. This experience has been completely life changing. I can’t really explain the feeling I get when I think about the Achè tribe, but I know that God has put them on my heart for a reason.

God has shown me a lot through their community, things that I will never forget. They’ve taught me how to be more kind, generous, and caring for those around me. They shared everything with each other. If we gave them a piece of bread, they would look who’s around them and rip it into the perfect amount of pieces so everyone can have some. But the best thing they shared was time and laughter. Very rarely would you see someone alone. They all loved each other, and live life together, as a big family. No one ever got left behind, and no one ever felt left out. They were all so kind with each other. They found joy in the smallest things. The Achè tribe taught me how to live without fear. I have never met a more tough group of people. They live with complete trust in the Lord, in all that they do. They don’t worry about finances, where to sleep, and what they’ll eat, because God has blessed them with each other. They know that God will provide for them in the way that they need to, and that the community will always have their backs. They play with bugs that I’ve never seen before, throw their bodies into running, rocky water and don’t worry about the fear of judgement or pain. I the love the way they live, I can see the way that God lives in them, and how his love casts out fear. The Achè tribe has taught me how to love well. They welcomed us with open arms, got us out of our comfort zone, and laughed at us when we tried shooting bow and arrows. Our team got so much closer during this time. We spent so much time together, loving each other, taking adventures with each other and worshiping our God together as the sun went down. We laid out and watched the stars together, asking silly questions and talking about God.

This week God moved in our hearts. He gave each of us a heart for the Achè tribe, and taught each of us something new. The love of God radiates through this community, and makes it really hard to say goodbye. A piece of my heart will always be in the tribe. The relationships we’ve made will never be forgotten, and the memories we have will last forever. God is so good, He always has been good, and He will always be good. I know that God brought all of us to Paraguay for a reason, and I think mine was to see what true happiness looks like within a community. My life will forever be changed, and I give thanks to God, and the way He moves through the Achè tribe. I’m so thankful for what He’s done for me, and I will always continue to pursue Him.

-Carmen Martinez, 19



Adjusting Your Focus

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When we were in Thailand I realized how important it was to hear God. I also found out how easy it is to not listen to him because we were distracted by the people, the culture and the new environment. When I first got to Thailand all I wanted to do was go out and experience the culture, try the foods, buy clothes and interact with the Thai people. I realized later that all of these things were actually distractions from what God had sent us here to do. We were not focused on God and what He had brought us to Thailand for. As a result our team was negatively impacted and attacked by Satan. When a few of us realized that Satan was attacking, we decided to pray and pray hard we did. After praying we felt a lot better and a peace came over us. The darkness was still lingering so we came together as a team and talked about all the negativity going around. As a team we then prayed and turned our focus back on God and we got back on track. That next week in Thailand I heard God more clearly and we had such an adventure interacting with the Thai students and building amazing relationships. This story goes to show how often we can get off track, so we need to take action against Satan by having a “warrior” mind set. We do this by turning to God with problems and frustrations and talking them over with Him. As I have been told I will tell you a little tip; “When life gets blurry just adjust your focus” back on Jesus.


Marissa Fields