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Forever changed

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March 26, that’s the day that we got to Cuba, now nearly 2 months later I sit on a night bus heading from Cancun, Mexico to Belize City.

It’s quiet and dark on the bus, we have the whole thing almost exclusively to ourselves and I find my mind wandering, pouring over the last 2 months. In many ways the time seems to have flown by, gone in the blink of an eye. I can remember clearly stepping out of the airport in Havana, it seemed much hotter then IMG_3805Belize, maybe only because of all the concrete and asphalt. I remember following Hatniel (our contact) to a bus, our team was amazed by Cuba, we couldn’t help but comment on all the vehicles, cars older then our parents (sorry guys). This was only the beginning of our journey. We would see much of Cuba and meet many incredible people who we will not soon forget. Now it all seems like some sort of a dream as I sit here in the dark recollecting. While I can do my best to describe the emotions and the experiences, surely my words will fail to do justice to the true experience, none the less I will try.

13244899_10154093427437787_8974960081550566456_nI have never done an outreach before, but I will take a stab in the dark and say that this may have been a struggle to lead and the way in which Josh and Donny led the team was outstanding. For those of you who have never been to Cuba you may not understand, but Cuban culture is unlike anything I have experienced. I have been to other warm, Caribbean cultures where time is of little value, but Cuba takes it to the next level. Time is a means of only a very very rough estimate; for example you may be told a car will pick you up at 9:00am, but at 1:00pm you get a call saying the car had problems, but don’t worry another one is on the way, the car finally shows up at 4:00pm. While this may not have been an everyday occurrence, it is a good idea of transportation and timelines in Cuba. Now this casts a negative light on the culture and I most certainly mean to do no such thing. The lack of concern for time may be frustrating for someone from a western culture but I assure you there was much about the culture that our team loved.

Food. The food of Cuba was beyond expectation, we could be assured our daily intake of rice and beans but we would also be treated to many delicacies and fantastic desserts. It actually seemed that every new location we went to would have its own dessert speciality, a unique treat to get from street vendors. One place might be churros, the next night have guayba filled pastries, one thing you could count on was delicious Cuban coffee for one peso or the equivalent of 4 US cents. Far beyond the great food was the warmth of the people, no matter where we went we warmly welcomed. We would do house visits to pray for and encourage members of the church, they would often feed us and give us coffee or offer to slaughter a pig… They have a huge heart and reflect the love of Christ so well in this. In fact on one occasion I asked a vendor if she sold coffee, I was told no, but was then given a glass of coffee for free that presumably has been for her personally.

IMG_6626We got to travel all the way for Havana down to Santiago and then full circle back. Along the way we met so many cool people. For example there was our over qualified translator, Pablo, he could rap, play guitar, bongos, sing, do amazing wood carvings and even masonry work. Or there was Joani, he was 41, had been in wheel chair for 20 years. People told him he would be a burden to society, never amount to anything, now he is a carpenter that loves Jesus and he overflows with joy. Cuba was full of warm amazing people, people who loved so so well, like God calls us to. The passion they have for the church, for growing the body of Christ, for knowing the people was so encouraging. They truly are a beautiful people. We went to minister to them, to teach them, yet I know that we walked away with more than we left.

Cuba and all it’s hectic scheduling and random transportation had struggles and it had victories. We took 12 people, most having only been acquainted for 3 months and we went to Cuba. In some ways this trip was extremely difficult. We left with 12 people, and only returned with 8. It’s a hard thing to lose team members regardless the circumstances. I can however say with certainty that even though we may not understand it, God had his hand in it weaving it together for his glory. I won’t lie and say it was easy, it wasn’t, but we pushed through it as a team, leaned into God and grew closer because of it.

FullSizeRenderOutreach forces you out of your comfort zone no matter who you are, it forces you to ride in cramped cars designed for far less then your number, it forces you to sleep on a cold or hot floor. You get closer with your team members than you thought possible and perhaps then you would have liked. The inevitability of outreach is that you see people at their worst and thankfully also at their best. Like it or not you come out as a family, mess with one of us and you mess with all of us. We leave Cuba a unit, bringing light and freedom wherever we go, that is our mandate and right as heirs of the King.

Do I have regrets from this outreach? Maybe yes. There are situations I could have handled better, there are times I could have stepped up more. Would I change it if I could? Absolutely not. Our team killed it. We were refined by our struggles, we come out better and stronger on the other side. A team of warriors. Again I snap back to the present and I know there is no one on this bus that I would trade away, this team was hand picked and hand assembled for this outreach and it’s awesome. I am excited for what the future holds, I am excited for what’s next for all of us, but surely I will miss team Cuba. Spending 5 months with someone, being with them almost every waking minute, and sometimes every sleeping minute, creates an incredibly strong and unique bond.

I am beyond blessed to have been part of this team and forever changed because of it.

 

Val Dalberg

 

¨Every Experience of beauty points to eternity¨

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It was a very special time in my life.
I was nineteen, and ready for a new adventure with Jesus exploring a new side of the world. Neither experiencing foreign countries nor the belief in Jesus was anything new to me, my parents met each other through YWAM ministries.
Within five years the four of us siblings where born, me being the first. My parents then left Norway and went out doing missions in Turkey for 5 years. They were young, free, and full of passion for Jesus. We had so much adventure and many stories to tell.

One month before I flew over the Ocean from Norway to the Caribbean to do my DTS with YWAM,
my parents marriage broke apart, it was heartbreaking and devastating as you can imagine, nobody could believe it.
In the mess of the heartbreak, I understood that I had to leave everything behind for a moment and enter a time in Paradise and romance with Jesus. It did not make much sense to me at the time; why did I choose living on a boat in the Caribbean when it had nothing to do with what I was really passionate about? Like art and fashion, little did I know I was about to find out. I had always been the shy girl, and so I dove in headfirst to a leadership DTS on sailboats.

The theme of the week was ¨Destiny by design¨. We were asked to spend 30 min drawing down what we felt was our calling for our life. Since I am more visual and visionary then verbal, I liked this challenge a lot. It reminded me of when I was four years old and my mom gave me a blank notebook and wrote on the cover: ¨Jesus and me¨ and told me to draw or write down what I heard from Jesus, and the many dreams I had – That eventually happened in real life. This is how I learned from young age to trust God´s voice.

I found an empty spot on the boat overlooking the bright colored sea and magic sky.
On a piece of paper I started drawing a woman wearing a dress and a crown. With a text saying: ¨Dressing Prostitutes into Princesses ¨. Inspired by the scripture in the Bible: Ezekiel 16:4-14.
It feels really cheesy writing this now, but to the core; It is what my calling and vision is about.
I had discovered the seed planted in me.
Hello Fashion industry!

SN.AD.2 You may not know, but the Fashion industry has a Kingdom of its own. The Fashion kingdom has its own culture, with many languages, with Kings and Queens. No School will teach you the languages; you live and learn though experience. You may be fortunate enough though like me, to meet people along your journey that will teach and mentor you.

It has been seven years now. The seed has become a small tree.
Last November 2015 I launched my High – end brand SarahNeuhard, and showcased my first collection called ´Scandal of Grace´ at Beverly Hilton in Hollywood, CA.
The collection was about Femininity and women’s true identity as children of God, and inspired by Paris – the heart of the Fashion Kingdom.

This journey was not an easy or fast one. It all started back when I left the boat in Paradise and flew over to New York to intern for a ministry called Models for Christ. An international network of Christian fashion Professionals: coming together, serving and being a light in the Fashion Industry. I experienced the Fashion industry for the first time from the inside. It was an eye opening time.
Later I moved on to modeling in Norway and Milan for a short while, I soon decided it was not for me.
I wanted to move into what was pulling on my heart so strongly. Fashion design.

I moved to Copenhagen and studied fashion there; the capital of Scandinavian design. It is a city where entrepreneurs and artist sprout forth. It was intense and rough on me personally. Growth Pains are no fun. Despite the long hours and lonely days, I blossomed. I soon became known for designing Haute Couture. ´You should move to Paris! All your designs are couture´ – teachers told me.
They saw something I did not yet see, but soon to discover.

AD.sn3I later worked for couture Houses in London and Copenhagen. I loved it! I was finding my home.
I then spent one year creating a project called ¨OCEAN ¨.
It started when I was walking on the sea short one day, and I found myself being all captivated by creation and God as a creator, and Designer. ¨ What you create God is just so amazing, How do you do it ?! How do you think when you shape, invent and color? Are there some principles I can learn from you? ¨ I wondered. ¨Study what I have created and I will show you! Trust me. ¨ He answered me. I felt excitement and joy fill my whole body. Seconds later I started seeing visions, creations … I got my little sister to help me pick up as many blue shells as possible. ¨What are you going to do with all these blue-shells?¨ She asked confused. ¨I am going to create some dresses¨, I said.

God led me to create what I though would not be possible. Remembering what He said : ¨Trust me, one step at a time and Ill show you¨. He did, It was a miracle, and turned out better then I could imagine. He taught me essential principles I use today when I create. The amazing thing is that it does not stop; He Keeps teaching me.

I had a team of only top fashion professionals working with me for free on the production of the photos and the photo shoot. It was shot on a stunning Ocean side in Sweden early spring. It should have been freezing that day, but amazingly the sun hit in such a way that kept us warm.
That day was ¨out of this world¨.

Finally the journey lead me to Paris. It was a time to experience fashion at its core.
To Learn the Language, my Parisians network grew rapidly; I meet so many amazing people in fashion; believers and non-believers. Gathering Christians in Fashion and leading MFC Paris.
Time went by too fast, almost a year later and my season there came to an end; But it is not my final season in Paris.

I produced my first collection ¨Scandal of Grace¨, and shot the photos in one of Paris’ oldest buildings.
It was a mind-blowing experience to see my vision come alive. That is the beauty about creating and telling a story through fashion and cloths. Without words I speak to hearts, and my message may reach far deeper and personally, because everyone will feel a little different about what they experience.

I love the quote ¨Every experience of beauty points to eternity¨.
Say if you are a women and you try one of my dresses; I do not need to tell you that you are Beautiful, feminine, strong and have royal Identity – You will feel beautiful and valued. That is Powerful, even life changing.

Today I am living in a small town in Norway. I moved back to reconnect with my Norwegian roots and to focus my attention of creating the next collection and all the start up work on my brand.
I am exited and curious to see where my path will go from here.
Again He whispers ¨Trust, and I will show you ¨.

We are all called to change the world for the good, to bring Heaven on to earth. To speak and share the truth, reaching hearts and bringing back to life the glory we are created for.
We have royal Identity, lets remind each other to wear our crown and not settle for less.

Check out my website, and please let me know what the story tells you: www.sarahneuhard.com

 

Veronica Sarah Neuhard

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You’re destined for paradise

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When I was first asked to write the blog post for this week, my mind instantly went blank. Normally I am never at a loss for words, but summing up this past week seemed like an insurmountable task. The question “What has report back been like?” has no easy, obvious, or short answer. My initial idea was to simply write about something like how to cram seven weeks worth of tanning into seven days, but as I was thinking and praying about this post, the Lord elbowed his way through my conflagration of emotions to place something much deeper on my heart.

 

Lately I’ve been reading through the gospel of Mark, and this morning I found myself in chapter 6. Among other things that happen in this passage, several events are recorded. We are able to see Jesus back in Nazareth among his tiny home village (which rejects him), followed by the commissioning of the twelve apostles sent out two by two, and also the feeding of the five thousand with the infamous supply of only five loaves and two fish. And through this jumble of seemingly unrelated stories, God was showing me just how much these three scenarios strongly relate to exactly where our two schools are at during report back week.
The first thing Jesus was showing me was that going home is going to be hard, but it doesn’t mean it’s hopeless. One thing we’ve really been focusing on this past week is making sure everything we’ve learned these past five months is really making a lasting home in our hearts, and that the truths we have come to hold so closely will remain unshakable when we go home. And as Jesus re-entered his hometown of Nazareth, we see people scorning him simply for being different. The people are asking, “Who the heck is this carpenter’s son? What the heck happened to him?” The very place Jesus called home and the people he considered family were suddenly not too keen about having him around – and this is a very likely possibility for a lot of us who are heading home. But I love Jesus’ response to their questions and criticism – instead of launching a self defense or reshaping himself to fit their idea of what he should be like, he does his best to bless that community. He heals people where he is able, he walks with gentleness and compassion, and while he is still dumbstruck at their unbelief, he does his best to teach those who would listen. I love this little scripture nugget more than usual today, because for me and 35 other people it shows that regardless of what environment we’re heading home to, it is still possible to walk like Christ. The receptivity of our families, our friends, our communities is a moot point; we have been changed. And it’s not a phase. During our lecture phase, one of our speakers said, “The generation that the world cannot change is the generation that will change the world.” It gives me great hope seeing that, because we have Christ in us, and Christ himself came against opposition from even his closest relatives, we have power in us that cultivates lasting change. And it also means that, in the face of opposition, our response can still be to love and not to conform.
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Right after the fairly awkward incident in Nazareth, Jesus sends out his twelve apostles, which brings me to my second observation. Jesus sent them out two by two.  He didn’t send them out all together. He didn’t give them safety in numbers. And he didn’t send them all out to the same place. And here’s the kicker – he didn’t even send them with supplies. I’ve been chuckling to myself all morning (ok crying, I’ve been crying all morning, but my spirit has been chuckling) because again, I find our school in the exact same place. Tomorrow morning we will all be sent out. We will be separated. We will be going to different places. And we certainly don’t have a full supply of life experience, emotional maturity, or even gap-less theology to aid us along the way. But like the apostles, we’re being sent out anyways. I’m sure the apostles didn’t feel ready. Like us, they were probably experiencing a wide spectrum of emotions – sadness at leaving each other, apprehension about the future, and there was probably a healthy dose of fear in there as well. But Jesus thought they were ready. Why? Because they had just spent a huge chunk of time with him. A wise person once said, “You are a combination of the five people you spend the most time with,” and I think Jesus might have had this in mind that day as he was separating the twelve into smaller teams. Sure maybe they were still a little unrefined, and yes they still had a lot to learn. But Jesus didn’t send them out because of confidence in their ability – he sent them out because of confidence in their character. They had become a combination of the people they spent the most time with – which included not only the healthy community of each other, but they had been spending time with Christ himself. Jesus was able to send them out to continue his mission because they had ceased to look like their pasts and had begun to look like him. Our school has just completed five months at YWAM DP. We’ve experienced God in some capacity or another on a daily basis, and have seen the same faces day in and day out. We’ve laughed together, cried together, slept, ate, lived, and learned together with God in our midst. And somewhere along the way of all of us starting to say “fricks” and accumulating a plethora of inside jokes, we’ve become like each other. But more importantly we’ve all become more like Christ. So while our send-off is going to be hard and certainly emotional, I have a sense that God is whispering to us, “Go. You’re my kids. You look like me. You’re not perfect but you’re ready.”
The last part of this passage I want to talk about is the feeding of the five thousand. Most of you know this story so I won’t go into much detail, but basically Jesus transformed a meager lunch of five loaves and two fish into a feast that stuffed a hungry crowd of five thousand people. And the application I got from this is short and sweet: Jesus is in the business of doing a lot with a few. Our school just spent the past seven weeks divided up into smaller teams for outreach. We’ve re-joined on base  and have combined with the current school for the past week. At the moment there seems like there are a lot of us (well over eighty), but we’re still pretty tiny in comparison to a crowd of five thousand. This past week we’ve had so many things to share with the current January DTS students – mealtimes, outreach stories, God moments, deep talks, laughter. And as I was reading the story of how Jesus multiplied that little lunch and thinking about the past week, I realized that is his legacy he’s working here at YWAM DP – multiplying our bread and fish. He takes the staff and cultivates a community, a lecture and changes lives, a conversation and creates a friendship. He took all the crap our October DTS drug in with us and turned it into a force to reach nations. And now I’ve spent the past week watching Him working the same miracle of multiplication in a whole new group of lives.
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So what has report back week been like? It’s been like being dropped in the middle of the gospel of Mark – some are being sent out, some are still being fed. But mostly it’s been like watching the heart of God. As we prepare to go home, I’ve seen his heart for the lost. As we spend time with the new school, I’ve seen his heart for his children. As we re-connect and invest in new friends, I’ve seen his heart for community. Yesterday I spent most of the afternoon in a hammock trying to fuse forever in my mind the image of crystal blue Caribbean water framed by white sandy shores and towering palm trees. This base is called “Destination Paradise,” but before the property was a resort called Journey’s End, a contrast in names that I find beautifully ironic. So this past week as some have been prepping to go back to their Nazareth, or are spending more time eating fish and still spending time with Jesus, at the end of the day God’s heart is for all of us to be sent out. And in a moment of divine humor, God whispered to my heart in that hammock, “This isn’t your journey’s end. You’re destined for paradise.” And until that final target, those of us at YWAM DP will be busy making our “Mark” for His Kingdom at every stop along the way.
Emily Coll

Emily Coll, Pennsylvania USA, 09/09/1993, 22 yrs

Experiencing The Love Of God In Costa Rica

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FamilyWhen I was asked to write this blog, about experiencing God’s love on this outreach, I just laughed. I would consider myself the least suitable to write about that topic. God’s love has been a challenge for me for as long as I can remember. I’ve been waiting, praying and crying, frustrated for an experience. You know, The One Experience that forever will convince you that you know, that you know, that you know in your heart that God loves you. (If you’ve never heard about this love, you probably have not done a DTS. You should! Apply today!)

What if God’s love was never meant to be a “Once In A Lifetime Experience”? What if it is an everlasting fact, a gift you can choose to receive? The idea of choosing was the most profound thing I learned in the lecture phase of my DTS. Faith, love, hope, worship… All the sweet Jesus things – it’s a choice! You choose to believe. You choose to love and be loved. You choose to see the future as bright. You choose to live a worshiping lifestyle. It’s a choice.

But this was not supposed to be a summary of lecture phase. How have I experienced God’s love on our outreach to Costa Rica? If it’s only about feelings, I’ll say barely at all. If it’s about facts, I can tell you stories for a week or two.

# The fact that we eventually could write the “WE’RE IN COSTA RICA!” post on facebook – is just because of God’s love. Our outreach leaders did an amazing job bringing us safely here, we just hit some road bumps (or muertos (=corpses) as they call it in Costa Rica) on our way. And a motorcycle.

Coffeefield

# The fact that God loves me so much that He gave me the best outreach team (or, outreach FAMILY as it really is..!) and outreach leaders I could ever ask for. Being surrounded by their personalities, good (and bad) senses of humor, chirpin’ and encouraging, prayers, and all our good Jesus-talks… I’m so blessed! I know that they have my back. I know that, if necessary, they’ll pray for me until their legs cramp so bad they can’t stand for a few minutes after….

# All the small things: Realizing that it’s French toast for breakfast tomorrow. A good friend sending an awesome Queen-video to me on facebook, because she knows that I appreciate good music. Having six puppies here (I’m no dog fan, but they’re stinkin’ cute. And I might stop caring that I’m allergic). Seeing the dog lovers at the team cry because they love the puppies so much. Writing this blog, and learning a lot from it. And all of this happened within the last fifteen minutes. If I just shift my focus, I’ll see so much love! It says in the Bible that all good comes from God. (James 1,17) So – to be logical here… – french toast, puppies, good music… It’s all from God!

# All the love <3 The love the team has for me and the love we have for each other and the love we have for the people we meet…. It’s all God! We can only love because God loved us first.

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# When we got to pick coffee beans as ministry! Ok, when I got over the shock and excitement it got a little boring. And we also didn’t realize that we’d be doing that for many, many days. Or that poisonous snakes were chilling in the coffee trees. But it felt like such a huge blessing! I love coffee! And I got to pick coffee beans! Wow! When the coffee beans were gone, I got to chop down trees with machetes. If you know me, you might see me have a lot of fun with that. You might also – without problems – pictures the dangers that come with giving me a machete… I never hit the same spot twice, and I nearly chopped off a leg, my left hand, and countless fingers. BUT because of God’s love I didn’t. And because God loves me and knows me, he let me have fun with that machete for days!

Love is a choice. You choose to love. You choose to receive love. You choose to see the love around you. And yes, sometimes that sweet feeling is a part of it. The convincing feeling. But most days it’s all about the convincing fact. I read in a book today, that the Swiss theologian Karl Barth was asked to sum up the essence of theology in one sentence. Let me quote his answer; “Jesus loves me, this I know! For the Bible tells me so!”

What if it is actually that simple…?

 

Ingeborg Dyrøy Lotsberg

Ingeborg

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.