A few days after we returned from Indonesia to YWAM Denver, I was asked to give one of the graduation speeches.
I found this amusing because I had distinctly remembered watching the last DTS's graduation and thinking that I wouldn't be asked to give one. Some of the members of our team had amazing "turned-my-life-around" stories.
But me? My testimony's been one long, gradual, uphill marathon that could be summarized in one statement: "I've been following Jesus for as long as I can remember and throughout my life I've continued to enter deeper and deeper into a relationship with him."
Yeah I know, "everybody's got a testimony to share." But it's easy to have doubts when you're sitting next to a guy who is going to get excommunicated from his church just for doing this missions program with YWAM.
The graduation was to be held at the end of the week on October 6, Friday. The week of debrief flew by and it was Wednesday evening before I knew it. I had not yet thought of anything to share.
So, at around 10pm that night, I decided to apply what I've been learning and invite the Lord to partner with me in creating the speech.
I had no idea what I was getting myself into, because a big God dreams big.
As he and I reminisced on my past blogposts about the things I had learned, I began to realize that saying "I learned this, and then I learned this, and then I learned this," just wasn't going to accurately describe what I had gone through. What I had gone through was a rollercoaster of grueling inner conflicts within my heart that could only be expressed through some kind of back-and-forth banter within my mind - or, as it turned out, a dramatic interpretation of what I learned during this missions training program; an entire dialogue between myself and Jesus.
"I can't believe you're going to do this," I thought to myself as I slipped under the covers at 2am the next morning.
The next day I knew I needed to practice. The perfectionist in me wanted nothing more than to hide away in some corner and rehearse until everything was spotless. But I also knew that this was one of my last days with my team, so I surrendered it to God, who values relationships more than the quality of our works. Thankfully, that evening I found an open space of time to finally practice. I rehearsed for a few hours but only succeeded once without having to pause and look up my lines.
As I got to know the speech I began to realize just how perfectly God had orchestrated the flow of the things I learned and went through during the entire program. It had so easily turned into one simple story, and yet I had not come to recognize what God had changed in my life until I had taken the time to create the speech with him. For the next few days I was in awe of God's gentle and patient goodness in my life.
Friday morning I practiced two more times. The speech was supposed to be 3-5 minutes long, but mine was 13 minutes. My old public speaking guild would be very disappointed in me to hear that (Sorry Mrs. Landau and Mrs. Leong!). But I told my DTS Leader Taylor and put the blame on God. I don't think God minded - after all, I never would have imagined doing something like this on my own. Thankfully, Taylor let me present anyways.
And then, it was time. I was so nervous I had asked my buddies back home to pray for me; this was really out of my comfort zone.
This is a Facebook live video of the entire graduation. I highly recommend watching the other speeches.
Taylor our leader talks a lot about who we were and how we grew as a team. He was very much the "dad" of our team, teaching us, watching over us, relating with us, having fun with us, and speaking truth into our lives. He begins at 9:53.
Coni's speech beautifully covers what she and many of us learned in our DTS, and inspires us for the future. How do I describe Coni in one sentence? She just might be the most Jesus-like person I've ever met, and I bet our entire team would agree. She begins at 17:14.
My speech begins at 23:35.
Growing into a child of God has changed my life forever.
We couldn't resist hiking one more 14er before we left. While we were hiking down the mountain I saw a bird soaring in the air below me. I was immediately struck with an unrelenting desire to climb on a rock and perch myself there. Photo by Jordan Weimar.
Now, I am back in New Jersey, resuming life at the Men's House with SPO (Saint Paul's Outreach), where I have been living for over two years now. It is a house of men who are pursuing the Lord, building up one another in faith and character, and spearheading ministry at Seton Hall University.
Thank you so much Liz and Jordan for being my adventure buddies all over the Rocky Mountains!
And thank you YWAM DTS Summer of 2017! I miss you all dearly.