My fourth week (October 17th – 23rd) here at the YWAM LA base for the SOMD (School of
Ministry Development) was another really great week. We had two speakers this week and it was definitely the contrast between the teachings but they were both really amazing. Brad Stanley was our first speaker for the week and he taught us on finding God in the city and global urbanization. Archie Honrado was our second speaker for the week, he came with us when we went on our camping trip for the weekend in the mountains and he taught on contemplative prayer.
Monday evening was the first class that we had with Brad Stanley and I must admit I felt overwhelmed by all of the statistics that he showed us of how urbanization is becoming a global crisis in the world. I literally had no idea about all of the figures and statistics that Brad shared with us especially with all of the mega cities in the world which are becoming more and more overpopulated right now and this will continue to increase in the future. Something I thought was really interesting what our speaker told us which was the major growth of the urbanization in the world are in the 10/40 window and also the unreached people groups are moving to the major cities of the world as well which is pretty amazing because God is literally bringing the unreached people groups to the major cities like: Toronto, Los Angeles, New York, London, Amsterdam, etc.
There were quite a few questions that were brought up when we had our first class on urbanization which made me really think. Some of these questions were: 1) What are you dreaming with the Lord about? 2) What has God put in you that fits in the urban world? 3) In what ways does global urbanization frustrate you? 4) What challenges does urbanization bring to the human story? 5) What opportunities does urbanization bring to God’s purposes on the earth?
Throughout the whole Monday evening class I kept thinking over and over again of how
cities have such a huge problem with injustice issues like human trafficking and it just broke my heart to pieces. God did highlight a lot of things to me about this though. Some of the things are: Urbanization does give us access to people’s needs and for us to see the injustice issues in the world because it is brought to the light more. God is urbanizing the world for the purpose of world evangelism and the discipling of the nations. The urbanization of the world is being used by God to redeem His original intent for man and the display of His glory on the earth. God’s end goal is to get the gospel to every people group on the earth and He wants you to feel His heart for the nations and He also wants you to be a part of it.
Over the next three days on the teaching of finding God in the city and global urbanization by Brad Stanley God continued to reveal His heart to me specifically of how His heart is longing for every people group of every nation to know Him as the Savior of the world. There is a lot of brokenness that does come from the cities but God reminded me that it is not His heart to destroy the design of the urbanization but to bring redemption to it (Matthew 13:24 – 30). The enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy but Jesus came to bring life so we can have it to the full (John 10:10).
God revealed something to me that the enemy will only try to steal, kill and destroy something that already has life and value. I really liked what our speaker said when he told us that when we do prayer walks in the city and pray for cities to specifically ask God “what is threatening the enemy here that is so special and valuable right here at this location?” Where there is spiritual darkness there is also God’s redemption so we must change the way we think and ask ourselves: “What is it that is so valuable and important about the city that the enemy seeks to destroy?”
God reminded me that we cannot please Him without faith because He is a being of faith. Faith is the result of walking with Jesus. God reminded me that building relationships with people are the key to reaching out to people in the urban world which is what God has designed us to do to bring His plan of redemption to this hurting world. God is more jealous about writing His name over the earth than we are. It is really important that we are not just motivated by compassion but by God’s jealously for redemption.
What is it that God must do to bring healing and deliverance to the nations? Where we see
darkness God’s grace will abound much more so as believers we must run into it and go into the darkness to bring His love, hope and healing to the brokenness in the nations. God also revealed to me when we take time to pray, intercede and wait on Him to hear His heart for the city that it doesn’t depend on the specific environment like going to a quiet place like out in the nature or a quiet room in a house but we can even sit down on a bench on the street in the city and listen to God’s voice because He is everywhere and He is longing to meet us everywhere.
I think the last biggest thing that God revealed to me from the urbanization teaching was that as a church and as Christians we must be much more pro-active in reaching out to the immigrants in our home countries because God is literally bringing the unreached nations and people groups to us. It is God’s heart beat for us to be more welcoming to the immigrants and we can do that by simply giving them hospitality (Matthew 25:34 – 35, 1 Timothy 3:2 and 1 Timothy 5:9-10). Hospitality is actually our strongest evangelistic strategy to reach people for Christ and we can simply do this by just opening up our home to people and to use our living room for the Kingdom of God.
I could probably write a lot more on what I learned and what God revealed to me through the teaching on finding God in the city and global urbanization but I would love to also write about how our class’ camping trip went in the mountains as well which was also such a huge highlight during my fourth week of my SOMD and I am extremely grateful for this opportunity that God gave me to go on this trip with my class. I love camping and I have been going camping since I was a child but this was my first time that I had to actually go camping in the mountains and to completely rough it with no showers or no proper toilets for 4 days. I have camped in the mountains before in Romania but it was different because we stayed in cabins and we didn’t really rough it or stay in tents either. I also heard numerous times from the staff that it will also be very cold during the camping trip which was something that I never experienced before because in the past I have always camped in the warm summer weather.
I guess I just felt a lot of anxiety to go on this camping trip in the mountains with my class because I honestly didn’t really know how it would be and I didn’t know what to exactly to expect how it would be either. I just kept giving my worries and anxieties to God and surrendering it to Him. The day before we left for the camping trip the YWAM LA base had a big surprise when we were almost going to evacuate because there was a fire that was nearby which really put a lot of panic in me in that moment but thankfully we didn’t have to evacuate in the end so I really praise God for this and also for His protection over our lives.
On Thursday morning before the base intercession started one of the girls who is a student in the Justice DTS handed me a note and then later that morning I got a chance to read it. I was honestly blown away when I read her note that she wrote to me and when I read it I thought to myself “how did she know”. This is what she wrote to me “Hello Andrea, God is your comfort and your strength. He is there to take all your anxiety, worries and cares. I believe He wants you to enjoy this camping trip, enjoy His presence and enjoy fellowshipping and learning with your class. He’ll keep you warm and give you rest! And I feel that God bursting with excitement right now! He can’t wait for the trip with you!! God will keep you safe, for He is our shepherd! Have fun! – Sharon”
I was really encouraged that she took time to pray for me and write me this encouraging note. I honestly don’t even remember if I had talked to her about my anxieties about going on this camping trip or not so when I saw her later that morning I gave her a hug, thanked her and asked her “how did you know?” She told me that she prayed for me and God just put it on her heart to write me that note. When I heard that I thanked God and an excitement filled my heart for this camping trip that I would be going on with my class.
After we all finished our lunch on Thursday we packed up the two base vans and left for
our camping trip in the mountains near Ojai which is a small city in Ventura County, California, northwest of Los Angeles and set in a valley in the Topatopa mountains. I think we drove around 3 hours until we got to the campsite which also included two stops along the way including going to the Wal-mart store and our speaker’s house.
When we got to our campsite we set up our tents, ate dinner and we had our first teaching session with Archie Honrado on contemplative prayer. Our first evening we spent at the campsite we had a big shock which was we found out there has been a black bear around the campground so it was definitely a huge surprise for everyone. We had to remove any food or scented things from our tents and for those who were struggling with fear we were allowed to sleep in the vans that night.
On Friday (October 21st), I had a really great day with my class on our camping trip. After breakfast Archie did another session with us on contemplative prayer. The previous day and for this season we did the centering prayer which is basically asking God for a specific word and mediating on it for anywhere from 5 – 20 minutes. The first time I mediated on the word Jesus and the second time I mediated on the word Abba (Abba is another word for Father and I was thinking about God being my Abba). The centering prayer is not something that I have done before in the past but it is something that I really liked a lot and I definitely would like to do it more in the future. I really feel in my heart if I could put this into practice in my life I believe it will really help me focus on the Lord more especially when I struggle with worry, anxiety and stress.
The rest of Friday morning we split into our small groups and we went on a 4 hour hike in
the mountains and through the dessert trails near our campground where we stayed at. I found the hike was very physically exhausting and even by the end both of my ankles were a bit swollen. I honestly didn’t know if I could make it at times but in the end I am really glad that I went on the hike and it was the first time that I had that much quality time with my small group since SOMD started which was such a blessing from God.
I really enjoyed the talks that we had during our hike which was so encouraging and I love how we as a small group were all very supportive of each other as well. I was also really touched how my small group leader Anna was so supportive of all of us and she even told me that I could lean on her a couple of times as we walked together. I feel incredibility thankful that God gave me Anna as my small group leader and the other three girls in my group as well (Felicia, Amanda and AC).
On Friday afternoon Archie gave us as a class a couple of hours to take time alone to have some solitude alone time with God. At first I had a difficult time finding the right place to go but then after some time of searching I ended up going to my tent and I am so very grateful for this time that God gave for me to have with Him. I ended up just resting and soaking in God’s presence as I waited on Him and listened to worship music. I used to spend hours in the past doing this but I haven’t done this in a while so I really felt like God reminded me to come back into that place of rest with Him. In the past when I took time to rest and soak in God’s presence, God met with me so much, He gave me such sweet encounters with Him and spoke to me so much. I think it is so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and ministry that we can forget to take time to do this and I am definitely speaking to myself so it is my definitely my heart’s deepest desire to come back into this place to take more time to do this again.
On Saturday (October 22nd), I was incredibly grateful when I woke up I had a much better sleep than I did the previous night and even though I still knew about the bear situation I chose to sleep in the tent and I am so thankful that I slept so well. I was really excited that we had pancakes for breakfast which was a blessing from God. Afterwards Archie did a short teaching session with us and then the rest of the day everyone went on a hike for the majority of the day. We were given the option to stay behind if we wanted to and rest. I honestly really struggled with the first hike so I wasn’t sure if my body would have been able to handle it to do a whole day hike so I stayed decided to stay behind even though I really wanted to go with my class. Thankfully two other girls from my class and my school leader stayed behind as well so I wasn’t the only one who stayed behind which is good that I wasn’t alone.
The previous day Archie asked us to do the prayer of examen during our solitude time with God but I felt in my heart that God just wanted me to take time to rest and wait on Him so I decided to do it on Saturday morning. The prayer of examen is basically a prayer that consists of two parts which are: 1) consolation and 2) desolation. Both parts are taking time to evaluate and reflect on what is in your heart of what are the things that you are the most grateful for and what are the things that you are the least grateful for. The questions for consolation are: 1) For what am I most grateful? 2) When did I feel most alive today? 3) When did I give the most love today? And 4) When did I receive the most love today? The questions for desolation are: 1) For what moment today am I least grateful? 2) When did I feel life drained out of me? 3) When did I give the least love today? And 4) When did I receive the least love today? I really found doing the prayer of examen and writing it in my journal very helpful and this is something that I would like to put into practice in my own life because I think it is a really great way to examine and evaluate where my heart is at.
During the morning when I was trying to rest and spend some time with God I found it a
bit difficult to have a restful day because I heard a couple that camped near us have some very strong and verbal arguments. To be honest I don’t think I have ever heard anything like that before when I had gone camping before and it just broke my heart to pieces. I prayed for them throughout the day and each time I did I just sensed how God’s heart was also broken for this couple as well. I just kept praying for God to fill them with His peace and His healing as well.
It was really great to be able to have some time to hang out with the two other students and my school leader that stayed behind and spend some time with them as well. I think it was around 4:30 or 5:00pm when my class started to come back from their hike. It was around that time that I decided to go for a walk to see the waterfalls that Archie told me about. It was really great to be able to go for a short walk and see the waterfalls. I am also really glad that I was able to spend some time with God as well which was a real blessing.
In the evening after dinner we took some time as a class to share how we are doing. At first I wasn’t going to share anything but then I felt it would be good to share something because to be honest I was really struggling especially with feeling lonely and alone which frustrated me because these are a couple of things that God had set me free from a couple of weeks ago and I felt like I slid back to it again. I am glad I did share with my class how I was doing even though tears streamed down my face. I basically felt in my heart to share that I was struggling with loneliness and making deep connections with the class.
To be honest I had struggled with making solid deep relationships with people most of my life which resulted in feeling very lonely at different times in my life. I am very thankful to God that He has given me the ability to be detailed and organized which is a really great skill to have especially as a leader with the logistical side but I really struggle with the relational side of how I can relate and connect with people which is not a good thing at all when you are a leader because you actually need to have both when you are in leadership. I am very encouraged after I shared with my class that a few people took some time to encourage and affirm me and then everyone gathered around me and prayed for me. In that moment I really felt overwhelmed by everyone’s love and care which really meant a lot to me. In the evening we also took time to pray over the campground as well especially for God’s protection, peace and healing for the people’s hearts that were there.
On Sunday (October 23rd), it was our last full at the campground and in the morning it was
also Archie’s last teaching session with us too which was another really great one. Archie taught us on the practice of lectio divina which is basically taking some time to mediate on a specific scripture passage from the Bible. There are four basic steps to do this which are: 1) lectio – to read a scripture passage slowly, 2) meditation – to mediate on what you just read, 3) oratio – to pray, speak to God and to ask Him for a specific word from what you just read and to mediate on it and 4) contemplatio – to finally and simply rest in God’s embrace as He speaks quietly speaks to you.
I personally really liked this exercise that we did and I would love to try and apply it to my life as much as possible in the future. The scripture passage that we read and mediated on was John 10:1-16 which was about Jesus being our shepherd. I chose to mediate on the word shepherd and I was amazed as I waited on God that He had opened up my spiritual eyes during that time I waited on Him. The Lord showed me very faintly in the spiritual realm a shepherd’s staff which really encouraged me a lot when I saw it because God also showed it to me before when I waited on Him in the past especially when I was in different times of transition in my life and I was waiting on God for the next step of what He was calling me to do next. Wow, God is so good and yes Jesus is my good shepherd! I just need to keep reminding myself of this especially during this transition time I am in right now because God is so very faithful and I truly believe in my heart that He will keep on leading and guiding me step by step in what He has called me to do.
Afterwards we played a sheep and wolf game which was pretty fun and it also gave us an
opportunity to practice listening and discerning the different voices as the sheep find their shepherd. Then we prayed for Archie and we said our good-byes to him because he had to leave us a bit early so he can join his family again and resolve the issues with his family moving out of their house. The rest of the morning and the early afternoon we read three books of the Bible which were Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs. I think that was my first time for me to read the Bible like that with a big group. I really liked it a lot and I thought it was a really great experience for us to do that. We had free time the rest of the day which was really nice. I ended up going back to the waterfalls and spending some time with God which was really great.
On Monday (October 24th), we ate breakfast and packed up to leave to return back to the YWAM LA base. I must say that definitely one of my highlights of the whole camping trip with my class was how our time ended there. We decided to bless the couple who camped near us with some leftover food that we didn’t end up using. I decided to go over with a couple of the people from my class because I really felt on my heart to tell them that we all had been praying for them during our time there. I did go over to their campsite on my own earlier in the morning when I woke up to say hello and say that we would be leaving today so it would be a bit quieter. I was so encouraged when I did say hello to them at that time that they told me they felt peace from us.
When I went over to the couple’s campsite with a couple of my classmates to give them
the food I told them that I really hope it will be a blessing for them. Then I looked over and I saw the rest of my school come over to their campsite. I thought it was such a beautiful thing of what Lisa my school leader did which was she simply wanted to gather around the couple, to bless them and to pray for them. When I prayed for them I even ended tearing up and after the prayer time finished and I opened up my eyes I saw the man was crying. It definitely looked like God really touched their hearts and encountered them with His love which was such a special thing to be a part of. After we prayed for the couple I got another opportunity to talk to them again. I felt in my heart to tell them that we have been praying for them, God sees them, He loves them and He just wants to fill their hearts with His healing. They thanked me for our prayers and they also told me that they felt our prayers too which was really encouraging to hear that.
Then it was time to go and return to the YWAM LA base. I think we arrived sometime in the early afternoon on Monday back at the YWAM base. When we got back to the base we put away the base’s camping supplies and cleaned the vans. After we finished that we were all very excited to take showers especially after not being able to shower the last 3 days. The rest of the day I did my laundry and rested a bit. I would like to end this blog entry by thanking God for everything that He taught me throughout the week, for His protection, for Him taking a lot of the worries and the anxieties that I had about going camping, I am really grateful for God uniting my class more and for also showing me His heart for the couple that camped near us as well. My heart is filled with so much gratitude for all of the people who prayed for this camping trip I went on with my class and also for my time during this school as well. Thanks so much for taking the time to read my blog. Blessings!