Friday, December 16, 2011

Sweet Finale

YWAM San Jose, Costa Rica!!!

Before attending the DTS (Discipleship Training School) program at YWAM in San Jose, Costa Rica for five months, my life was very comfortable. I had my own place with my own space and could do what I wanted, when I wanted. Life was good. Unfortunately, I had become stagnant in my faith. I wasn’t growing, just coasting. On top of that I seemed to struggle with the same things when it came to my faith; loving God radically, trusting God implicitly and believing God completely. Even though God kept challenging me in every one of these areas on a recurring basis, there was always something holding me back from breaking through each area and claiming victory.

But in obeying God and following Him to Costa Rica a second time, it was more critical that I go and face a great unknown than to stay where I was and risk having what flame still burned in me, go out. I needed to follow God to YWAM and nothing and no one was going to stop me. I knew there was a great purpose in me going and remaining there for the entirety of the schooling based on the urgency of God’s call on my life during my first trip to Costa Rica in March 2011. A calling that included God’s desire to train, teach and prepare me, but for what I didn’t know.

Obeying what God was telling me to do and where to go was far more important than considering the great unknowns that might lie ahead in going. It wasn’t long, after arriving at the YWAM base, before I came to know that God’s desire for me was to also challenge and stretch me as well as work on my character.

The challenging and stretching came immediately in trying to adapt to a community living lifestyle while learning to be a student again. But that was offset by the lecture content that was part of the Lecture Phase (first 12 weeks), which was something I could really sink my teeth into. Aside from obeying God in going to YWAM, it was my great desire to cultivate a more personal and intimate relationship with God than I had. Good thing because aside from YWAM training and preparing people to enter the mission field, one of its key components was to help you develop a deep and intimate relationship with God. So I knew I was in the right place and on the right track. As unbelievable as this new world was to me, I knew that I was smack dab in the middle of God’s will for me which was where I wanted to be. Be careful what you wish for??? LOL

As for working on my character, that came in a variety of different forms. Whether it was community living, work duties or being in a team setting 24/7, my character was continuously being worked on....kind of like the way a hammer hits an anvil when working and shaping a piece of metal into a useable tool, I being the piece of metal. The ‘workings’ were painful and, at times, difficult to learn but in exchange for the pain, I gained a greater insight into the awesome grace and mercy of God especially when my frustration levels would reach their peak. One great lesson taught to me during those times was how important it was to rely and depend on God for everything, big and small, in my life there. So much so that every time I was tested and got flustered, I ran to God, giving the situation completely over to His care and God would always bring about the answer in creative and blessed ways!

Meanwhile, as each week passed in the Lecture Phase and each topic became better than the last, prayers past and present were being answered in incredible and supernatural ways. Some of those answers were; falling in love with the Word of God, receiving my breakthrough in loving God radically (during Father Heart of God week), peace while performing my work duties, surrendering my rights, extending grace to others and so many more!!

My birthday spent with my DTS family during Lecture Phase!
Back Row (From left to right): Jake, Cherise, Montana, Joseph, Marianela (leader), Cristina.
Middle Row (From left to right): Brandon, Me, Kristen, Becky, Brayan.
Front Row (From left to right): Jimmy, Elle, Diana (teacher), Buka.

Soon the Lecture Phase came to an end and it was time to prepare for NIKO. This was a one week survival camp that took us to a remote location in the province of Cartago. The name NIKO means to overcome and no word could have been more applicable to my time there than that. It was the most physically, mentally and spiritually intense week that I had ever experienced in my entire life. I did physical feats that I never thought I could do but that forced me to not only depend even more heavily upon the strength of God for my strength but to also push myself even further when I hit a wall of exhaustion or discouragement.

There was more than just brutal times at NIKO...there was the beauty and majesty of our surroundings! Praise God!!

Due to the nature and honoured tradition of NIKO and its purpose, I am unable to disclose specific details but just to give you a taste of what this almost forty year old body did included; scaling up mountainsides and waterfalls vertically, belaying down a mud wall and walking across a web of loosely intertwined tree roots while gazing down a 200 or more foot drop if I were to misstep. Oh, and I was able to do 40 consecutive push ups, regular not modified, surpassing even some of my male counterparts! Sorry, guys. LOL But despite this gruelling, frustrating, challenging and intense week, it was the perfect segue for what lay ahead....Outreach.


Outreach Phase was an 8 week period taking what we learned in the classroom and applying it to a real life missionary and ministry setting. It was week two or three of the Lecture Phase that our team began praying for God’s will to be revealed regarding where we were to go, the theme of outreach and if we would be staying together as one team or if we would be split up. A couple days after arriving at the YWAM base, God began speaking to me not only about my team members and the incredible purpose that each person had but also where we would be doing outreach, in the country of Costa Rica.

So when it came to praying for God to show me His heart for our team in outreach, He wasted no time in revealing to me the many things He saw in our team. That we would be ministering throughout the country of Costa Rica and that our team would ignite the country with the flame of the Holy Spirit. In fact, while praying, God showed me a vision of our team’s affect on the country of Costa Rica with a map of Costa Rica and our team moving like a flame would as it consumes a piece of paper. Except this flame was the Holy Spirit that made the entire country glow with a light that could be seen around the world! Woah!

I shared my vision and words from God to the leadership and they affirmed me in saying that they had received the very same things from God. Double woah!! On top of that, God had spoken to the leaders that the theme of our outreach would be ‘justice’ which had been a recurring theme within members of the team and God’s greater purpose in bringing us all together. In weeks following, leadership revealed that our outreach would not only take us throughout Costa Rica but that we would be spending time in each of the 7 provinces of Costa Rica; Cartago, Heredia, Limon, Guanacaste, Puntarenas, Alajuela and San Jose. We would also be participating in a number of ministries like; organizing church programs, preaching, youth events, children’s ministry, Bible distribution, construction and many more.

Meanwhile, God was still challenging me in the two areas I was praying and seeking breakthroughs in; trusting God implicitly and believing God completely. And it was during week three of outreach that my breakthrough in trusting God implicitly was obtained. Unfortunately, it came in the form of a serious foot injury (tendon rupture) that had me staying back from a week and a half of ministry. However, the unfortunate turned to fortunate while I was lying on a table in a room at the hospital to await the x-ray of my foot. I know what you’re thinking, how could lying on an x-ray table be considered fortunate? Well, it started with a question, a question from God. As I was lying on the table, alone in the room and waiting for the tech to come in to take the x-rays, God spoke, “Do you trust me, Melissa?” I hesitated before answering, “Yes, Lord.” God wasn’t convinced so He asked me a second time. “Do you trust me, Melissa?” This time, without hesitation, I answered confidently, “Yes, Lord, I trust You!” It became even clearer to me that this injury was DEFINITELY a God thing!

It was hours later that I learned of my serious injury and further instructions to wear the walking boot (picture and story in the ‘Das Boot’ post) all the time for three weeks except to ice it three times a day and shower. Then I had to go back to the hospital after the three weeks and if all looked well, I would begin 12 weeks of rehab. Ugh. The injury happened on a Wednesday and the diagnosis came the day after (Thursday). But in spite of hearing all of that, I couldn’t ignore the overwhelming peace that was within me. Sunday came and it was time for my team to head off to Puerto Viejo, Limon, Costa Rica for a week while I was to stay back and begin to fulfill God’s purpose shown to me weeks prior during the lecture phase. A purpose that included; answering divine appointments on base set up by God and being a prayer warrior and intercessor for the base, my team and myself.

It was literally hours after my team left that God spoke loud and clear by asking me, “Melissa, do you believe that I can heal you?” I could hardly contain my excitement when I replied, “OF COURSE I believe you can heal me, Lord!” From that moment on, the blessings didn’t stop. On top of being a part of several divine appointments, I was moved to a room in hospitality so that the bathroom and shower would be on the same level. That meant not having to climb stairs! Yes!! Then as the week began, God called me into solitude while telling me how, when and for whom to pray along with sending Scripture and words of encouragement to my team.

Thursday morning (three days before my team was due to come back from Puerto Viejo) I was getting ready to go to the prayer room on base when God spoke, “Take off your boot and walk on your foot.” After a brief hesitation I took off my walking boot, planted my bare foot on the floor and began to walk. There was no pain. I stood there in disbelief while an excitement began to rise in me.

Saturday morning came (the day before my team was due to return from Puerto Viejo) and as I was getting ready for my day, walking boot on, God spoke saying, “Take off the boot and jump up and down.” I answered with, “Seriously?” God didn’t respond to that. LOL Obviously He was serious in what He was commanding me to do. So I took the boot off, placed my feet on the floor and started jumping up and down. There was no pain. My eyes quickly filled with tears that started streaming down my face as I said, “Thank you, God”, over and over again. Moments later the tears turned to laughter as I celebrated the fulfillment of God’s healing question to me days prior. Of course I knew He would heal me I just didn’t know when but when it happened, I knew my breakthrough had come in trusting God implicitly and that I would trust Him in all things from that moment on, no matter what.

Once my team returned Sunday morning, I shared God’s miracle healing with my roommates which was met with dropped jaws and questions of if I would be joining the team to finish outreach. Not only did I say a resounding, “YES!” but I would be going without my walking boot, as God had commanded. So, knowing all of that, I started my packing for the remainder of outreach with my team, which would be 6 weeks. Monday morning we packed our things on top of the YWAM van and stuffed 16 of us into the van and we were off!! Some of the places we visited and did ministry in were; Jaco, Cobano, Los Chiles, Moneteverde, Ciudad Quesada, Las Palmeras, Sarchi and more!

I found a bunch of orchid plants growing alongside a wall!!! Incredible! (taken at the Methodist Camp we stayed at in Ciudad Quesada, Alajuela, Costa Rica).

MORE beautiful flowers in Ciudad Quesada!!!

As I began my remaining outreach journey with my DTS family, in the back of my mind I knew that there was still one area that I was seeking a breakthrough in which was believing God completely. Believing Him for everything He had told, shown and promised me for my life. The struggle to take God at His word with those things seemed too fantastic for me because they were all my dreams, hopes and desires that, I guess, I just didn’t think would be fulfilled because of how much I wanted them. But I should have known God better than that, especially after ALL I had been experiencing with Him in the DTS alone!! But it was during a time of rest and refreshment in Cobano, Puntarenas, Costa Rica, that I received this final breakthrough. After a long week of ministry in Jaco, Puntarenas, our leaders brought us to this remote camp in Cobano to enjoy three days of restoration and fun to get ready for our next outreach demands.

Camp building in Cobano, Puntarenas, Costa Rica.

We arrived on a Monday and it was the next morning (Tuesday) that I went for a walk on the property to spend some quiet time with God after my own morning devotion. My walk brought me to a place in a forest by a flowing river and as I stood there gazing at all the beauty around me and resting in God’s presence, He suddenly spoke, “Do you trust me? Do you love me? Do you believe me?” I could answer, “Yes” confidently to all of them except the third one. I was still challenged in believing God for all the things that God had shown and told me since the beginning of DTS. Even my morning devotion challenged me by telling me that my unanswered prayers were only delays. I had been struggling with believing God for so many things but with this message in my morning devotional and my time with God in the forest, with Him challenging me, I was gaining confidence each time He would ask me the three questions.

I stood there for a few more moments until I heard the movement and sound of an ape in the trees to my left. As I began to listen to this creature, it seemed to be speaking to me, saying, “Walk.” I was a bit taken back and listened again to see if what I had heard was true and the ape ‘spoke’ again saying, “Walk.” So I started to walk back to the main house at the camp. When I got back, I noticed everyone was up in the open area of the building. I had forgotten about the special activity of waiting for God while being blindfolded that we would be doing. After apologizing to my leaders, I quickly found a place on the floor and blindfolded myself, then waited for God. It wasn’t long before God started asking me the same three questions He had been asking me in the forest.

A few moments later, one of my team leaders came next to me and began reading Ephesians 3:20-21. After she read it she said that God was telling her to tell me that I needed to trust and believe Him completely for everything, even when I don’t see anything or understand. That I should trust Him completely in and for all things because they are so much more incredible and unbelievable than I can possibly imagine. With all that, I started to cry and just kept repeating, over and over again, that I believed God. I told God I believed Him, confidently, when He asked me while I was blindfolded. My breakthrough had come. The one breakthrough I had been wanting for so long and especially during outreach. I now felt so strong and so confident. Then another of my leaders came and read James 5:16. Then another of my leaders came and read Isaiah 32:15-17 and then she told me that God wanted to reveal and show His plan for me. That He would show me in visions and images His path and plan for my life, which brought to mind all the things that He had already been doing during the lecture phase at the base with all the visions and dreams that He had given me plus everything He had been showing me during outreach and that it would all continue even after my time in DTS.

So many wonderful, extraordinary and difficult things happened in, through and for me during my time in Costa Rica. It’s difficult to pick just a couple things that stood out to me because it was the entire experience of DTS and my DTS family that served as the greatest source of challenge, stretching, discipline, humility and blessing (good and difficult) that has changed me in dramatic ways and that will remain with me for the rest of my life. Ways that can only be described in the things that God revealed to me while I was in Costa Rica like being; a woman of powerful prayer, a fearless and bold witness of God and His goodness to others, a spiritual mother, and a woman who loves, trusts and believes God completely in all situations....just to name a few.

More of God's majesty and beauty at one of our places of ministry, Ciudad Quesada, Alajuela, Costa Rica.

I have been changed in ways that are, at times, difficult to describe but I know, unequivocally, that I needed to go there and go through a transforming five months in order to be firmly set on the road that God always wanted me to be on for Him. I know that it will be a difficult road but it will also be one overflowing with surprises, blessings and miracles of every conceivable kind! And I’d rather live a life of difficulty and discomfort than miss out on God’s very best for me! I just can’t take that chance in not knowing what could have been if only I had done what God wanted me to do. There is extraordinary blessing in all that God calls us to do and be for Him. Far too extraordinary to miss out on!! :D

I received a BEAUTIFUL bouquet of flowers from the Dodero family on my graduation night!!

Graduation night of the July 2011 DTS!!! What a good lookin' group if I do say so!!! :D
Back Row (From left to right): Brayan, Jake, Morgan (leader), Joseph, Brandon, Kristen, Buka.
Front Row (From left to right): Me, Lauryn (leader), Elle, Becky, Cristina, Cheris, Montana, Marianela (leader), Jose (leader and husband to Marianela), Jimmy.

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