Before I go any further telling you about my experiences in DTS, here’s some background information: YWAM (which stands for Youth With A Mission) is a global interdenominational mission organization centered around the purpose of knowing God and making Him known. This purpose mainly expresses itself in three areas of work—evangelism, mercy ministries, and training—and the DTS (or Discipleship Training School) program is one of the main ways in which YWAM is trains new missionaries and workers. The students in this six or five-month course deepen their knowledge of God and get practical training before being sent out on mission trips to apply the lessons that they have learned.
I would recommend DTS to anyone who wants to have a deeper relationship with God and increased effectiveness in expressing His love to others. I would, however, also warn prospective students that DTS is intense. One of my school’s lecturers compared DTS to trying to drink water out a fire hydrant. I’d say this was an apt comparison—in DTS, I learned far more than I was able to remember and apply all at once!
The first phase of the school, lasting for three months, was spent learning from different lecturers, some of whom came from here in Japan but also others from as far away as New Zealand and South Africa. The topics of the lectures were as diverse as the lecturers themselves, ranging from personal ones (like strengthening your relationship with God) to outward-focused ones (like pushing back Satan’s influence in the world). I was able to process all of these teachings through journal writing exercises as well as in conversations with my one-on-one: a staff member assigned to help me navigate through the things I was learning. There were about 180 hours of lectures, so I obviously can’t share in this single blog post all that I learned. But I think I might write a post in the future providing basic summaries for the things that I learned during this phase.
The lecture phase was followed by a two-month outreach phase in which we had the opportunity to put into practice the different things we had learned. For the first half of my outreach, I went to Chiang Mai Province in northern Thailand. My team spent its first two weeks in the city working with a radical Thai evangelist called Pat. The remainder of our time in Thailand was spent in Chai Prakan, a district in the far north of Thailand, near its border with Burma. Here we worked with Sila Home, a Christian children’s home providing love and care for forty children and youth.
My experiences in Thailand shattered my preconceptions about what Christian work can look like. I had expected to be doing “spiritual” things on my outreach, like preaching the Gospel and praying for people. And both of these things had happened… but we also did many other very physical things like planting watermelon seeds and building a concrete foundation. These things didn’t fit neatly into my understanding of what missionary work should look like, but they were done for the sake of showing God’s love and now I have no doubt that they were valid and valuable expressions of service. I’m grateful for the way in which this trip helped me to embrace a more holistic definition of Christian ministry.
For the second half of my outreach phase, I went to the gorgeous prefectures of Yamagata, Miyagi, and Fukushima in Japan’s Tohoku—or Northeast—Region. In each of these places, we worked together with different churches that were already making beautiful impacts on their local communities.
My time in Yamagata, Miyagi, and Fukushima deepened my love for the Tohoku Region. Actually, Tohoku has had a special place in my heart ever since I visited Iwate and Miyagi back in 2011 for volunteer work following that year’s devastating tsunami. By getting to spend time in Tohoku again, my eyes were opened even more to the region’s natural and cultural beauty as well as the people’s deep spiritual needs.
After our time in Tohoku, we came back to Tokyo for one final week of lectures. Then, the both anticipated and dreaded day of our graduation came. In the graduation ceremony, each of us students was affirmed for the growth that we had demonstrated through the course of the school. Then, through a time of prayer, we were commissioned as new missionaries.
Thinking back over my time in DTS, I realize that in addition to all of the lessons learned through the lectures, I was able to learn many valuable things just by living in community. I actually think that this might be one of the best things about DTS: DTS is an amazing experiment in modern monastic living. I believe that everything from the daily times of worship to the intentional pursuit of life-speaking and even the work duties had a positive effect in building my character.
Having completed DTS, the big question everyone has been asking me is: “What are you gonna do next?” My honest answer is: I don’t know. In the short term, I think I might need to set aside some time to rest and recover my strength. I was overworking before DTS started and DTS wasn’t exactly a vacation. But in the long term, I really want to be involved in taking the gospel to unreached areas of the Tohoku Region. Before I do this, though, I would like to deepen my knowledge of the Bible and be mentored by seasoned disciples of Jesus. I’m currently asking God how I should pursue these things.
Anyhow, this has been my attempt to provide a concise account of my time in DTS. I realize that it ran a bit long for a “concise account,” but I hope you enjoyed reading it and if you helped support my time in DTS, either through prayer or through donating, I hope you feel that you contributed to a worthy cause. Also, I think I will be supplementing this post in the coming weeks with more detailed accounts of each of the phases of the school, so please stay tuned for future posts!
(One way that you can stay tuned is by clicking the “Sign Me Up!” button. This button should be in the left corner of the screen for PC users, and somewhere near the bottom of the page for those on mobile devices.)