For some of you, you might have followed our first pioneering effort of trying to re-establish YWAM in Tahiti. There was so much excitement and hope! So many things that clicked into place for us! Encouragement from friends, leaders, and prayer times. It was an amazing journey sharing life with incredible new people. We even had a baby along the way!
After a long visa process we moved to Tahiti! We loved having company and walking around the community getting to know the Tahitian people in our area. We didn’t have a car but I loved walking everywhere because I felt more connected to the community. It was an island in the South Pacific that had such a strong French influence. We had learned some French and needed to have some functional competency to get around in our everyday living. Not only was I learning French but I had an ambitious motivation of trying to learn Tahitian on top of that. I felt a personal connection with the culture and a fondness for the people. It was like I was in my element and thriving in every area relationally, spiritually, emotionally and even physically. I lost 20 lbs in a few weeks just from walking.
I saw this as a chance to see God revealed in Tahiti and an island transformed through economy, government, family, and media! My experience in Tahiti taught me how to break the walls down between what I thought was life and what I thought was ministry. Missionary living wasn’t about setting up a bunch of programs and feeding people through them to make them good Christians. Missional living was something that was no longer just an out there concept that I was trying to grasp. Revealing God and inviting others to follow Jesus was no longer a program. There was a messiness about mankind that Jesus not only died to redeem, but a messiness that he was willing to be a part of and abide with while showing how to have relationship with each other and with God. I felt like I was thriving in Tahiti! On the other hand, it was a different story for Tessa as her experience was more challenging but for now I’m telling my side of the story. She can share her side another time ;)
While we were in the middle of hosting our third outreach team, I received a call from Alaska. It was my father telling me that mom might not survive the night. I was on a plane the next day. I had so many thoughts racing through my mind. Praying as much as I could trying to stir faith and hope in the situation, calling on God. I arrived to Alaska to find my mother in a coma suffering from critical heart failure. Doctors explained to me and my father that she might not make it through the night, every night for three weeks. I was fighting a losing battle against an emotional and spiritual numbness. A sick despair filled me every time I tried praying. This was one of the darkest times in mine and my parents lives. Despite those feelings I was inspired by my fathers unwavering commitment of sacrificial love and loyalty to his wife.
My mother recovered after a year of hospital visits and physical therapy. She had been medevaced to Seattle and had open heart surgery. Tessa and Mateo had left Tahiti to join me for what we thought would be a temporary stay. I think we changed our tickets back to Tahiti nearly four times at the last minute before we realized that it just wasn’t in the cards for us to move back. I was fully convinced that we needed to return as quickly as possible. We had prayed every single time and each time God kept telling us to be with my parents in Seattle and honor them by helping my mother recover. Initially we always knew that we would be in Tahiti short term. That was just our impression when we prayed about it, but for us short term meant two to three years not six months! When I realized that we would not be returning to Tahiti to continue pioneering and that we would need to forfeit our residency that’s when the reality of it all started setting in. David and Erin Burr, along with their lovely daughter Malia, were another family who were called to Tahiti long term. They came out of YWAM Honolulu and we converged together with YWAM Island Breeze in Sydney. They were our team leaders. David and Erin were incredibly supportive of us through every step of our situation! I didn’t feel held back and there was always an emphatic open door to return. Yet, I still couldn’t help my personal sense of obligation to the standard I was holding myself to and it felt like I was abandoning them. It felt like a huge loss and a personal failure.
When I traveled to Tahiti to pack up all our belongings and say goodbye to everyone, the suddenness of it all and leaving while feeling incomplete was a difficult pill to swallow. Even though the circumstances weren’t mine or anyone else’s fault, I felt a need to blame something or someone. It felt like my emotions were compounding because I didn’t know how to unload them. It was frustrating and unhealthy as it led to resentment and anger. Even though it was such an incredible turn of events to see my mother recover to a state of health I hadn’t seen her in for years, it wasn’t enough to dissipate the internal issues that that I had. I went through this personal darkness and time of depression through most of 2014 and 2015 not realizing that what I was experiencing was grief and loss of what could have been in Tahiti. I love and respect my parents so much! I would do it all over again because family is important! If God’s people can’t share love and give hope to their families then how does the Kingdom of God get revealed to the world if not through redeemed and restored families of the church?
In 2015, we had joined YWAM Ships Kona. Even though we were leading DTS right off the bat after just joining staff, I was still afflicted with this inner turmoil. It was a big bummer but I closed myself off from thinking or talking about Tahiti. I was in such a ragged state spiritually and emotionally that I was just desperate for something to happen. Some cathartic, spiritual breakthrough that I really only believed God could accomplish. Sure enough, while I was watching a YouTube video of Todd White it happened and I can’t explain it fully. I didn’t normally listen to Todd’s sermons before but after YouTube surfing I landed on his channel and just found myself watching it. It was a message on the brokenness of mankind and the need for all of mankind to experience restoration that only Jesus can give so that we can experience humanity how God intended. Todd had a time of prayer and worship at the end of his message. The next thing I know, I’m lying face down weeping into our carpet in our room at YWAM Ships, experiencing what I can only describe as a personal revival in my heart! Did I say I was weeping? I meant ugly crying. Like snot bubbles, fountains of tears, drool, clutching my chest with my face buried in our gross green shaggy carpet that’s older than me– if Tessa had walked into our room and saw me right then she would have called for a doctor or something. In that moment I literally felt the resentment, brokenness, and bitterness turn into forgiveness, joy, hope and grace! That week I had a new ravenous hunger for prayer, the Bible, new love for my family and people around me. My outlook was more positive and for the first time for nearly two years I felt renewed and restored. God used a recorded Todd White message on YouTube to heal my heart. This was nothing short of miraculous!
However, even though I had that personal healing what still remained was a wariness to step out in new vision. Long story short, in 2007 I had so many words about pioneering and planting multiple locations for the purpose of gathering and building up communities in their knowledge of God and the teachings of Jesus. Even though I had that direction early on, I knew it would take years for the development in my character, gifts, calling and personal vision before I could pioneer. I did as much intentional growth in this area by meeting with other pioneers and interviewing as many base directors as possible for years while leading discipleship training schools. To this day I still have all those notes and documents from years of study. It was about this time that I recognized a strategy of progressive development in “learning” to pioneer that could take many years and several locations. I didn’t mind because I knew that I was going to be a lifelong missionary through YWAM.
Vancouver Island originally entered my radar randomly back in 2009 while I was still in Australia. By 2011 it was among two others locations (Tahiti and Queenstown) that I was narrowing down for pioneering. In case you wanted to see what happened in Queenstown, check it out here!
It’s been interesting serving in YWAM here in Kona. I was hoping that this could be a long term home for our family but there was always a sense in the back of my mind that it was an interim for pioneering again, especially because we had joined at a unique time where YWAM Ships Kona was very much in a different stage of pioneering. We knew there was a lot that we could contribute at its current stage. We were just given a ship called the Pacific Link and that meant a huge effort for developing operations that Tessa was able to contribute towards. A few things I focused on was student mobilization into missions, growing in my love for reading and studying the Bible, and leadership development. As I did that, there was a growing conviction to move to Vancouver Island and start a new YWAM base. I kept tucking this away not wanting to engage with it until January 2017 when Tessa had set aside intentional time to seek the Lord about it. Regardless how hesitant I felt, God was stirring up new vision by reminding me of my calling and commitment to pioneer. We took the year to position ourselves for this move trying to find people who could take on our roles by 2018..
I can’t say that it was easy to shift our focus from Tahiti to Kona to Vancouver Island. But when I stepped back and looked at all the pieces together, I have an assurance that we’re moving in the right direction with Jesus continually saying, “Follow me.” It’s taken time but now I am fully embracing a new hope and new vision for Vancouver Island, for Nanaimo. I desire to form Kingdom communities that reveals God! I want to champion young people again. When we prayed we felt that we should start pioneering by coming in as servants to the city. Serving alongside existing ministries and not starting our own programs for the first year. And not just servants of Christian circles but looking to contribute towards the broader community life of Nanaimo! We want to grow into a springboard to mobilize people and First Nations into global communities that have yet to hear of the message of Jesus. Our hope is that our efforts can show the hope that is yet to come when God’s Kingdom is fully realized on earth and Jesus is revealed as the Perfect King of Peace for every nation!
Thanks for taking the time to read! I hope this fills in some of the gaps of our journey!
SPECIAL THANK YOU