It’s taken me a long time to bring myself to write about my latest experience with YWAM. As I mentioned in earlier posts, I was basically raised in YWAM, as I had been involved with YWAM since from the age of eleven.

I also was raised in a very spiritually abusive church, where the pastor was the authority on all things spiritual and theological questioning was discouraged. My transition from spiritually-abusive-church to spiritually-abusive-ministry was very smooth, in fact, in the first 10 years or so of YWAM involvement, I saw YWAM as ‘saving’ me from an abusive church.

In the January of 1999, at the age of 18, I headed to Hong Kong to attend a Discipleship Training School with YWAM. Immediately, I felt much more accepted than I had at my home church; my fellow DTS students and I bonded quickly and formed long-lasting friendships.

The first week of DTS was about “breaking down strongholds” and we had a session of “repentance” with all YWAM staff and DTS students present. We were told to list all of the big sins in our lives, no matter how personal. To be honest, I had no ‘big’ sins to confess, so the leaders prodded my insecurity to find the hidden sins I harbored. They finally decided that I was guilty of the sin of pride because I had insecurity issues with my physical appearance. (What teenage girl doesn’t?) A male leader went on to tell me that I was not pretty, but God thought I was….gee, that helped my self-esteem.

Within a few weeks, it became apparent that the leaders of my DTS were hyper-vigilant against sexual sins of every kind. It was a very bizarre situation, they were practically gnostic in their beliefs on marriage and sex. The base directors constantly told us not to ‘be distracted’ from our calling by entering into marriage; according to them, marriage was evil and unholy.

Another issue was a prevalent teaching throughout YWAM on spiritual warfare. There was a teaching that satan was everywhere and had his hands in everything not deemed holy; any bad occurance was due to satan attacking the saints. Or there was another popular thought that there was ‘sin in the camp’ if some bad times came upon the base. At times, it seemed like there was a medieval witch hunt searching for the one who brought demonic attacks.

By the end of the DTS, the base directors approached me about joining their staff, but I declined. They warned me again about being distracted from a calling. I left my DTS with mixed feelings. God had worked in my life, but the ywam leaders had a strange brand of theology. -I second-guessed myself, believing that maybe I just misunderstood their teachings. I could not truly bring myself to believe that ywam was flawed. I felt maybe I just needed to study more.

Fast-forward to 2007.

My husband (DH) was laid off from his job, my mother committed suicide, and my family felt we needed to get out of our hometown to re-evaluate our lives. My husband had been wanting to attend a DTS, and the timing seemed perfect. In January of 2007, our family, including our 2 young children, traveled to Hong Kong for him to attend the DTS.

I was expecting to be welcomed back to the base with open arms, but I found a very cold and callous reception. I was treated very badly by one leader in particular who had been a leader during my DTS. Eventually it became clear as to why I was being treated badly. -Marriage was not holy and I was a ‘sinner’ for being distracted from my call.

My husband is highly educated (MBA) and an intellectual and he had an especially hard time during the DTS.

The lecture phase of my husband’s DTS went fairly smoothly, except when he voiced concern over teachings that were in direct contradiction to the Bible. My husband was tactful, be he was quickly marked a “trouble-maker” and was chastised by the DTS leader. In fact, the leader was perfectly ok with incorrect theology being taught. From then on, it was downhill for our family, including my two children, ages 2 & 5. Our family was shunned and gossip was rampant. We were unliked because we wanted the base to teach sound doctrine.

The time came for outreach and it was decided that our family would only travel with the team for 2 weeks, then we were to go to another city on our own. Simply, the leadership didn’t want us near the younger team members because we believed in questioning troublesome theology.

We flew to a large southwestern city in China where we were met by our missionary sponsor. For his security, I will call him “Mark”. I knew Mark from my DTS, as he and his wife were leaders at the Hong Kong base. My husband and I felt that we would have a productive and positive experience during our outreach, but unfortunately, that was not the case.

Mark thought of himself as a bold evangelist living in China, and he thought nothing of teaching Christianity in his college English classes. My husband was mortified when Mark told the students that he was the same as Mark. Spouting religion is a good way of a one-way ticket out of China, so we felt Mark was very foolish. The only “ministry” DH took part in was grading and teaching for Mark’s English class, along with the occasional visit to a Bible study.

Unfortunately, DH felt at one time comfortable in sharing with Mark some issues he had with his DTS lecture phase, such as the screwy theology and the gossip. This came back to haunt us later.

DH and our family arrived back in Hong Kong at the conclusion of our outreach and found that the mood was even more hostile towards us. Our DTS ended with a ‘love feast’ in which we report back, give testimonies, awards are given, etc. Our family was segregated to the back of the room & none of the fellow DTSers or staff would even talk to us. I tried not to be too sensitive, but it was a very humiliating experience.

After the ‘love feast’, it was time for the debriefing with the base directors and the DTS leader. DH thought everything would go well because he had learned and grown and had improved himself during the time in Asia. Wham! The female base director screamed at DH and told him he had no value, and no personal character. She continued on a hateful tirade for 30 mins. and would not allow DH to even defend himself. It takes a lot for DH to cry and this woman had reduced him to hysterics. As it turned out, Mark had told all that DH had told him in confidence to the base directors.

Basically, we were “evil” because we believed in questioning the leadership who acted inappropriately. The base leaders said we were in rebellion because we did not obey their every command and did not revere them.

After the completion of the DTS, we asked if we could stay for a week or two while we searched for an apartment in Hong Kong. We paid the rent and fees completely and DH was required to do heavy, physical labor at the base during the day. DH had a gout attack and asked to do less physical work, but he was not allowed any break from the physical work. He worked on in terrible pain and eventually the leaders came to him saying that they did not want him near the base anymore because he was too “negative”. We were also told we had just a few days to vacate the apartment we were renting from the base. We had no where to go. It was Hong Kong’s 10 year anniversary of the return to China, so all hotels were full. In effect, we were going to be homeless and on the streets of Hong Kong with our children.

Thankfully, we had met two other couples who had also left the YWAM base (under similar circumstances) and these wonderful people were able to help us find a translator to find us an apartment. We found an apartment in the very same village that the YWAM base was in & the landlady allowed us to move in right away, 3 days for free, so that we would not be homeless. During the negotiations with our translator and our new landlady, the landlady asked if we were “with the other foreigners” – meaning the YWAM base. We came to find that the YWAM base had a very bad reputation in the village.

The people of Hong Kong, particularly in the rural New Territories where we lived, speak Cantonese; however, the base leadership would never be bothered to learn any Cantonese. They always would speak in Mandarin to the villagers. There was absolutely no outreach to the village the base inhabited. The base is locked away behind a big, black gate and the villagers do not trust those who work with YWAM there.

Our landlady would not have rented to us if we had been with YWAM…we see now how well God took care of us when the situation was “impossible”. Despite the base leaders’ best efforts to discredit and harm us, the Lord gave us a home and a good reputation in the village.

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