Tag Archive: DTS


Long time, no post.
This blog has taken on a life of its own, facilitating a necessary  outlet for those who are or have been in YWAM, as well as their family members.

I would love to hear stories from former YWAMers:

How did you leave?

Were you kicked out?

 

Open discussion is welcome. Let the healing begin.

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I’m back…again.

There’s a time and a season for everything and for the last year and a half, I left this blog in order to attend to family concerns. I would check the blog occasionally, finding that it had taken on a life of its own without any maintenance. I discovered the posts and comments were cathartic to many, many individuals; a site for connection and reassurance.

It had become something I had wished had existed for me when I first realized the damage done to me by spiritual leaders…yet I could not find a site for former YWAMers like me.

I’m so happy that my venture into sharing my experiences with YWAM were able to foster hope, communication, and discussion and ultimately healing to so many. I pray it continues.

Be blessed,

Jen

Groupthink

8 main symptoms of groupthink:

1. Illusion of Invulnerability: Members ignore obvious danger, take extreme risk, and are overly optimistic.

2. Collective Rationalization: Members discredit and explain away warning contrary to group thinking.

3. Illusion of Morality: Members believe their decisions are morally correct, ignoring the ethical consequences of their decisions.

4. Excessive Stereotyping:The group constructs negative sterotypes of rivals outside the group.

5. Pressure for Conformity: Members pressure any in the group who express arguments against the group’s stereotypes, illusions, or commitments, viewing such opposition as disloyalty.

6. Self-Censorship: Members withhold their dissenting views and counter-arguments.

7. Illusion of Unanimity: Members perceive falsely that everyone agrees with the group’s decision; silence is seen as consent.

8. Mindguards: Some members appoint themselves to the role of protecting the group from adverse information that might threaten group complacency.

 

In my time within YWAM and a spiritually abusive church, I encountered all of these put forth by Irving Janis in  Decision making: A psychological analysis of conflict, choice, and commitment.

Any thoughts?

Shunned

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Have you ever been shunned?

In my earlier posts, I related some of the spiritual abuse my family and I received in YWAM and I would like to use some other incidents in YWAM on the subject of shunning. (If you have not read my previous posts, I suggest you read them here and here to catch up.)

Within a few weeks of my husband’s DTS, it became apparent that the base leaders considered us ‘troublemakers’ because we questioned unbiblical teachings. My husband was counseled to be more “teachable” and to not voice his opinions and for the most part, he tried to respect the leaders of the base by keeping quiet.

After our outreach was completed, the love feast was over, and the screaming from the female base leader subsided, my husband and I decided that we wanted to remain in Hong Kong and make a home for our family there. My husband is very well educated and had job leads from a V.P. of a major US company in Hong Kong, so he decided it was time to go to a tailor and have a suit made for future interviews. All this time we were still living at the base and my husband worked every day, all day doing hard physical labor so that we could stay at the base for just a short while after his DTS. (This was on top of the astronomical fees we were paying to stay there)

On a Saturday, his day off, we made our way to a tailor for my husband to be fitted for a business suit. A few days later, my husband was to pick up his suit after his work duties were finished. When the base leaders found out that my husband planned on getting a job in Hong Kong, they flew off the handle and forbid him to do so. They said they heard from G-d and that it wasn’t His will “thus saith the L-rd”. Just a few days later, we were told to vacate the apartment we had been paying for and my husband had been slaving for with only 2 days to get out.

We were terrified, yet we knew G-d would take care of us and our two small children. We asked a YWAM staff member who was a native Hong Konger if she would translate for us when we enquired about an apartment one evening. We made sure our meeting with a local landlady would not infringe on our YWAMer friend’s ‘duties’, and it was to take place on her own free time.

Our meeting time came and went and there was no sign of our Cantonese-speaking YWAM friend. We then went to the base to find here and we were met by the male base leader. He stopped us from going further into the base and he said that he would not allow our translator friend to help us because she did not ask the leadership’s permission! We both defended her and said she was helping us as a friend on her own personal time, but he would not listen. He said that he did not want us living in the same village as them because we “would give them a bad name”. The base leader looked at us with a wild, paranoid look in his eyes and threw us out of the base. The YWAM leadership told their staff to shun us, because we were ‘evil’.

We cried, we were freaked out by the encounter with the base leader who not only treated us badly, but caused our Chinese YWAMer friend to lose face. We DID find a translator, and the very next day, met with the local landlady. The local landlady asked if we were with the YWAM base, because she did not want to have anything to do with the YWAMers in the village. She thought they were strange, rude and not to be trusted because of her own dealings with YWAM in the village.

On the verge of homelessness (we were kicked out on the eve of the anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the PRC, with no hotel rooms available), our non-Christian local landlady showed us great kindness. She allowed us to spend the night in our newly acquired apartment even though we were not to begin renting for 2 days, in fact, she did not charge us for the 2 extra days. We quickly moved from the YWAM apartment to our new home-sweet-home. When our landlady saw we had no furniture, she immediately carried up a table with four chairs, and 3 bed mattresses. We were overwhelmed by the kindness of a stranger, when we had been treated so cruelly by a YWAM.

godsend Our “godsend” apartment after being mistreated by YWAM.

I would be very interested to hear from other YWAMers about what they think of the base leadership shunning us. Also, I’d like to hear what people think of the huge control the base leaders have over staff members. I have heard many stories from other YWAMers being micromanaged by their leadership in many bases around the world.


I feel that it is time for me to ask for input from others who have been abused in YWAM and survived. There are so many people coming to my blog because they are walking wounded from their time with YWAM.

If you have come out the other side from YWAM mistreatment, would you be brave enought to tell your story to help another?

If you do not want your name or base printed, that is perfectly fine. I understand firsthand that there can be a great out-lash at those who speak up. You will find this a safe medium to tell your story.

If so, please send your story to:

chasing.truth@yahoo.com

I pray that those who have been abused can find hope through this blog.

Jen

Whether you are leaving YWAM because of a painful experience and seeking a place of refuge on the ‘outside’, or leaving to join the world again, it is a painful transition.

Many of my friends who have left YWAM over the years found the journey back into regular society harder than expected, fraught with false starts and unfinished plans. The sheer culture shock can be overwhelming to the point that many, including myself, find it difficult to find a place in the world sans YWAM.

Discipleship Training school (DTS) is often called a “honeymoon with God” and that YWAMers who complete the DTS are “ruined for the ordinary”. Being ruined for the so-called ordinary can truly ruin what one can and cannot accomplish outside of YWAM. –Over the years, I have kept in contact with my YWAM friends and have been able to see how their YWAM experience affected how they viewed the world and how they made their way into non-communal life. My closest friends in YWAM were so negatively affected by their time in the organization that to this day- nearly 10 years after DTS- they do not know who they are or what they are ‘meant’ to do. College was not attended, plans were not followed through, floundering around was the mainstay. I found this to be true for myself as well.

My time in YWAM permanently burned an image in my mind of who I should be; I was told that the only reason for being was to know God and to make Him known. If I were not involved in missions, my life was worthless, because being a missionary –especially a destitute one- was a holy calling. Leaving YWAM was the most painful emotional time in my life. Although my time in YWAM was filled with tremendous spiritual abuse, I was utterly lost, no direction, no idea of what to do next.

Most YWAM bases have a debriefing at the end of DTS for those going back to their lives, and I went through this debriefing after my DTS as well. When I returned home, I found that I had changes, whereas my friends, church and pastor had remained the same. It was difficult for my friends to adjust to the ‘new’ me and I was on such a spiritual high after DTS, I had problems relating to them. I thought, “Why aren’t they winning souls? Reaching out to the lost?” Remember, my whole reason for being was to be a missionary, so I could not understand why everyone else didn’t drop everything to go.

I did what many after DTS do. I applied to yet another YWAM school, because that was what I was encouraged to do. I applied for a School of Frontier Missions (SOFM) and I was accepted, however, the financial support never came through. People promised money for my career as a destitute, un-college educated missionary, but they never came through. I was absolutely devastated. What was I to do? All my self-worth was in missions.

Eventually I found a job, but I floundered for years, not knowing what to do with my time in YWAM. I worked off and on with short term YWAM projects, but always felt that something was lacking. I attempted college, but failed at that. All I could think of was going back to YWAM – being a missionary.

My friends from YWAM had a similar path over the last 9 years. I’ve talked to many others who served with YWAM who felt lost as well. What does one do after YWAM?

Thankfully, after my latest brush with YWAM, I was able to make a clean break and remove the doctrine I learned in DTS from my mind. Finally, I can separate myself from what I learned in YWAM and find myself, reconnect with family and friends and belong in the ‘real’ world. It took time and a lot of painful growth, relearning of who I am and what I am truly meant to do.

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.

My earliest memories of YWAM were from the age of six. Our church hosted a special presentation, a drama, called Toymaker and Son. I was in awe of the dancing and drama and the beautiful costumes and make-up. I have always been drawn to the “artsy” side of life. I spoke with one of the YWAMers in the troupe and told her I wanted to do the same thing when I grew up.

The church I was raised in regularly accommodated YWAM teams over the years, so I was was very accustomed to the way and teachings of YWAM. Afterall, YWAM’s teachings mirrored what my home church taught.

I began to go on mission trips with YWAM at the age of eleven. In the beginning, everything was a wonderful experience and I truly felt that I was making a difference. When I was 15, I attended a Summer of Service and Training (SST) with the YWAM Tyler base. This was the base I was most familiar with and many young people from my church had attended a DTS at Tyler.

The SST took place in Atlanta, GA during the 1996 Summer Olympic games. I went with two friends from my church youth group. We were picked up from the airport and taken to the “church” we would be living at for the next month while we ministered. The church, however, was really a burned-out, rodent-infested, rainsoaked (roof was caving in) warehouse. Really, it was shocking, and I had worked in the cardboard villages in Mexico, but this was worse. There were definite safety concerns and my female teammate called home immediately and begged her parents to fly her back home. Within a day, she was gone and her parents were enraged by the conditions YWAM was allowing 12-21 year olds to live in for a month.

I toughed it out, but I was scared to death, as I had to tread through ankle deep water (full of who knows what with hundreds of people tracking through it all day) just to get to the bathroom. Within a couple of days, out SST leaders called a meeting and said that Satan was attacking our ministry in Atlanta. Apparently, the media found that about 500 teenagers were living in a burned-out, condemned warehouse and the media swarmed the YWAM encampment. Our leaders told us we had to be relocated to another church, but in order to leave, we had to sneak out the back so the media wouldn’t see us. In fact, our leaders said that they didn’t want city officials to know 500 youth were staying in the warehouse….definitely something illegal was going on. I wanted to leave, but I felt I had to ‘prove’ my worthiness of being a missionary, and I was convinced all of the media hype was a demonic attack on YWAM. I couldn’t bring myself to thing YWAM might do something underhanded or illegal.

All 500 of us were relocated to a church gymnasium in a suburb of Atlanta. We began to have intense teaching and small group sessions. SST was considered a mini-DTS and this was the first time I was introduced to the popular Third Wave teachings of C. Peter Wagner, Winkie Pratney, George Otis Jr., and the Moral Government Theology. Our worship times many times lasted hours, while there were many “manifestations” of charismatic/pentecostal “gifts”. Speaking in tongues, dancing wildly, screaming, etc. were common-place and at times, scary. Although I came from a charismatic/pentecostal church, disorder was not encouraged, however at YWAM, disorder was the mainstay.

When it came time for the 500 of us to be put into ministry teams, I went forward to volunteer for the music ministry since I had a lot of experience in music and drama ministry. The leaders in charge refused to allow me to be in music ministry, even though I had the ability and gifting to do so. I was confused. Later, I realized why I hadn’t been picked. The leaders paraded the chosen musical youth on stage and the reason was so obvious. The girls chosen were tall, slender, model-esque and well, sexy. I was short, a bit chubby, nonetheless cute, but not sexy as the girls chosen. This was one side of YWAM that I have found throughout. -The “beautiful people” are preferred and chosen for key leadership, although the talent may not back the looks.

The culmination of my SST in Atlanta was a YWAM-wide meeting in a rented out ballroom. Thousands of YWAMers crowded into the ballroom and we awaited out speaker. We had already heard from Winkie Pratney, Leland Paris, and many other big names. This time, we were to hear from Loren Cunningham himself. The crowd was in a frenzy. When Loren Cunningham took the stage, the awe from the group was palatable. I personally was in shock. I took over 30 pictures of him. Now, looking back as an adult, I see that I had placed Loren Cunningham on a pedestal, but also most of the YWAMers in the ballroom did as well.

For years I was in denial that YWAM could possibly be a cult. I just couldn’t bring myself to think that YWAM could in any way be corrupt, but after opening my mind, using the reasoning abilities God gave me, and doing a lot of research, I see that there is so much wrong.

I know many sincere people in YWAM, many kind people in the organization, but there is definitely something wrong with the organization as a whole.

I write this not to bash YWAM, but I write this as a beacon of hope to those who may stuck in an abusive group, whether it’s YWAM or another group. There is a way out, but thinking outside the box of what you were taught is extremely painful. It can be disillusioning. Thankfully, God has brought me and my family out of our recent experience with YWAM (I will write on that in a future post), and I hope others will find their way out of spiritually abusive organizations.

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