Tag Archive: SST


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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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