I graduated from Alexis I. du Pont High School in Wilmington, Delaware, in June of 1976 and immediately left for YWAM (Youth With A Mission) and the Discipleship Training School in Hammonton, New Jersey.
I had given my life to the Lord in a juvenile detention center in Monroe, Louisiana, a day or so after a little country preacher picked me up while I was hitchhiking to Florida and bought me a Dairy Queen hamburger which I scarfed down while he shared the gospel with me.
Pretty soon after that encounter with God my aunt and uncle came and took me to live with them which is how I got to Wilmington via Oklahoma City and the Sunbeam Home. I was never a stellar student, being more interested in getting high and shooting pool that sitting in a classroom, but I somehow managed to graduate by the skin of my dentist's daughters teeth.
At that point college was not even a consideration. The last thing I wanted was more schooling! Besides, my zeal for the Lord made me eager to follow in my friend Ellis' footsteps and head for Hammonton and missionary life.
The DTS was three months long with two to three daily sessions of lectures by various pastors, staff members, YWAM leadership and other Christian teachers. Between the staff and students, there were probably 70-75 people who lived in community on the base that first year I was there.
After the DTS came the "practical application and ministry" phase where we learned to put into practice the things we had learned in the classroom, in our "flock groups," in our private prayer times and in corporate living. To that end, we piled onto school buses and drove all the way from the Pine Barrens of New Jersey to La Paz, Mexico at the very tip of the Baja Peninsula.
It wasn't total misery and "opportunities for growth." We stopped along the way we ministered in various churches and stayed in people's homes for a night or two until it was time to hit the road again armed with Spanish Bibles and the Spanish scripture choruses we had diligently learned to sing and strum on our guitars.
We set up camp and pitched tents just outside of La Paz, but seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and began various forms of ministry to the poverty stricken region.
There was a single concrete building where we held the evening worship and teaching sessions and which, along with your flash- light, was the only source of artificial light after dark.
I went for a walk by myself one night and followed a dirt path that led to a large concrete slab. I have no idea what purpose it served, but for some reason I decided to stop and have a seat and as I did, I tilted my head back and looked up into the ebony sky.
The weather was perfect and the night was as black as the velvet on sidewalk Elvis painting. Stars littered the heavens from one horizon to the other. The longer I looked the more my eyes adjusted and the more sparkling flecks of blue and white I could see.
My heart began to overflow with a deep sense of the awesome majesty of the great and mighty God of the universe, the King and Creator of all things. At that moment, my heart was so filled with a deep and fierce need to know God and to know He knew me that I jumped up, ran back to my tent, grabbed my Bible, bolted for the concrete building and with tears spilling down my cheeks, begged God to speak to me.
I was young, only 18, and I had only been a Christian about three years. I hadn't yet experienced God speaking directly to me through His word. But I was overcome by some unseen, inner compulsion for Him to do just that. I also was not very familiar with the Bible and had no idea where to start reading.
I flipped the book open and my eyes fell on this verse in Isaiah 40:26, "Lift up your eyes on high and see who has created these stars, the One who leads forth their host by number, He calls them all by name; because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power not one of them is missing."
It is impossible to describe the profoundness of that moment. The great "I AM" the Ancient of Days, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, had just spoken to me as surely as if He were sitting right next to me in the flesh.
I was overwhelmed by the goodness of God, by His incredible love for me, by His omniscience, by the beauty of His living word and with His very presence.
I went out again to be by myself and bask in the richness of it all. His presence was such a deluge that I could only absorb it. I couldn't even respond with worship and praise though I longed to be able to. But all attempts seemed so puny and shallow in the face of such great love that I simply let my heart express the inexpres- sible praises that flowed from it in wave after wave of adoration and thanksgiving and awe.
To this day that remains one of my favorite memories and one of my favorite verses in Scripture. Because it stamped on my heart an assurance of the deeply profound and intimate love God has for all of His created beings, and for me personally.
"To God be the glory, great things He has done!" For you. For me. For the world.
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