Can a divorced person dare to be a missionary? More importantly, can a divorced single mother of 4 children go and bring her children with her? Although there was a time I would have asked that common question, I now would have to ask: “Can a divorce mother afford NOT to bring her kids into a missionary community such as ours?” The change for me came from meeting several families who are doing just that here in Youth with a Mission.
I am continually surprised about the variety of people and backgrounds represented here who have chosen to step out into missions. Being divorced myself, I did not realize how many divorced people have found their way to this campus. One such person whose story is a prime example of that is Louise.
Although raised in the church in Australia, Louise Brown had a significant personal encounter with the Lord at the age of 13. Later, in her thirties, she was a married woman with 4 children. Louise could not have known that events would occur, which led them into being divorced only a short time later. Many feel disqualified for Christian service after going through a divorce, so I am glad to see that Louise has taken the tragedy of divorce and used it to launch into a series of overseas mission experiences. Her children have gone with her on most of these trips. Her oldest is Anna, now 16 and the only girl, followed by Matthew who is now 14, Jack who is 10, and Patrick is 8.
Louise told me that after the divorce, she knew she either would have to step toward God or away from Him. There was no middle ground. She made a conscious choice to take the risk of using her finances toward an investment in following God rather than fearing for her future and going into what I call “damage control”, which would have been a natural reaction.
So, in a decision that would affect the family for many years to come, she enrolled in the family Discipleship Training school in MataMata, New Zealand with her children.
She was unaware that DTS was the gateway to many more ministry opportunities. For those new to YWAM, there are schools ranging from art and design, dance, theater, photography, filmmaking, to wilderness adventure training, family ministries counseling, and literally dozens more that can be combined with a DTS toward a degree. Many students complete the initial discipleship school in order to go on to a specific training of their choice. Yet Louise was not thinking of any of those things. She just wanted to lead herself and her children closer to God, one step at a time.
The school’s three month classroom phase was followed by a two months outreach in the Cook Islands of the South Pacific. This experience would lead to more YWAM schools. Louise has finished Family Ministry School, and then served on staff of the same school later. She has also finished a Discipleship Bible School, a Principles of Children and Youth Ministry School, and she is now finishing a School of Evangelism in preparation to be long term staff here in Tyler. Throughout this process, she and her children have lived in many varied places, such as the South Pacific, England, and Switzerland. They also were able to take a vacation throughout Norway and Scandinavian countries, staying with new friends they had met through the various YWAM schools!
Her children have enjoyed the world travelling experiences they have had. They have had a much richer education than the average children their age, growing up with the world as their classroom. Louise said that the hardest part of this lifestyle for the children is the leaving of friends each time they move. However, they have made new friends here. Together, they've made full use of the numerous fishing ponds, also playing soccer. and having full run of the large gymnasium. It is this that makes me consider that life on a mission base may the best thing for a family that has gone through any kind of tragedy or split. Instead of the self-imposed isolation we tend to bring on ourselves, it is all the more important now to enjoy the benefits of a larger family life provided in a Christian community like this.
After all their travels, I was surprised to learn that it is here at YWAM Tyler Louise’s children began to have a spiritual breakthrough of their own. While Louise attended the School of Evangelism here, her kids were enrolled in a program unique to YWAM Tyler called “Family Sync." Here the kids are exposed to the same teaching each week as the adults are, only at an age appropriate level. It was during the teaching on waiting on God and hearing His voice that her children sensed for the first time that God speaks to them individually They each have an excitement for missions and are pursuing God's call on their own lives both now and in the future.
When you see Louise and her children in the dining hall here, you see her amidst many other families. You see divorced and blended families, singles, elders well past retirement age, and newborns all somewhere on their journey in serving God. They are taking a season, whether five months or a lifetime, to go all out in missions. It is a powerful message to me as I get to know the stories of so many here. I used to think that missions was extraordinary, for “super Christians,” and that I had become disqualified. But these people make me realize that going all out for God is what God calls “normal.” It’s the normal we were created for; it’s the normal many of us are so restless to find but are afraid to step into. If you have been through a divorce or a family split of any kind, I would even argue that you are not disqualified but even more qualified than ever to minister for God in this broken world. I think that if you would come here and meet Louise or some of the other families we have here, you would see that serving God with your family could be “normal” for you too.
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