Bethel students return from the mission field oversees, share stories.
Sarah Nelson | Staff
Youth with a Mission, or YWAM, is a non- profit Christian missionary organization with offices across the world, YWAM draws students, both international and domestic, some of whom now attend Bethel. Given the intensity of travels students endure during YWAM, adventures of all kind, good and bad, are commonplace. Unique foods, close encounters with Muslim radicals and mosquito nets were all part of freshman Grace Gaitan’s experience in Borneo, Indonesia.
“When I first heard about YWAM, I was looking for something to do after high school,” Gaitan said. After researching with her mom, Gaitan ended up at a YWAM base located in the slopes of Cimarron, Colorado. She spent the next three months engaged in Discipleship Training School, an intensive schooling period all YWAM students go through before entering the mission field. The training includes required literature, homework and speakers each week. The time at base allows students to learn skills needed to survive in their mission country.
Gaitan recalls a time learning how to butcher chickens, which came in good use when given chickens as a gift.
While traveling, most of the group’s time was spent village-hopping and ministering to kids. The language barrier proved difficult when it came to playing games. “We had to kind of learn how to communicate using their language and no language at all,” Gaitan said. Hugs, smiles and high-fives became a way of understanding each other. The kids were so comfortable with Gaitan and her crew that they will often play pranks on them, including lighting firecrackers on their front step. “Everyone in the village thought it was fun,” Gaitan said.
Traveling to a third-world country always carries safety risks, but Gaitan never thought her crew was ever in real danger. Malaria and yellow fever were the most pressing medical risks, meaning vaccines, pills and mosquito nets were required on the packing list. However, the group was cautious about revealing their Christian and American identities for fear of Muslim radicals. Gaitan recalls being escorted out of a village in the middle of a church service due to a potential threat, though the details were never revealed to the group. “We had to be driven out under a tarp,” Gaitan recalls.
Despite a brief scare and the distance from home, Gaitan said the connection and different cultures coming together was an incomparable experience. “I would tell any other graduating high schooler to consider that option,” Gaitan said.