I was going to skip this post and just get to the next one that was on my list because let’s face it, I am behind again. Robbie and I head home tomorrow…tomorrow! How did that happen? I am so excited to get back to the States, see family, have a break. I am thrilled.
Before that, however, I want to reflect back on Base Retreat last month. It was the culmination of a very busy season, and I went into it thinking that I needed to just “get through it.” I was so tired going into Base Retreat this year. That being said, I was so thankful the way God quickly showed me that this wasn’t going to be tiring. It was going to be refreshing, and refreshing it was!
For the past three years, I have planned our annual Base Retreats, and I love doing it. We’ve gotten into a great system, and it’s a lot of fun. It is a lot of work, though. This year, with the ship, I knew I wouldn’t be able to be the main organiser, and I also knew I had a new staff on my team who is, well, brilliant! She’s so diligent, creative and reliable. I met with her before the ship got too busy and basically downloaded my entire brain on Base Retreat.
There was a moment on the Friday night of Base Retreat where we all gathered under the ::HUGE:: meeting tent, and there were announcements and all that jazz. I sat in my little camping chair, and I listened. It was amazing. I listened to the announcements, and I observed Lauren kicking butt! She did so great. I nearly cried. With that, God really showed me to take a deep breath and just soak it all in.
Another thing that was quite different this year was that we didn’t have one main speaker, but rather we had the privilege of hearing from a few people…Tom Hallas, David Stephenson, Sarah McCutcheon…basically a line-up of legends. It was so good!
I could probably write posts on each of the teachings or days or break it up somehow, but I am going to write the bullets, the nuggets, instead. So read on for all my little nuggets from Base Retreat this year! I’ve also included the base’s video, which my good friend Scott Berry put together. He did this huge campaign a few months back for all this top of the line camera gear so he could take his skills to the next level. You really see it in the video! (How beautiful is the picture of the cows?!?! Never thought I’d say that but it’s true!)
My Base Retreat Nuggets
- Sarah opened the Saturday morning session and said she felt like God was wanting to whisper to us. To hear a whisper, you have to lean in close – it’s intimate. That was such a great word to kick it all off. Intimacy with God!
“Nothing that you do out of a pure heart and an obedient faith will go to waste.” – Tom Hallas
- Tom Hallas on ‘Hope”
- “Faith and love are fed from the stream of hope.”
- “Faith comes from hearing. Faith comes from hope. How can you be sustained when you’ve lost hope? Hope is facing forward – it’s looking at the future and believing for better things.”
- “What is the seed bed of hope? GRATEFULNESS IS THE SEED BED OF HOPE”
- “Steps that lead to hopelessness – refusing to acknowledge God’s worthiness, not giving thanks, becoming vain…”
- “One of David’s worst moments was when his son rebelled. When you observe the challenges that some men of God went through in the Bible and then see what they wrote about after that, you don’t see bitterness. You see GRATEFULNESS.” – Tom Hallas
- David did a session on Bloom’s Taxonomy, which is a tool for understanding. Generally, when we are looking at something, we only stay at the lower level of Bloom’s. (See photo)
- Bloom’s Taxonomy
- Remembering – taking something at face value; defining; listing
- Understanding – being able to explain it another way; paraphrase; “put it in your own words” test
- Applying – putting it into practice; choosing
- Analyzing – dissecting; how do medical students understand the human body? by dissecting it. They understand all the parts/pieces. Being able to separate the pieces; creating distinctives
- Evaluating – taking a position; making a decision; forming an opinion
- Creating – taking an area of truth and reapplying it in a different context
“We will continue to struggle with the same thing until we change our view of God.” – Sarah McCutcheon
- “Obedience is about our love for God, not our approval.” – Sarah McCutcheon
- David Stephenson on Worldview and Holiness
- “Circumstance has nothing to do with whether or not something was a sin. Truth is truth.”
- “We get the freedom to choose, but we do not get the freedom of consequence.”
- “Dualism – posturing a Christian lifestyle but being totally different/sinning on the other hand.”
- “Fear of the Lord requires transparency with God and with others.”
- “Integrity – what we say we believe is what we do. Dualism – what we say we believe and what we do are two different things.”
Even as I look back at some of this, I feel my “nuggets”, which are really just recaps or highlights, can only scratch the surface. There’s something about being out in the middle of nowhere, among nature, not thinking about your phone or technology but just being present. It’s a road to depth and understanding, and even though I wouldn’t consider myself a “nature/camping girl” in the slightest, there is an appreciation I have for “getting away” and removing ourselves from the chaos and busyness of day-to-day life.
Base Retreat in 2009 was the first time I’d ever been truly camping, and I have to say, it’s one of my favourite things each year.
87% of the population live in rural areas
1 dentist for every 100,000 people
Five women die in childbirth every day
1 in 13 children die before their fifth birthday
94% of the population live in malaria affected areas
Someone dies from Tuberculosis every two hours
Four years ago, I had the privilege of visiting the nation that these statistics represent – Papua New Guinea. It was my first time leading a team in cross-cultural missions, and as I met the beautiful people of this nation, I knew that not only would this experience but these people would forever change my life.
Now four years later, I am engaging with this nation again, albeit in a very different way.
Nearly two weeks ago, my dear friend Faith and I ventured up north to Townsville to connect and learn for our upcoming Ship Tour in Newcastle at the end of September. YWAM Australia has what is called YWAM Medical Ships Australia (YWAM MSA), and for the past five years, the MV Pacific Link has been offering medical services to the people in PNG in the most remote areas. Now as this 34-year-old ship is due to retire next year, this incredible vessel, the MV Ammari, will take over.
The MV Ammari will tour the east coast of Australia for the next several months, stopping in Newie for 3 weeks. The tour is called “Overcoming the Impossible“, and as we engage with this theme, we are coming up with our own “Impossible” challenges.
Faith and I have decided to do 3 weeks of a challenge on our own before inviting our broader community into another 3 weeks, all leading up to the ship’s arrival.
What’s our “Impossible”?
6 weeks without sugar, as defined by desserts, candy and sugary drinks.
I’m nervously excited for this challenge. I am excited because it literally does feel a bit impossible for two reasons.
1) I have an insane sweet tooth
2) My birthday is next week.
A birthday without cake? It’s an impossible I’m willing to face because I was forever changed by those beautiful people in PNG who are facing all sorts of impossibles every day.
I’ll try and update as we go, but in the meantime, I’d encourage you to check out more with YWAM MSA. Here’s a video about the tour to start with.
Since I was 17 years old, I knew God was calling me to missions, but there was so much fear and doubt in the beginning. Well before the beginning actually. I had a certain idea about missions. Fear of the unknown. Fear of missing out. (FOMO – major thing in the millennial generation!) Doubts about my own capacity to handle it – handle being away from family, handle being in a foreign country, handle the whole thing.
I can definitely tell you that after 5 years in missions, many things have surprised me. Things I feared and doubted are now places of great joy and peace. It’s remarkable what God can do, and He is absolutely trustworthy with our lives and our call.
5 Surprising Things About Missions
1. This Whole Finances Things
Often before coming into YWAM, this was my line when asked about my upcoming adventure in Australia:
“I’m so excited for it…except for this whole fundraising thing.”
I cannot tell you how many times I said that in the lead up because it totally terrified me. Finances were part of that “taboo” arena, next to politics and religion – you don’t go there. (Who made this arena anyway?)
I will say that fundraising for my everyday living didn’t happen over night. I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of approaching friends, family, churches and the like to ask if they would give me money…on an ongoing basis…so I can live and work in Australia. I had this fear in me…
What if they think I am a mooch?
What if they don’t think I am actually working?
Will they think I am taking the “easy” way out?
Many of these sorts of questions and ideas run through missionaries’ heads. Fortunately, God has a much more appropriate way of thinking. Like the fact that this is actually biblical (check out how the Levites or Paul lived…and no, Paul wasn’t always a tentmaker). Like the fact that living this way actually includes so many people in what is happening all over the world. Like the fact that this partnership inspires, forges deep relationships and pretty much blows our minds all of the time. God has incredible truth to overcome our uncertainties.
I still may fumble my words when I first approach someone, but I have come to learn that it’s actually a privilege. I have learned that I am not asking for money but rather inviting someone into a vision. I am repeatedly blown away by God’s provision over my life through people. It never gets old.
2. I Don’t Need As Much Stuff As I Thought
When you move halfway across the world, you suddenly realise that you don’t need nearly as much stuff as you thought. I misunderstood the “storage” situation when I first came, so I literally brought one backpack and a carry-on bag for those first 6 months. Knowing I was coming back after that, I left most of it here, traveling with only the little carry-on bag. (I need to remind myself of this time when I travel…it was so relaxing traveling that light!)
While I was home in between DTS and staff, I sold my car, and I got rid of heaps of my stuff. I took some of my favourite books and photos back with me, and for those first couple years, I lived in a dorm in community. I went from having this beautiful house that I was renting with some friends, a car, etc. to living in a dorm again…and I was more than ok with it.
Now, after transitioning into marriage, we have a bit more stuff because we are more settled, but it’s not a huge place and our stuff isn’t “extravagant” by any measure. It’s home, though, and I love it. I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.
Being in missions made me realise that I don’t need as much stuff as I thought I did. I didn’t know if I could survive without a car, but for the first 18 months I didn’t have a car. I was totally fine. Even after that, I didn’t technically have a car…just a fabulous boyfriend who did. :)
I feel like I have everything I need plus so many blessings, and I am totally content. Having a home certainly changes your perspective a bit, but even that being said, I no longer feel the pressure to always have the “latest and greatest”. I feel ok giving clothes away and going through our stuff. I don’t have that same sense of holding on that I used to, and it’s incredibly freeing.
3. I Think So Much Differently About “Home” Now
Everyone knows the saying “Home is where the heart is”, but I feel I know this in a totally new way now that I am in missions. When I was at University, I only referred to my parents house as “home”. I didn’t refer to Uni as home, even when I lived in an actual house my last year.
Now it’s a bit trickier. I have where I grew up, where I went to University, where my parents lived for awhile after high school, where they live now, where my husband’s family lives and where I currently live.
So many places, and I love it!
I love that different places have been temporary homes or longer-term homes and that I have gotten to experience life in different places.
I love the home Robbie and I have made for ourselves, and I call it and Newcastle “home”. I also call Indianapolis “home”, though. As cliche as it may sound, home isn’t actually a bunch of bricks and framing. It’s people. Home is my community here, my wonderful family in the States, my friends – it’s all over the world in some ways – and that feels pretty darn cool.
4. Often The Things We Initially Don’t Want To Do End Up Being The Most Rewarding
I already said this in some ways, but it’s significant enough to be repeated.
I did not want to be a missionary.
Another funny thing I found myself often saying to God in my late teen years was “I’ll do anything, Lord, except for missions.” Funny how we have our “excepts” with the King of the Universe…
I said “yes”, though, after I felt God stirring me for it for years. A friend said in 2004, “Ashley, you are a missionary. Period.” I didn’t want to hear it then, but I kept that email. I referred to it again in 2006 after a conference at my Uni, and I was a bit amazed by how spot on she was with everything. Then again, when I finally decided to do DTS, I referred to that email. She saw something in me – something I didn’t think I wanted to do it at all – and she called me out on it.
When I finally said “yes”, her comment on my Facebook page saying “FINALLY” probably had a thousand “L’s” haha. I am so thankful for her in my life, and I am so thankful that God knows us better than we know ourselves.
He knows the deepest desires of our hearts, even before we know them or see them.
I couldn’t have imagined or foreseen myself loving missions this much, finding so much fulfilment in this “career path”. God knew though, and I am glad that I did eventually say yes!
5. Sometimes People Think You’re Crazy
People may think this whether you do missions or not. I have had people think I was crazy for being a Christian or for going to a Christian University. People think you’re crazy for leaving home, for committing to this life.
I am ok being crazy because I am so undeniably convinced this is what God wants for my life. Everything I know of Him, of His character and heart for the world and for my life, points back to the fact that He’s so worth following. I guess we are all a little bit crazy right?
It did surprise me, though. Maybe it shouldn’t have. I am glad that it surprised me, though, because it forced me to remember just how worth it it is.
So there you go – 5 things that surprised me about missions. I am sure there are others if I thought about it a bit longer, and I am totally certain I could further explain these 5.
What is something that has surprised you in life?
Of all the posts I have written for this Month of Missions, I reckon this one is the hardest. How do I sum up 5 years of learning? Obviously I cannot write out every lesson or revelation God has given me in these past 5 years, but with this post, I am highlighting the most pivotal. These weren’t overnight lessons or one time things. These were lessons I learned over a period of time (and may still be learning to a degree).
I love that our God is always ready and willing to teach us and grow us and show us new things. How good is that? Without further ado, here are 5 Pivotal Lessons I’ve Learned in 5 Years of Missions.
1. God greatly desires to communicate with us
Week 1 of my DTS was interesting. I was still trying to figure out if I was meant to be here, meeting new people, hearing and learning brand new things. It was all a bit overwhelming to be honest, and like I referred to in this post, I was doubting whether or not I made the right decision.
I learned very quickly, though, that God deeply desired to communicate with me. He didn’t want me to know about him – He wanted me to know Him! How do you know someone? You sit and chat with them, you hang out with them, you process with them, you laugh with them – you have a relationship. Even though I knew God had spoken to me before, there was a big part of me that diminished the fullness of that incredible blessing. Within those first few weeks, I started to recognize God’s deep desire for communication. He has so much to communicate, but we often don’t let Him.
We talk, talk, talk – journal, journal, journal – pray, pray, pray.
None of that is bad, but when do we stop and listen? We must listen. I started stopping and waiting to see what God thought, and this new habit, this revelation, it absolutely changed my life.
2. I have a gentle heart
During those first few weeks hearing God’s voice, one thing became very clear – God was on a mission over my heart. I had been studying women’s ministry at a Christian University, and somehow through all that learning, my heart got a bit hard. I remember that there was a year where I didn’t cry once, which if you know me at all, you’ll be quite surprised by this.
There was this need, or at least tendency, to put on a brave face. To be strong. To “have it all figured out.” My friend Ruth – the one who had introduced me to YWAM – wrote me in 2004, and she said, “I think people assume you’re ok because you’re Ashley Kinney. But you need your butt kicked.” I remember being a bit annoyed by that statement at first, but then I realised because I had put on this strong exterior, it was actually more than true. I needed my butt kicked.
I think at this particular time, though, this season of DTS, it wasn’t that I needed my butt kicked. I needed a truer revelation of myself, and the only way to get that is to seek God and learn about Him. As I did that, I learned that underneath my “brave face” that I had tried putting on, this “I’ve-got-it-all-together” facade, there was a girl who was actually quite soft-hearted. I just needed to break through all the walls and hard exteriors to let it come out. When it did come out, it was incredibly freeing.
3. The good can be the enemy of the best
I remember learning this in the midst of recognising the importance of having the word of the Lord about things. I had been learning about obedience in a new way and how valuable that is to God. Obedience in the Kingdom of God is ultimately a gesture of trust.
“God I trust you…that you have my best interest at heart.”
Sometimes I think we actually treat the enemy like an idiot, and although we are not his friend by any means, he is certainly not an idiot. In fact, I think the word used to describe the enemy is “cunning”, which means “having or showing skill in achieving one’s ends by deceit or evasion.”
I learned quickly that there isn’t just God’s good option and the enemy’s stupid option. In fact, it’s not that big of a distinction. Often, the enemy presents pretty good options, in comparison to God’s best. I had an opportunity after my DTS to have a great job that I had wanted for a long time prior to DTS. It seemed amazing, and you know what, the truth of the matter is that God would still love me and would still be present in my life if I had chosen that option. It wasn’t the best option, however, and I can so clearly see that now. God had missions in mind for me, and I am so grateful for that call.
4. God is in the details
When I started asking God about this friend named Robbie ;) I remember some of what God said surprised me. When it came to romantic relationships, I had the “non-negotiables” in mind only. Same belief. Same direction. What God showed me so clearly, though, is that He actually really cares about the details.
I had made a list a year prior to that about things that I would love in a future spouse. It was a spontaneous, fun activity a friend and I did on my DTS, and I honestly had never thought about that list after I wrote it. When I wrote it, I didn’t have anyone in mind; I was thinking very generally. I said broader things, as well as more specific.
When I asked God about Robbie that next year, one thing I felt God said was, “Look at your list.” I was a bit baffled by this at first because I didn’t remember this list. When I did remember, I doubted that I still had it, but I started rummaging around my room looking for it. I finally found this folded up piece of paper. After getting to know Robbie pretty well in the months prior to that, I was completely shocked when I read this list and realised that I could have easily just been writing about Robbie! Small, shallow details like “kills spiders for me” or “taller than me” were included, and God was very clear to me that He didn’t have just anyone in mind for me. He had someone great that fit the non-negotiables AND the details. It was such a cool journey with God, and hey, 3 1/2 years later…
5. God is so much more concerned with who we are becoming than what we are doing
I am passionate about this one. I am still going deeper with this one. This one perhaps has been the most pivotal.
A few years ago, I started working in an area that I hadn’t imagined or forecasted for my life in missions. I had spent so much time focusing on what I was doing and what my role was. It was exhausting to be honest.
The key, like I said above, is obedience, and because I had really began learning this important principle, I obeyed. Soon after, I still felt the anxiety over what I was doing because I couldn’t understand it in my head. I wanted to be over there, and I wasn’t getting there as quickly as I wanted.
Over time, though, God started teaching me a lot about the beauty of time and process. It’s worth going the hard yards, serving, doing the same thing over and over again because the outcome for your character is vastly more implicational than all the “doing” you can try to achieve in the same amount of time. I wrote a whole series on this here if you want to check it out. It’s a huge generational gap that we need to be aware of and fight for.
I am thankful for this revelation of God’s care for our growth. If we keep growing and focusing on growing then no matter what we are doing, we’ll be great because we’ll be more like Jesus.
What are pivotal lessons you have learned over the years?
Today marks 13 years since that warm summery day I made a decision that forever changed my life.
Yesterday I was sitting with a friend, and she told me that she was taught that age 14 is a significant age for deciding what you think and believe about some things. It sounds funny – 14 is quite young – but I quickly recognised that I was that age (nearly 15) when I decided to follow God.
I remember that a knowledge of God and Jesus had been in my life since I was younger through Catholic school and Sunday mass, but it was at this moment, July 19, 2001, that a revelation of Jesus and why His sacrifice matters to me really hit.
I had been going to church and youth group with my friend for a couple months. Up until that point, it was mostly a social thing for me. I really enjoyed having new friends from other schools and hanging out for fun activities each week. It was the summer before 9th grade and high school, and I thought it was a great way to segue into this upcoming new season of life.
The most important relationship, though – the relationship that has made my life what it is today – that was still coming.
Often when someone tells you about Jesus, and they ask if you want to become a Christian, they will lead you in a prayer. It’s funny because I had often repeated that prayer on a Sunday night at youth group and hoped I was “ok”.
It wasn’t until this week in July, when all of my youth group was at a camp in Georgia, that I said this prayer and actually understood and felt what I was saying and committing to. It was a Thursday night, and during this ‘Teen Week’ at Woodlands Camp, Steve DeWitt was the speaker. He was an excellent speaker. Very inspirational.
On this particular night, he gave a message about the death of Jesus, but he spoke about it in a way that I had never heard before. He talked about what actually happened to Jesus’ body as he was hanging on the cross, and how his lungs were overworked by being in that position until they finally collapsed. He explained all about what his body had to endure before he finally died. After he explained all of this, then he explained why this matters to us. What does his death have to do with us?
He talked about how Jesus’ death on the cross was for us. He made a way for us to have relationship with the Father by making the ultimate sacrifice, and God’s love for us was so extravagant to send Jesus to do this.
The whole message kind of blew my 14-year-old mind. I was just there to have friends and be “ok”, but this news, this revelation, this changed everything. After that message, I sat with my friend and my youth pastor, and I said that prayer – this time fully understanding what I was saying.
I’ll always remember that night. Camp nights are so significant and distinct. I worked at that same camp later in 2007, and that same speaker came back. It was pretty cool to tell him how much his message impacted me and my life was forever changed after that night. He was encouraged to be able to see fruit from something he was a part of … 6 years later.
Sometimes as missionaries, we go places and we speak or we serve or we tell people about Jesus, and we hope and believe that their lives have changed. That God did amazing things in their lives, and that they’re thriving now. Most of the time, we don’t get to see some of these people again to know for certain. Sometimes we do. It was exciting to meet him again and be able to encourage him and his ministry.
July 19, 2014.
13 years later, and my life is changed still. The revelation of Jesus continues to go deeper, and I remain humbled at how someone could do something like this for me…that sort of love is extravagant and one-of-a-kind! Life has ebbed and flowed through the highs and the lows of navigating the rest of high school and teenage years, university, working full-time, starting in missions, meeting and marrying my husband and remaining in missions now. Knowing God, though, has made it possible in the fullest, most complete way I can imagine.