Culture Shock: Back to Washington D.C.

Well, I realized I haven’t written since September, and that’s simply because I wanted to soak in my experience on the outreach portion of my DTS as much as possible rather than take time to record it.  

Simply put, the YWAM DTS experience was the most rewarding and enriching experiences I’ve had.  I realize DTS is not part of God’s plan for everyone, but I highly recommend anyone who is thirty or younger that thirsts after God to pray about doing a DTS. If one goes into with a focused heart, it is impossible to leave unchanged.

When I started to pray about it, I didn’t get this booming voice in my head that said, “Go!” but rather I stepped out in faith, knowing that what I was doing was toward my goal which was to become more Christ-like. As soon as I took that step of faith, the donation money came flying in, which helped me believe even more that this was God’s desire for my life.

That was six months ago and I can without a doubt say that this experience was every bit in God’s plan for me! I met so many great people, challenged myself spiritually and physically, and tried things I never thought I was capable of  (praying for strangers on the street, cliff diving, exercise for eighteen hours at once, to name a few).

And now after this whirl wind of an experience, I find myself asking, what do I do now? I just went from the most exciting time of my life to the dullest. I’m enjoying the rest, and definitely still growing in my relationship with God, but it’s a process of learning contentment wherever you’re at until God brings the next thing. Transition periods are the hardest because you have to trust that God has you in His hands and that He will lead you. My original plan was to take the Biblical Core Course in Sydney, staff, and then help pioneer the new YWAM base in Tahiti, and I’m definitely still praying about it. Time will tell what’s in store for me, and I’m just waiting now for the job and guidance I’m sure God will provide.

I’ve been making the adjustment back home rather smoothly, but having been removed from the cold-climate, Washington D.C. culture, I feel its coldness more than ever upon returning. Australians in general are extremely relational, as are most people in what people refer to as ‘hot-climate’ cultures (most of Asia, Africa, Central/South America, and the islands). It is less direct, more relational, and in general, more loving. I’m not in any way bashing America (I love America!) but I have been enlightened to new ways of communicating and getting things done. The American way is not, surprise surprise, the only way and always the best way of doing things. I do believe the community that is developed in warm-climate cultures is much more like how God intended it to be. On the other hand, cold-climate cultures have a stronger focus on work and personal success which in turn does produce less material poverty. Huge generalization, I know, but just something I observed from being immersed in the island culture.  I think all cultures have something to learn from one another (this is something I would have probably never really believed before DTS) and I strongly disagree with the notion that says one culture is necessarily better than the other. All that is at the root of that notion is fear, fear that one’s own culture is not valued and appreciated by God as much as others, but I know that God has the same heart for every nation! God certainly does not value the sins of one particular culture (perhaps the general sinful spirit over America is consumerism), but He does love all that is good in culture, including America’s.

Another culture shock has to do with the difference between intense Christian community and not-so intense Christian community. At YWAM, living with hardcore, on-fire people seeking after the kingdom of God helps you stay focused on that mission. You are constantly challenged by other people to grow spiritually and always held accountable. It’s a safe

and fast-growing environment to be in, and rather unique in that we are all forced to live with each other day in and day out. If it wasn’t for that living situation, I’d still be slightly turned off by community living, but now that I’ve been exposed to it, I know that its benefits outweigh my penchant for individualism. You learn more about yourself, have more fulfilling relationships, learn a lot more about the world, and as a result, have a more enriching life.

If I had to sum with the three biggest lessons I learned, it would be the following:

1. The Holy Spirit alone gives us the conviction and the power to change. This was a huge turning point in my walk, because up until DTS, I had tried to take control of my life and “fix” myself because I was so (unnecessarily) aware of everything ungodly inside of me. But God quickly came in and took control, and now, my life is so much more peaceful than having to strive at perfection.

2. Making doctrine and volunteer the center of our Christian walk is backwards. To reflect God’s glory more fully and therefore be effective in ministry, we must come to know God personally, not just through what we learn about Him. I definitely had a personal relationship with God my whole life, but once I gave Him real control and laid down my pride, that was when I saw God work in my life in supernatural ways. Letting go of control and pride is key! I’m not saying learning doctrine is not important; it is HIGHLY important. But our tendency, especially in the western church, is to build up our knowledge but not practice a daily discipline of His presence.

3. Humility. This is absolutely key in helping relationships flourish. Learning to ask for forgiveness, even if you think you weren’t in the wrong, is powerful. Realizing that my way is not necessarily the best way helps me understand people and culture. Viewing myself the way God views me (neither superior nor inferior) puts an end to fear. Through humility, we become wise!

These lessons will impact me for the rest of my walk with Christ. I could have learned them without DTS, but I thank God that he blessed me with this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity! It was an incredible adventure, and I certainly have a hunger for evangelism and international missions. I’m excited to see where God takes me next!


2 thoughts on “Culture Shock: Back to Washington D.C.”

  1. Excellent stuff Melanie! So wonderful to see how the Lord has blessed you! May the application of your lessons continue, let me know how I can help.

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