During my time in YWAM, I have learned some valuable tips and lessons on how to prepare mentally and practically for your first DTS experience.
Here are 6 essentials to get you ready for DTS:
Buy a Good Backpack
Out of all the items I brought to DTS, my hiking backpack proved to be the most used and the most troublesome. So, what are the qualities of a good backpack?
I brought a 60L backpack to my DTS. I did my best to fill all of the space it offered.
That was a mistake.
Little space was left for the souvenirs I found and the gifts I was given during DTS, meaning that I had to get rid of something else just to carry the new item, which was a shame. So, bring only the necessities so you have space for any new items you want to bring back home!
Certain brands of backpacks have everything built-in while others require you to buy extra pieces to get the full kit. Here are some must-have features for your backpack:
- Waist straps: Always have waist straps on your hiking pack, no matter the size.
- Rain cover: Buy one of these separate if you have to.
- Multiple openings: Especially on outreach, you will constantly need to access all of your items at different times. Being able to see and quickly reach anything is a huge plus. Backpacks that only open from the top and have everything piled in are not suitable for this.
- Fitting: No matter what, have your pack fitted. Most outdoor stores will gladly help you fit a pack to your size. Do not skip this! Online videos will also train you to fit a backpack well.
When coming to DTS, you will be faced with many different opinions, facts, teachings, lifestyles, etc. This is all intentional! In YWAM, we encourage all these different ideas because we want to teach people to seek out the truth found in the Scriptures for themselves.
Being open-minded in today’s world often means having no limits, being willing to try everything once, etc. This is not the open-mindedness that I’m talking about. What I am talking about is being willing to listen to ideas that are different from your own.
Here’s a good way to put it: Be open-minded, not open-ended.
An easy way to practice this is to test everything you hear with God’s Word, and if it doesn’t line up with Scripture, you can ignore it completely. There are going to be people, ideas, and sometimes facts that challenge you during your DTS. If you reject everything and shut down every idea that is new, you may as well not even try. However, if you respectfully listen to others, watch the lifestyles you are not familiar with, and then take all of these things to the Bible, two things are guaranteed to happen:
- You’ll learn how to find answers in the Bible. Often times the ‘answers’ people find in the Bible are simply verses out of context which back up their point. Hearing new ideas will force you to read the Bible in a way you haven’t before, which might just show you something you never knew.
- Your worldview will widen. It’s common to grow up with the idea that all the world is the same as us and that our way is the right way. Being willing to try new things and see the world differently will give you a new perspective that can begin to affect your whole life.
Live in Humility
Coming to DTS, I was immediately faced with a challenge: everyone did things differently than I did. I was tempted to only look for people who were like me, but I knew this would lead to a tough time of making friends. My only alternative was to allow myself to change.
Humility is willing to do things that others deem to be undesirable, whether it be the nature of the task or even the lack of pay. Time and time again, humility has proven to be one of the most valuable attributes to have in ministry. Many times, someone would give their opinion or ask me to do something, and I wanted to let them know my way was probably better. However, I realised a couple things:
- Usually when someone would ask something of the group, they didn’t care how we did it, they just needed help. Giving my opinion (as if it were better) was not necessary. I realised I could still use my skills and talents even if I volunteered for a project someone else offered me.
- When someone was asking for help, they were rarely looking for the most qualified person in the room. They simply just needed more hands.
Being willing to help others—at the cost of your own fun, money, etc.—proved to be worth it.
Humility is a learned behaviour, not a natural one. We have to practice making sacrifices for the sake of others. The more we practice, the easier it flows out of us. It’s a lifelong practice, one you will always feel you are learning and growing in. Humility broke down cultural and language barriers, and it kept me knowing God was the real hero of my life, not me. Humility is the trait that keeps people working together joyfully, without bitterness or offense, for many years.
Upon asking someone who had been in the mission field for over 50 years for one piece of advice, their reply was simple:
Read Missionary Stories
“You bought a plane ticket to an unknown land, are about to meet people you have never seen, and are going to live a lifestyle you hardly know anything about. Wow, you must be pretty unique!”
That's at least what I thought about myself when I stepped into missions. I thought I had taken a path hardly anyone else had gone on, believing I was a pioneer for a world who needed my abilities. Little did I know, I was joining the many missionaries, past and present, who have dedicated their lives to being missionaries.
Coming to DTS, it is important to know some history about what you are joining. Though most YWAM bases require you to read some sort of missionary biographies or stories, this doesn’t mean you have to stop at the required reading! The more biographies I read, the wider my understanding of missions became. Through reading these books, I have learned about different cultures and the history of missions, and I’ve gotten a better worldview on what it is we do. The idea that I am going to be so unique and helpful to missions left me thinking I should see amazing results in no time. Reading these books showed me a much healthier view of what missions is like. We all have those dreams and desires to be something great. By stepping into missions, you are participating in some of the greatest, most valuable work you can do for anyone. These books do not take away from this reality, they simply provide a realistic view of the work you are doing. Plus, you will begin to see the value in what missionaries before you have gone through and accomplished!
DTS is packed full of teaching, then discussion with friends about the teaching, and then Bible study, followed by discussion about the Bible study. This goes on for 12 weeks until you are then placed out in the field to practice what you’ve learned.
What about time to process and think about what you have learned?
Well, a good journal is a great tool for that. Even the verbal processors occasionally need a place to write their thoughts about things without having other voices distracting them. A journal has proven to be one of the most useful tools for myself and many others during DTS. Plus, being able to look back on your own progress and journey almost provides you with an outside perspective on yourself. This can be very helpful to see where you are at right now and where you were at in the past. I cannot recommend bringing a journal enough. Don’t fall for the gimmicks of waterproof paper and expensive being better. Any journal will work. My personal recommendation would be one you can refill the pages on.
Be “All In”
When I first showed up for my DTS, I was extremely afraid. My mind was constantly wondering what I would have to do or say, how far I would have to be pushed, etc. One day someone commented saying:
“The people who are the most vulnerable are the ones who grow the most.”
I heard what they said and decided I would test out that theory. From that point on, I did not hold back while sharing, I gave each job my best, and I expressed with as many people as possible my struggles, fears, hopes, joys, etc. No one could start rumours about me because I was an open book.
What were the results? I talked a lot… Just kidding, kind of...
What happened was I began to notice fear had less and less of a hold on me. The dreams I had were suddenly more accessible as I spoke them out. The hurts I experienced had little to no hold on me anymore as I faced them head-on. The work I did was some of the best I ever did. My relationship with God was unhindered by my own feelings. You can expect God to do great things on DTS, but you have to go all-out. As the famous saying goes, “It is hard to steer a parked car”. You will see more things happen if you continue to take steps and move forward than if you did not move at all.