In 1986, I was 19 years old. I left home in Ohio for Texas, where I enrolled in the Discipleship Training School at Youth with a Mission (YWAM), a Christian based International Relief and Development Organization. For the next 15 years, I traveled in over 30 countries with YWAM, engaged in various types of outreach. It was an amazing time and one where I built deep friendships.
During that season of life, I met and married my wife Ann and we had our first child. It was several years later, then living in Colorado, I sensed we were to leave the ministry and embrace a much different pace of life. I didn’t realize it, but I was about to enter a time where I was to encounter my own sort of personal dark ages.
There had been building up within me a dissatisfaction and restlessness. My whole Christian walk I had been aware of stories from the Bible and people who claimed having experienced it themselves, of how God healed the sick, raised the dead, moved in power, etc… I had even preached about it to others, but I was yet to really see it for myself. And if that wasn’t bad enough, I was struggling with sins I carried into my new faith at age 14, after having walked with the Lord for 20 years. Those sins still seemed to have a hold on me. I came to a huge crisis of faith and started to wonder if God really existed at all.
I painted houses while I taught myself web development and various web based programming languages. I eventually got good enough at it that I scored some great jobs both developing and teaching. I taught a Webmaster Certification course at a college in Denver for several years. At the same time I also was an instructor for a company on the east coast that kept me busy traveling all over the United States, teaching programming languages and graphic design for MCI, Qwest, Boeing, Nationwide Insurance and many others.
On one particular trip, I was on an airplane heading to Washington DC to teach a several day programming class. I picked up head phones I had with me and plugged into the in-flight radio show. A song came on by U2, “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” It was an expression of what was going on inside me and echoed a deep cry of my heart. One verse especially, really stood out. I may not have the lyrics exactly correct here, but they go something like this.
“You broke the bonds and you loosed the chains
Carried the cross and all my shame
All of my shame
You know I believe it
But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for”
I felt those words from the depth of my being.
“I believe, with all my heart”, I was telling God under my breath on the plane. “But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” I felt desperate.
Later, from my hotel room in Washington, DC., tremendously burdened by the angst of my soul and spirit, I asked God for a dream, something, anything that I could point back to and know he was real. And truthfully, to my surprise, he answered my prayer. That very night I had a dream.
I was standing in total darkness when a light appeared in the distance. I’m sure you’ve heard other people talk about being in a dark tunnel and a light appears at the end. This was how it was for me.
As I looked towards the light I began to move in its direction, until I was in it. I found myself standing in a small restaurant. There were booths and tables and sitting at one of them was a woman I hadn’t seen for years, but who I had worked with in the past, at Youth With a Mission. She was one of those people in my life that had a profound impact on me. Her name was Kitty.
It was a younger, thinner version of the Kitty I’d worked with and she was dressed in a beautiful purplish, silk looking dress. I sat down across from her. I had no intention of speaking but all of a sudden words were coming out of me.
“Kitty, I just want you to know, you changed my life.”
She burst into tears and her response was, “I’ve been hearing a lot of that lately.”
I heard a noise to my left and looked up. An elderly couple was standing at the table. I knew it was their turn to sit and tell Kitty something. I got up and the next I knew, I was waking up in my hotel room.
Later that morning my wife and I talked over the phone and she gave me the news. At 11pm the previous night, Kitty had passed away after a two year battle with cancer. I was astounded and knew immediately that this dream was really more. I burst into tears as I began to understand that God had taken me somewhere, heaven I believe, to meet with Kitty and give her that message. He met me in my moment of desperation.
In life, Kitty was training a small group of us as leaders. We traveled the country and different parts of the world, doing various types of ministry in YWAM. Often times when our small leadership council would meet, I remember how many times she would be reflecting on her life and would ask the question, “Did I please Jesus? Did I do enough for him?”
The question wasn’t motivated at all by any sense of condemnation, but rather by great love. She loved the Lord so much and wanted to please him.
On that day of her homecoming, Jesus said to Kitty, “Let me show you how much you did!”
I suspect many of us were brought to her that night, to testify of her impact in our lives. All I can say of the encounter is it changed my life. I knew God had answered my prayer from the night before.
He was real and I realized the potential of my faith really was more than what I had known up till then. God confirmed it. There had been no condemnation in my struggle. Instead, God welcomed my sincere hunger to know him. The matter was settled in my heart.
That experience caused me to recommit my life to Christ and express my trust that He would lead me and grow me into the deeper things of Him. From that time forward, I’ve never looked back.