Last week over a thousand members [from 73 nations] of Youth With A Mission International gathered as one big, unique family in Townsville, AU to attend the yearly YWAM Together conference. “The global focus of Youth With A Mission in terms of gathering, and conversation, and belonging, and learning, and teaching one another is taking place in Townsville at this event,” said John Dawson, one of YWAM’s leaders. The YWAM Together conference is a global workshop and celebration convened by the University of Nations (U of N) and YWAM Mercy Ships Ministry. I sat down with Hannah Lenz to hear her perspective on the 2015 family reunion of sorts.

How was the long road trip to Townsville? "It was so much fun. Nathan and I drove the whole way and made it in record time of about 20 hours each way (stops included) and successfully only killed one kangaroo! We had up a bunch of friends along with us from nearby bases like Toowoomba, Queenstown, Gold Coast. On the way back we slept on the floor of the Salvation Army church and got to join in their young adults service, which was also a great experience."

What was it like connecting with other bases? "It was fantastic. I loved it because it gave me a bigger picture of the organization I'm a part of and brought a massive sense of family and unity. It was cool to meet like-minded people, relax, and enjoy time with them."

How long did the conference run? "The conference was from Monday night until Saturday."

What was the focus of YWAM Together? "The heart of the conference was on togetherness across the whole YWAM family: utilising all of the different areas and ministries of YWAM. At the end of the week, Darlene shared a closing word about unity and not taking offense in the body of Christ but instead 'leaning in' to each other. Yes, we need to see what God is doing in our own areas of ministry, but also we can't be blind to what is happening in other ministries because we need each other. On a broader scale, we can't even settle with being our own separate bases, we have to lean into each other and be one functioning unit.

Another focus of the conference was the rebirth of YWAM ships ministry. Loren had a long-time vision of a ship ministry, which was finally released in 1979. The first ship, named 'Anastasis' (the Greek word for Resurrection), became the first in a fleet to be known as Mercy Ships – a ministry which would provide hope and healthcare to the needy in port cities around the world. Not long after, that vision dissipated and there wasn't any movement within the ship ministry. However, this year at the conference, Mercy Ships ministry was re-birthed as YWAM Townsville gave their medical ship, the Pacific Link, to YWAM Kona."

What did an average day at the conference look like? "Each morning we had worship and a main word and then various expos in the afternoon. Every evening we had a celebration; we celebrated the gift of Jesus, PNG's independence, U of N graduation, and Loren's 80th birthday. They made him a cake in the shape of a Bible which was so big that four Islanders had to carry it in!"

You mentioned expo sessions, what is an expo? "It is a breakout session where different ministries demonstrate and talk about their area of expertise. For example, there were expos about Children At Risk, Communications, Frontier Missions, etc. Leaders from various ministries were able to display their success and give us tips on how we can improve as well."

What was your favorite expo session? "My favorite was on communications and media because that's what I'm involved in most right now. The way they explained media and how they're getting student numbers up through communications was so inspiring. Their insight was key and I took home a lot of insight and wisdom from their class."

What was the "charge" to take home? "Their main urge was to end bible poverty and how we can all be involved in contributing to the cause. We heard a lot of innovative and ground breaking strategies that YWAM is working on in getting the Bible translated with extreme quickness so that by 2020 there will be a Bible available in any capacity (audio or written) to every language and people group." 

Do you have any testimonies you can share from the week? "Yes! There was a girl who had been on crutches for 10 months whose knee was completely healed. Two of our guys prayed for her and as one of them was praying, he felt all of the tendons crackling under his hand. After he prayed she was completely healed! For the rest of the time we saw her, she was dancing and walking around!

Also, during the week I got to dance in front of 1,400 people. One morning during worship, I felt that I needed to surrender through dance and as I began, Tom Bloomer [one of the leaders of YWAM], came up to me and asked me to lead in dance up at the front. During that moment in front, the Holy Spirit brought so much freedom and release to me. I had given up dancing, it has been six years since I've truly danced, but Tom confirmed and respoke life to me that I have a ministry in dance. He said, 'You have the ability to express what the Holy Spirit is doing inside of people through your dance. You can't hold that back.' I had been restraining from dancing in front of people in the name of 'humility,' but I felt the Lord say 'The most honoring thing you can do is shout to the world that you love Me. Why shouldn't that be seen?' It stirred a lot of hope in me."

Do you have any other comments to add? "Overall, it was an awesome time. I would really recommend going to these conferences to any YWAMer because it's like being injected again with the DNA of the organisation, which is really needed. We can start to feel subconsciously that where we are and what we're doing is all there is, but there is a much broader picture."

Interview with Hannah Lenz
Written by Elyssa Buhl