Austin’s Story – Learning and Serving with YWAM

I want to start off by saying thank you so much for your support and prayers while I was on my journey. God has done some amazing things over these past few months, none of which would have been possible without your support. I was able to raise more than enough to support me while I was in Texas and in Uganda. It meant so much to me to know that you were in constant prayer over my journey and to know you were willing to support me financially was such a blessing! Without your help, I would not of been able to witness the things that I did being at YWAM (Youth With A Mission).

For the first three months, I was in the lecture phase. During this time, we heard some amazing testimonies and teachings about how to become closer to God. I learned more about who I am and how I am supposed to put my full trust in God and listen for the plan he has for me. So far, he has put on my heart to go back to college and get a degree in journalism, after that I will continue on to get a degree in biblical studies and become a traveling missionary.

After the three months of lecture phase and getting closer to God, it was time to put what we learned to the test. It was time for outreach! We started off by going to Houston, Texas for two weeks. While we were there, we worked with a few churches doing some construction work that needed to be done in order to expand their work that they were doing for God. We also worked with street churches, reaching out to the homeless to bring hope and peace into their lives. We handed out food and clothes and shared some amazing testimonies and teachings with them. After every church ministry we did, we had multiple people come up to receive prayer. It was amazing to see how God worked in the lives we least expected him to. I was very skeptical about going into this environment; I was concerned that these people were only there for the handouts, but God proved me wrong on so many occasions. Houston was very challenging, and we were all pretty tired by the end of the outreach, but it was just preparing us for what was to come next, Africa! We traveled back to Tyler, Texas for just a few days before traveling across the globe!

We had to be up at 6:30 to be at breakfast, finish packing and be ready to leave by 9:00. We arrived in Dallas at around 10:20 and our flight left at 12. We got through security and had just enough time to relax before getting on the plane to head to Atlanta as our first stop. From Atlanta we had a 12 hour flight to Amsterdam and from there, another 8 hour flight to Entebbe, Uganda. The first thing you notice about Africa is that it’s hot, and the people drive on the opposite side of the road. It was night time when we arrived, so we stayed in a hotel close to the airport, because it is not safe to drive at night. The next morning I woke up and immediately went and opened the window. The scenery was breathtaking; it was unlike anything you could see here in America. We went downstairs and had breakfast and then we loaded up and drove about 2 ½ hours to a YWAM base in Kampala. I was a little worried when we showed up because the base was gated and had barbed wire around the top. Also it was guarded by two beautiful German Sheppard dogs but still scary. We got settled into our rooms and had our meeting with the leaders of the base. After that we had the rest of the day to play outside with the kids that lived around the area.

We were in Kampala for about a week working with different churches and working with the children in the slums, handing out milk and praying for people in the area. We also worked with a couple of Hostels which is what they call their boarding schools. We also helped out around the base, building tables for washing clothes and redoing the gardens to make them look a little nicer and putting rocks around them. One day while being there, we decided to take a walk around Kampala. I got the chance to speak with a pastor who has also traveled to America doing missionary work. He got our names and then asked me to share some of my plans after doing this DTS. He then proceeded to tell me that God has a special plan for my life, he said that I was supposed to die when I was younger but God saved me. He then proceeded to tell me that God has put a protection of angels around me and that as I continue preaching God’s word, my voice will be healed. That pastor had no idea that I underwent 45 minutes of CPR after my open heart surgery when I was a year old, and that I was put back on the heart-lung machine. My parents were told that if my heart did not convert to a normal rhythm within three days, there was nothing more they could do.  As a result of being intubated for such an extended period of time, I suffered right vocal cord paralysis. The fact that this man said my voice would be healed was totally God. Most people who meet me think I have a cold. Only God! I will never forget what Pastor Richard had said to me.

After a week of being in Kampala, we moved to stay with a couple from Texas in Iganga.  We arrived at Wes and Jessica’s house and had lunch. We found out that we would be staying with two different host families, girls at one, boys at the other. The girls stayed with a mother and her 3 girls down the road and the boys stayed about 3 minutes from Wes and Jessica’s house with Peter and his family. We were a little surprised to find out we would be staying in a grass hut! It was so cool!!! Never in my life did I think I would be staying in one, and there it was. We found out that we would be working around the area, doing some agricultural work to help Wes get some things planted that would take him weeks to do on his own. While there, we built a large meat dehydrator. Before this, whatever they killed, they had to eat right away or sell, because they did not have a way to store the meat. This allowed them to do just that.

We also had the opportunity to teach pastors on some of the things that we learned while being at YWAM and had the opportunity to pray for them. We also worked with a man named Phil who runs an orphanage in Iganga; we played with the kids and even fixed his fence where the locals pulled up the post. The kids at the orphanage were amazing. I became very close with a young boy named, Brian. It broke my heart to have to leave him. After 2 weeks in Iganga, we left for an island on Lake Victoria.

We arrived on a very busy day at the docs; kids and people were everywhere. They are not use to seeing white people around the area and were amazed when we showed up. We got in the boat and took the two hour ride to the island. We were all amazed by the beauty of the island, and excited to find out we would be able to swim! We only had 2 full days there so we went to church and did hut to hut ministry. Everyone we met wanted to receive prayer, and we witnessed many healings. It was such an awesome experience to see so many people want prayer. We even got to bring a Muslim lady to Christ. We could tell she was changed after we prayed for her because she had an unending smile the remainder of the time we were with her. We also baptized two people on our team and one of Jessica’s girls who also gave her life to Christ.  After two days on the island, it was time to head back to Phil’s to get our bags and go to YWAM Hopeland.

Our final destination was at YWAM Hopeland located in Jinja. We honestly weren’t getting our hopes up on it being a nice facility, but we were proven very wrong!  The campus was beautiful and very large. We had 3 free days while there and 2 days of working. We slashed fields to get them neat and cleaned up for planting. By the end of the week, it was time to start packing and getting ready to leave. Most of my clothes stayed in Africa along with some medicine that I brought. They have so little; it was the least I could do.

This truly was a journey of a lifetime, and it would not have been possible without your support. I take nothing that I experienced for granted. The Lord did an amazing work in me and through me.  By the end of our journey, God allowed us to evangelize to over 1,760 people and disciple 1,260.  We saw 222 salvations, and through the power of God, we saw 49 people healed!  And just think, you were a part of this; the seed you sewed helped make this possible. Thank you again for your prayers and financial support!

In His Service,

Austin Gearhart