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Man Moving Forward

by Shayna Bailey

I caught up with David Ward in Minneapolis, Minnesota, at Generation of Youth for Christ.

     I couldn’t walk past him in the emptying lobby of the Minneapolis Convention Center. I was drawn to the enthusiasm bubbling through his words as he spilled his testimony to three young men. He stopped in mid-sentence when I approached their circle.
     “No, please continue,” I urged, joining the small group of listeners.
David went on describing the miraculous turn of events that resulted in his midyear leave from college to serve for a year in Guyana. I could tell by the passion in his voice that this wasn’t his first taste of mission work. Over breakfast the next morning, David told me how it all started.
    “When I was 15, my pastor called and invited me to go to India to preach,” David explained.
    The call came out of the blue. A small group of pastors and laypeople were traveling to India to evangelize, and only a few youth were asked to go.
    “I understood why my pastor picked the other youth, but I had no idea why he asked me to go,” David said.
    The pastor’s son was going, as were two older youths with plenty of preaching experience.
    “I prayed about it, and I talked to my parents. Then I called back my pastor and asked him how much it would cost.”
    The answer? $2,200. Putting up all of his $1,500 savings, David accepted the rest of the financial help from his parents and went on the trip. It was his first time preaching or doing mission work. He and Lake Union Conference pastor Jose Vasquez took turns preaching health messages and gospel messages.
    “The first night I got through the message, but I sort of just stumbled through it,” David recalled about his first speaking engagement. “That night I went back to the hotel and prayed, ‘God, I want You to work in me and change whatever it is You need to change.’”
    However, as many missionaries will testify, change doesn’t usually happen without a struggle. David kept praying the same prayer for three more nights.  Fighting despair, David finally prayed, “God, if something doesn’t change, I’m going to quit.”
    That night a murmuring noise awakened David. He checked the hotel room—too sparse for any environmental explanation—before turning on the light. Then he saw that his roommate, Pastor Vasquez’s, had his arms crossed in front of him like an “X.” The sounds were coming from his mouth.
As the lights went on, Pastor Vasquez calmed down. Without explanation he told David to go back to sleep.
    The next morning Pastor Vasquez described being attacked by a demonic force. His first instinct against the pressure pinning him to the bed and choking him had been to cry for help—the murmuring David heard next to him. As Pastor Vasquez woke up, he called on the name of Jesus. At that moment the presence disappeared.
    The following night the situation repeated itself, but this time David experienced it.
    “I woke up, and I couldn’t speak,” David remembered. “It felt as if a lead weight were forcing the air out of me and choking me. Instantly I recognized what the presence was, and I cried out in my mind, ‘Save me, Jesus!’”
Immediately the demonic force stopped.
    “When I went to preach the next night, I felt a warmth throughout my body. It was kinda like when you drink hot chocolate.”
    David recalled that the power of God upon him was so powerful that for the first time ever, he didn’t use his notes—he didn’t need them. His pastor and the evangelistic team noticed his transformation.
    After the night the Holy Spirit descended, the baptisms took off—4,700 in a month!
    Since then David has made it his life mission to serve God. “In a relationship with God, you need to be moving,” he said. “If you’re not moving forward, you’re moving backward.”
    Moving forward has led David to Guyana, where he is currently serving as a teacher at Bethany Medical Missionary College. The journey to get there wasn’t an easy one. His parents—well-educated and expecting the same of him—at first didn’t understand David’s desire to pursue mission work at the expense of traditional educational goals.
    After getting accepted at Bethany, David’s father went so far as to call and tell them that his son wasn’t qualified to come. He also accused David of using his relationship with God as a selfish excuse for doing what he wanted.
As David will tell you, though, a sound relationship with your parents is directly tied to your relationship with God.
    “Answering a call is taking steps of faith to serve God. To do this, you have to reevaluate your other relationships and ask God that they be just like your relationship with Him.”
    Then David reminded me that before he even planned his mission trip, he had prayed first. Then he went to his father and told him, “Dad, I want a real relationship with you.”
    All his life he’d admired his mother’s relationship with God. “I wanted the kind of relationship with God that I could see she had with Him.”
    Eventually David had to start looking at his parents as a brother and sister in Christ. He   started ministering to them, just as he would to anyone else. As a result his family became stronger and more faithful—together.
Finding God’s purpose for you
    David’s life philosophy is, “Any opportunity to serve is a call from God.” Along with his advice to other young people searching for their purpose, David shares a sobering thought: “The more you reject opportunities from God, the easier it becomes to miss opportunities from God.”
David Ward, now 19, is currently serving a mission term in Guyana. His long-term goals include obtaining a pilot’s license, going to Tibet, and “Proclaiming the gospel to people who’ve never heard the name of Christ.”
Shayna Bailey is Insight’s Unplugged weekly columnist.

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