Hi there. Time for an update. Wonderful stuff is happening. First, a few thoughts for you; I’m thinking about spiritual fathers, fathers and mothers.

Fathers deal with a lot of pain. I do. Among the missionaries of Youth With A Mission there is always somebody experiencing trauma and heartache. I must sit with them in their sorrow, even if it’s unspoken and I’m at a distance, connected only through prayer.

What then of joy? Joy is one of the most unmistakable signs of God’s presence. I am struck by how much God insists that we plan for and choose celebration as central to our relationship with Him and each other. The pleasures of intimacy are so great, the rewards of married love so exquisite, that God measures the observable agonies of human moral freedom as a “temporary light affliction compared to the eternal weight of glory to come.” The Heavenly Father is always organizing a foretaste of the marriage supper. The Heavenly Father is the Lord of gatherings and feasts. Are we behaving like Him? What is Jesus thinking? What’s a father to do?

Deuteronomy 16:16 says.  “Every man in Israel shall appear before the Lord your God three times a year at the sanctuary for these festivals: the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks, the Festival of Shelters.” Yes, these occasions are deeply invested with meaning and were probably the most effective way of imparting history and core values to children; however there are always explicit instructions about feelings as well as actions. “… it is a time to rejoice before the Lord with your family and household…” Deuteronomy 16:11 “It is a time of deep thanksgiving to the Lord for blessing you with a good harvest and in so many other ways; it shall be a time of great joy.” Deuteronomy 16:15 And then there is the big one, the Year of Jubilee. All the implications of the fiftieth year are too rich to impart in a few words but let’s look at one of the texts because it is fifty years since YWAM was founded and we are starting to understand how God thinks.

Leviticus 25:8-13 says, “In addition, you must count off seven Sabbath years, seven years times seven, adding up to forty-nine years in all. Then on the Day of Atonement in the fiftieth year, blow the trumpets loud and long throughout the land. This year will be set apart as holy, a time to proclaim release for all who live there. It will be a jubilee year for you, when each of you returns to the land that belonged to your ancestors and rejoins your clan.  Yes, the fiftieth year will be a jubilee year for you. During that year do not plant any seeds or store away any of the crops that grow naturally, and do not process the grapes that grow on your unpruned vines. It will be a jubilee year for you, and you must observe it as a special and holy time. You may however, eat the produce that grows naturally in the fields that year. In the Year of Jubilee each of you must return to the lands that belonged to your ancestors.”

When Loren Cunningham got up and read that scripture at our first Jubilee Celebration in New Zealand a few days ago, I turned to Darlene and said, “We just did some of that as a family.”

My dad turned eighty-seven a few weeks ago. I went to see him in Los Angeles and took recording equipment. All afternoon and evening he told his story and then, a few days later, we sat and listened to his voice during our family gathering at Christmastime in New Zealand. Most of our immediate family made it. My sons have not been together in New Zealand for twenty-one years and of course Rachel, now thirteen, was not even born. So it was awesome to go back to the roots of our story, to sit in my mom and dad’s home city and to listen to my father’s voice. Looking at fifty years gives you a perspective on God’s mercy. Looking at five generations is even better. Thank you faithful, loving, patient, Heavenly Father.

The thing is, celebrations are a huge hassle. There are fourteen in our immediate family and as missionaries, we live in three different corners of the world. With additions and deductions and guests, we ended up with seventeen people camping out together in one location. It was expensive and exhausting for Julie and me. It was a lot of work and tested our faith at every step, but God was obviously into it in a big way and He kept pushing us gently along. I realize now that we were fighting for something more than our own family. This grace rests on the whole family of Youth With A Mission. Assemble and celebrate. This is a jubilee year for us with all its wonderful implications.

When we arrived on location, we were still short of money to get everybody there. I looked at all the couples and grandkids present and thought, “Now what? We have nothing.” I turned to the Lord, got out my Bible and opened randomly at the story of the feeding of the 5,000. My eyes fell on Jesus’ words to the disciples, “You feed them.” In the days that followed we saw many miracles of provision.

It was the same for the YWAM Jubilee and the Call2All Next Generation event that followed. Miracles of grace, miracles of guidance, miracles of unity, miracles of generosity and the miracle of joy. People from forty nations attended the Pacific Regional Jubilee, including over 200 workers from the small Pacific Islands. They made great sacrifices to come so far. We filled a large university campus in Tauranga, New Zealand for a week and God’s Spirit was poured out among us.

On the first day’s gathering, Darlene proclaimed, “God is saying, ‘This is the year of proving Me great.’” And so we began. Celebrating the God who speaks, remembering with thanksgiving, repenting of offenses, letting go of all securities and identities, we began to step across the threshold into a new day at Jesus’ invitation. “Come away with Me, My love… dance with Me… move when I move… enter My Sabbath rest…”

It was just like the Dawson family gathering. We were enjoying each other, listening to each other’s stories, playing, worshiping and encouraging each other about the future. We were hearing the Father’s voice, receiving the Father’s blessing. Speaking of that, Darlene’s ability to pull stories out of the pioneers and to honor them was a pleasure to watch and her teaching times were the richest I have experienced in the years that she has taught me. Loren inspired us as only he can and as he was speaking a blessing over the Pacific family, the Lord turned me to the patriarch’s blessing of Joseph in Genesis 49:22-26. The metaphors are almost biographical if you think of Loren’s story. It ends with “…these blessings will fall on the head of Joseph who is a prince among his brothers.” I obtained the agreement of the whole crowd as we spoke this blessing over Loren’s life together. We are so grateful for the pioneering work of this wonderful couple. Bless you Loren and Darlene as you travel to all those other locations this year.

So let’s do it. May God grant you and your family every grace. You have part with us so I proclaim these graces over you and yours. We are not disengaging from the necessary responsibilities of building during this year, but we are supremely focused on the Master Builder. This is perhaps best illustrated by the big vinyl map.

During the event, we covered the football field to the left of the main stage with what is probably the biggest map of the world in the world. In the midst of everything else, people would walk over and stand on and around Haiti and travail in prayer. We are, of course, connected to our many workers there and we were ever mindful of the pain of the Haitians even as we celebrated.

That’s the Kingdom of God: joy mingled with tears, strength perfected in weakness, struggle to enter rest, justice and mercy dancing together.

May the Father’s love overwhelm every other influence. May you enter this new day with hope. And thank you, thank you, thank you for walking this journey with Julie and me. We need you, we love you and we bless you.

Yours always,

John Dawson