Youth With a Mission—a missions organization known as YWAM—gave Cole Flanigan the opportunity to share the Gospel in Nepal. His experience with YWAM changed his expectations of himself and of God’s role in his life.
Cole never expected to hear God’s voice. 18 years old in 2013, he planned to attend college and pursue music after high school. But several concussions made academics difficult, and a four year university was no longer an immediate option.
“I believed I was a person the Lord would never speak to personally,” Cole said. “I believed the Lord expected me to serve him in silence and through faith. I wasn’t heartbroken. I accepted it.”
YWAM’s motto is to know God and to make him known. One of YWAM’s many programs, the Discipleship Training School, or DTS, trains young people and sends them out on short term missions trips around the world. YWAM has a DTS base in Maui, Hawaii; a friend returned from his honeymoon and told Cole to go to Maui. So he did.
He expected perfect missionary kids, but instead Cole met Christians just like him. “YWAM gives them a chance to do something with their lives and to do something for the Lord,” Cole said.
Breaking the Silence
During the 11 weeks of training with YWAM, he discarded his prior expectations—of the people around him, of himself, and of God. Everything changed.
He heard God’s voice.
“The second week of my DTS was about hearing God’s voice. I knew very little about personally hearing the voice of the Lord,” Cole said, “but I audibly heard God’s voice for the first time. Experiences are not the end but the beginning of something. That experience was the beginning of something for me, and it changed my life.”
The barrier of silence broke down, and Cole experienced the personal nature of his relationship with God. John 10:10 says Christ came to bring abundant life, and God gave Cole fresh exuberance. “The Lord revealed things about himself, and I gained a deeper understanding of life abundant, and that came through hearing God’s voice.”
In December 2013, after three months of training, Cole and his outreach team left Maui for Nepal.
Youth With A Mission On A Mission
The goal of the trek through the Himalayas was to share the Gospel with people they met every day, and every day Cole’s team brought new believers into the family of God. The trek renewed Cole’s excitement for sharing the Gospel, but after days of walking, the team was exhausted. In the last village, his entire team was ill, and the villagers welcomed them with food and games, and allowed them to rest. Cole became a Nepali man by swallowing a ball of rice whole. He danced with the old ladies, played with the children, and ate goat meat for lunch and dinner.
The team traveled down to Pokhara, a beautiful lake town at the base of the mountains. Each morning, after Bible study and prayer, Cole and his friends shared the Gospel with people they met on the streets.
Tourists brushed them off in annoyance, and the locals ignored them. Apathy filled the city, and apathy slowed Cole and his team.
On the second to last day, the team went out, feeling hopeful.
Again, no one wanted to talk to them.
Cole noticed students playing handball and he ran over to join the game. “I just wanted to play handball,” he laughed. In his apathy, Cole wanted to play instead of minister. But the students wanted to talk.
“God said he was going to save those kids and I wasn’t going to stand in the way.” He listened to God’s voice and shared the Gospel with them while one of the older students translated. 17 students accepted Christ, and Cole left four Nepali Bibles.
Just One More
One day, in Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city, he asked the Lord to give him a specific word for that day. God’s voice told him to take four English Bibles. “I picked up a bunch of Nepali Bibles and four English Bibles and I was determined to give those Bibles to people who accepted the Lord that day. I was going to do it,” Cole said.
Cole gave away three English Bibles by lunch. It was time to return to the house, but Cole refused. He knew the Lord would be faithful. His team went home, and Cole kept going.
He walked up to a man. “Can I talk to you?”
“No English,” the man said.
Cole gave him a Nepali Bible and moved on.
He met another man, and shared the Gospel. He was confident this man was the one.
“No,” the second man said, and walked away.
Two men watched Cole share, so he approached them.
“We don’t speak English,” they said. Cole gave them Nepali Bibles and moved on.
The sun was going down. Discouraged, Cole started walking home. He asked God to point out the right guy.
Close to home, he saw a man sitting on a bench by the side of the road.
He heard the Lord say, “That’s the one.”
Cole sat down next to the man. “Hey, do you speak English?”
“Yes,” he said. He asked what Cole was doing in Kathmandu. He spoke excellent English.
Cole explained his purpose. “Do you want to hear about Jesus?”
“Yeah, sounds great.”
In Nepal, if you’re an American, they want to hear what you have to say. Cole shared the Gospel.
“All gods are the same,” the man said in response. He told Cole he had a four-chambered heart with one spot for Allah, one for Buddha, one for Hindu, and one for Jesus.
Frustrated and tired, Cole didn’t know what to do. God said he would speak through Cole.In the Lord’s strength, he explained the big difference between Christianity and other religions.
“It’s how you fix the problem,” Cole said. “The Lord has done the work for you. There is no religion here, no set of rules, just Jesus dying on the cross for your sins.”
Moved by the truth of the Gospel, the man said, “You have opened my eyes.”
He prayed and accepted the Lord. Cole gave him the last English Bible, and talked with him for a long time in the fading light.
YWAM gave Cole the opportunity to learn and serve, and God spoke to Cole through his time with YWAM. The teaching phase of the DTS brought him closer to God, and the outreach phase in Nepal gave him the chance to share the Gospel with others. YWAM provided the opportunity, and the experience shaped his future. Today, Cole is studying to become a pastor, and hopes to spend time working at YWAM bases around the world.
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