by Mason Leonardy
“I want you to take a walk with me.” That was what I heard.
That is what He told me.
I had just completed my second year of a Bachelor of Music degree at an up-and-coming Jazz Conservatory in California. I was four years into a promising career at a high-volume food company that promised me management and six-figures after another few years of training and experience. I was on the track to success, comfortable living, and family security that most young Americans hope for in their early twenties when simply, suddenly… God spoke.
Now, there is obviously more to the story. I did have friends go into YWAM before I even knew what it was all about. And watching them love Jesus, take risks and choose to do something daring before settling down into their cozy futures certainly spoke to me as well. But one day the Lord called me to the same, and I wasn’t sure what to do.
I wanted to believe that God was out there – a real person worth knowing. But I didn’t know how to find Him. I didn’t know what it meant to pursue or cultivate a relationship with Christ. My Church experience had been pretty minimal through childhood and I didn’t know a lick of Scripture before my DTS. But what I want to share is that the choice I made that day, the day I heard God’s voice, was the most powerful “Yes” I had ever given. I knew in my heart there was something for me, something I needed to know before I decided to continue the path I was on.
That night I did what any young man with a curiosity for missions would do.
I got on my computer and looked for information.
The day after I heard the message, I got a phone call from the Director of YWAM Virginia (now known as YWAM Richmond), Chris Zinchuck. He invited me to come hiking on the first ever Appalachian Trail Discipleship Training School outreach. I had never hiked or camped or set up a tent a day in my life, but I thought, “Well, that sounds like a nice long walk. Maybe God wants me to meet Him there.” I told my parents that in one month I was going on a missions trip and would be staying in Virginia to train before we started. Though they don’t follow Christ, they supported me and seemed to understand a desire for adventure at my age. I am grateful to this day for their love and encouragement.
Everyone’s DTS experience is different. I won’t try to explain. But what I loved about the AT was that it truly taught me God’s nature and how to find Him in the midst of pain, adversity, and even severe discouragement. I remember one of my toughest days was on a rainy ridge that went on for miles and had the steepest descent I have faced. I wanted to fall off the mountain. I’m serious. But after covering a distance that should have taken me 20 mins in 2 hours, I came across another hiker in a small clearing at the bottom.
His name was Atlas.
I had recently shaved after 3 months of growing my beard (a hallmark of the hiker culture), and upon approaching Atlas, who looked more distraught and defeated than I felt, greeted me expressionless with, “Hey babyface.” I laughed so hard I almost fell over. I was glad to see a good friend on a bad day. I noticed he wasn’t in high spirits so I asked him what was up. He was actually at his wits end, I believe, when he asked with a very present hopelessness if I had any extra water.
That day I had carried 3 extra liters of water in a party-size pouch I had received as a gift for free. It was the first day I had decided to use the bag. Happy to be relieved of the pounds, I looked at Atlas and said, “Sure.” His eyes widened in disbelief as I replenished his own containers and I was almost brought to tears seeing another human being, this brother of mine consume and sincerely enjoy this basic element of life with such desperation and gratitude at the same time. It was moving.
I believe God had me carry that water for Atlas that day.
Just for Atlas.
I could go on and on recounting the marvels and mysteries and quirks and compelling, fond memories of the trail, all the members of my team and how we struggled immensely yet overcome impossible odds and situations. But what matters even more to me is that I really did find Him out there. My Father… When you get out there, when you spend some time alone in Creation and ask questions of the Creator, He really has a way of finding you, of pursuing you. And He invites you into something deeper and greater than you can know until you engage, until you respond.
He asks you to be His very own.
And that makes all the difference.
Mason is a full-time staff at Ywam Richmond. He serves as a Worship Leader and also works in the Discipleship Training School. Mason carries a great passion for the Lord as well as a true servants heart while providing our community with fresh creativity as a Worship Leader. Mason enjoys playing soccer, hiking, and engaging in community life as well as spending time with his fiancee, Rebecca.