Patience Harris

Patience Harris

My day job is being a missionary with Youth with a Mission, (YWAM or WHY-wham).

This is an interdenominational, international group that was started in 1960 and currently has over 180 bases around the world. YWAM focuses on three main things: evangelism, mercy missions and training.

You can pick where you want to go and if you have an idea for a mission, you can develop pretty much anything you can think of! We have tattoo ministries, community development, goat ministries, medical ships, childcare, construction and so much more. It’s in the DNA of YWAM to be pioneering.

There isn’t a headquarters per say, but your first step as a YWAM missionary is to attend a discipleship training school, or DTS. You spend three months in lecture where you learn about who God is. A lot of people choose the location of their lecture based on interests they have or are curious about. (Example: Many DTSs have a focus on either community development, children at risk, sports, creative arts and so on). After you spend time learning about who God is, you go (usually) overseas and share with others who God is through word of mouth, actions, service and more for two to three months.

My base is in Madison, but I’ve also spent time in Samoa, Papua New Guinea, Costa Rica and Brazil. The projects I’ve worked on have included bible classes, being on a medical ship, basic construction and running classes for children. Sometimes we already have a base in a country where someone is interested in serving. For instance, people from the Madison base often go to East Asia, Nepal, Thailand and Japan. Other times we’re going into a country for the first time and you look for ministries to partner with.

My current goal is to return to Brazil—I’m hoping to be there by September. The community where I’ll be is on the eastern coast of Brazil, about eight hours north of Rio. It’s quite small, remote and impoverished. The program there is focused on family restoration and I’ll be helping run a school.

When people think of Brazil, they tend to think of violence and corruption. But it’s also a very beautiful country with wonderful people. I’m very excited to return and working hard to make that happen.

One thing I’ve been focusing on during my time in Madison is human trafficking. I work with a man named James Ferrett who sells fair trade products from countries around the world through Ethical Trading Company. This is a non-profit that works to end human trafficking through job creation. They work with suppliers who help the men, women and children that make the products by providing not just livable wages, but child care, education, training and more.

My most memorable caffeine is an interesting question because I don’t like coffee! I’ve lived in a number of countries where sharing a cup of coffee is a key element of the culture. I don’t know how many times someone has brought me a cup of coffee in the morning. It was such a sweet act of presence—of course I drank that coffee! I drank it all. I really enjoyed the graciousness behind the act.

My current caffeine of choice is a hot chocolate, a vanilla steamer or a chai tea.

My favorite place for caffeine is really more about the person I’m with. It doesn’t matter where we are—anywhere is good. That said, I do like trying new places. And I especially like going to Madison Chocolate Company, which is co-owned by my friend Bridget. She is one of the most creative, lovely and down to earth people you could ever meet. Her shop is always decorated for whatever holiday is coming up and everything is homemade. They’re always brainstorming and trying something new.

The person I’d love to share a cup of caffeine with is someone with a Midwestern background who’s lived in Brazil for at least five years. I don’t know who you are, but I’m hoping you’re out there!

It’s hard to understand how your culture is different from that of another country—in this case, Brazil’s—and how something you say or do will be perceived. It would be so helpful to connect with someone who’s had a similar background and navigated living in Brazil and could share insights with me.

World problem that could be solved with the right amount of caffeine: family restoration. I think about the impact of family quite a bit and how your family history affects everything about you. I think most of the problems in the world are relationship-oriented and are rooted in family problems/hurts.