Understanding Yourself – Real Stories from the Field

Jay BransfordLeadership Messages, Understanding YourselfLeave a Comment


Often hearing examples and stories from other people’s lives can help us gain clarity in our own lives and even give us ideas of how we can move forward in areas where we may feel stuck.  To that end, we recently interviewed several of our ALLC Elders and asked them two main questions:

  • How would you describe yourself?
  • How have you come to that understanding of yourself?

Enjoy reading below the stories and explanations from these Elders as they give us some examples of how they gained a clearer understanding of themselves.  We hope and pray that this both encourages you and gives you some helpful insights about how to go about continuing to better understand yourself, as well.

Garth Gustafson

Role:  Leader of YWAM Battambang, Cambodia – UofN Campus, ALLC Elder

How would you describe yourself?

  • I describe myself as someone who was simply willing to say ‘yes’ to the call of Jesus and his heart for a nation and a people. I understand that God has a unique call on my life and the key is simply to listen and obey. When we do that God will lead us into purposes that are bigger than us because they are God’s purposes coming from His heart.

How have you come to that understanding of yourself?

  • One of the most important understandings that has helped me understand my purpose is that I have a clear understanding that my life is not my own, that I was bought for a price by Christ and so I no longer live for me and my purposes but rather for the purpose of Christ and for the sake of the Gospel. In this place of surrender I have found that God releases us to use our gifts to build His kingdom.

Phil Porter

Role:  National Leader/Convenor of YWAM Thailand and ALLC Elder

How would you describe yourself?

  • A leader who is called to facilitate others to reach their destiny in Christ; to see the big picture and God’s strategies for involving people and ministries in His bigger plan; and to be a worshipper in the battles.

How have you come to that understanding of yourself?

  • Growing in self-awareness – through personality and gifts assessments and leadership training
  • Reading – about leadership; about God’s purposes, etc.
  • Receiving coaching
  • Spending time around other leaders – for observation, affirmation, expansion of my perspective
  • Affirmation through others of my calling and giftings

Harold Viana

Role:  Leader of YWAM Hong Kong Base and ALLC Elder

How would you describe yourself?

  • I describe myself, first and foremost, as a son of God. This has to underline everything else that I am and do. I am a prophet to the nations.  I give people an accurate picture of who God really is by how I teach and by how I live my life.  I am a leader.  Not a Master Yoda type of leader who knows everything, but rather a leader who walks alongside.

How have you come to that understanding of yourself?

  • When I was 21 years old God gave me my life Scripture in Isaiah 42. That day I understood some key elements of who God had created me to be.  As I continue to mature and to walk in obedience to God’s guidance I see how the way I am wired fits completely with what I am supposed to do. First “be” then “do.”
  • I have been greatly influenced to become who I am by my:
    • Environments and upbringing (lived in several distinct cultures for more than half of my life, grew up in a Christian home, parents were never divorced, discipled in a “traditional” Presbyterian church, started working at the age of 12, always loved to travel)
    • Understanding of God
    • Understanding of my giftings
    • Understanding of my successes
    • Understanding of my failures
    • Input about who I am, both the type and how consist I receive that input
    • I am now in my mid-forties and that means that I have already gone through 2 major phases of my life, which are, my forming years (0 to 18 yrs old) and my early years in ministry (19 to 40 yrs old). Maturity takes time!

Mel Tay

Role:  ALLC Elder, ALLC Core Team Member, SOFM Leader 

How would you describe yourself?

  • A child of God who wants to love Him more and more each day and do whatever that is in His heart, to bring a smile to His face.

How have you come to that understanding of yourself?

  • Observing Creation: Seeing and understanding His purpose of creation – to share His life, fellowship in the Trinity with us.
  • Bible Study: Seeing His working throughout the whole Bible and history – to seek out His children/creation and bring them home to the purpose of His creation.
  • Learning from Jesus’ Example: The life and work of Jesus during His time on earth – focuses on being one with the Father, doing His will and bringing glory to Him.

Paul Wilcox

Role:  ALLC Elder, Leadership Teacher, and Previous Regional Leader in Thailand 

How would you describe yourself?

God has called me to be a man of God who lives out of his spirit in the power of the Holy Spirit and empower others to do the same.

How have you come to that understanding of yourself?

  • The prophetic words of people who either didn’t know me or knew me very little that consistently supported what the others were saying.
  • Discovering the life changing process of knowing how God has created me and his handprint on my life through Refocusing Leaders (a training course).
  • Understanding the unique giftings He has given me and how he constantly uses them through my life.
  • Loving and accepting myself in how God has created me to be and how He wants me to live and stop trying to be someone I’m not.

Tom Hallas

Role:  Convenor for YWAM Asia and the Pacific, ALLC Elder 

How would you describe yourself and how have you come to that understanding?

  1. I have observed and felt motivated to know and speak the truth from my childhood;
  2. Others have seen and declared these to be true;
  3. The Scriptures have been applied to my heart by the Spirit;
  4. And, I feel very comfortable in my skin when the Spirit of God is informing, empowering and leading me to give insight, discover the nature of foundations, and bring life, love and liberty in to lives, relationships, situations and circumstances.

Here is some background behind those 4 points:

I think one becomes gradually aware of what they may intuit from an early age but may not have the vocabulary to either analyse or articulate for self or interested others.

I remember at around age 6 years, having some abstract thought come to mind while looking at the stars:

  1. What is beyond beyond beyond?
  2. What was before before before?
  3. What will be after after after?

These are the life questions in a six-year-old’s brain while looking at the stars …. Who am I?  Where did I come from?  Why am I here?  And, where am I going?

An observation and comment by a next door neighbour, also lodged within my spirit and has continued to inform me in relation to questions about myself… when walking into his yard, my very old neighbour greeted me with, “Here come the little philosopher!”  That was not a description of self-awareness at the time as I could not have been more than 8 years’ old.

Stepping forward some years’ on from the teaching on motivational gifts, I identified an internal response to the description of the prophetic type of a person.  During a conference in 1979, where Loren Cunningham was the YWAM speaker and I was about to be launched into what Robert C. Clinton calls, ‘the 3rd stage of developing a leader (ministry maturing),’ Loren declared to a crowd of 15,000 people in Sydney, Australia, that “there is a young prophet among you – his name is Tom Hallas.”  I had just written an article on ‘The Wounded Spirit of Australia,’ which was published in a national magazine and became the theme of the annual Charismatic Conference where Loren was a speaker.  On looking back with a self-analysis lens, I did have an internal resonance to that declaration.  I already had listed in the front of my Bible a list of words that I was convinced were a one-word introduction to prophetic words to speak into the heart needs of Australia and had thus structured the DTS curriculum (in Australia) to be a vehicle of service to those needs.

As I began to travel to different countries, I became aware when entering a city or town, of asking the question, “What brought this place into existence?” and wondering what were the relational and moral foundations of its beginning.  This was, and still is, a process that continues as I travel to any Continent, Nation, city, town or village.  Jeremiah 1:5 certainly came to my attention early in my journey, but the experience of having another declare what they saw about me certainly brought an accepting effect into my way of thinking about myself.  Particularly, if I had a personal witness to the statement.

More recently, during an annual conference with the major leaders in YWAM, the convenor of a Discover Yourself session using Strength Finders as a tool, identified a number of strengths that she had observed in me during a time of questioning:  contact – connections – belief – input – responsible – relater, then she said that this is consistent with people who have prophetic motivations.

A guiding word for me as to how to operate and give governance to a motivational strength or ministry gift has come from 1 Cor 14:3, particularly when asked what do I think? Or, what is God saying? about a particular situation or circumstance.

A life, a word, a comment, or insight, an appeal or correction, should be bathed in these three prophetic intentions:  to exhort, to edify and to comfort.


*For more ALLC resources related to understanding yourself, see:  http://allc.asia/skills/understanding-yourself/

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