The Story Of YWAM
From a late-night vision given to a 20-year-old in the Bahamas to a global ministry with over 18,000 workers, the growth of YWAM is the story of God’s inspiration, God’s grace for many mistakes, and the creativity of the Holy Spirit’s leading. The heart of YWAM – to worship God, to serve God’s global purposes, and to champion young people, remains as strong as it was in the beginning.
1956, One Vision
ne of 1956, Loren Cunningham, a 20-year-old student from the United States, spent a part of his summer break in Nassau, Bahamas touring with a singing group. One night after a busy day, Loren had an unusual experience. “I lay down on the bed,” he recalled, “doubled the pillow under my head and opened my Bible, routinely asking God to speak into my mind. What happened next was far from routine. Suddenly, I was looking up at a map of the world. Only the map was alive, moving! I sat up. I shook my head, rubbed my eyes. It was a mental movie. I could see all the continents. Waves were crashing onto the shores. Each went onto a continent, then receded, then came up further until it covered the continent completely. I caught my breath. Then, as I watched, the scene changed. The waves became young people–kids my age and even younger–covering the continents. They were talking to people on the street corners and outside bars. They were going house to house. They were preaching. ‘Was that really you, Lord?’ I wondered, still staring at the wall, amazed. Young people–kids really–going out as missionaries! What an idea! And I thought ‘Why did God give me this vision?’”
1960, Youth With A Mission
In the summer of 1960, Loren graduated from college. With the vision still on his mind, Loren led a youth mission trip to Hawaii. While there, he developed more of the vision for a new organization. This ministry would send young people out after high school to gain a sense of purpose. It would welcome all Christians no matter what their denomination. He started that organization, Youth With A Mission, by the end of the year. Two years later, Loren married Darlene Scratch. Together, they are viewed as co-founders of YWAM today.
By 1966, YWAM had grown to 10 full-time staff and was attracting hundreds of summer short-term volunteers. YWAM teams were being sent to the West Indies, Samoa, Hawaii, Mexico, and Central America.
1969, The First Training Program
Twenty-one students gathered in Chateau-d’Oex, Switzerland in 1969 for YWAM’s first in-depth training program, the School of Evangelism.
In 1970, YWAM bought the hotel in which it held its first school, and made Lausanne, Switzerland
YWAM’s first permanent location. The building offered classroom space and housing for YWAM students.
We still focus on youth, and we also involve people aged 8 to 80. We currently work in more than 1,100 locations in over 180 countries, with a staff of over 18,000.
One of the joys of participating in YWAM is to work with people from many nations. YWAM’s staff (known as “YWAMers”) come from over 130 countries, including places like Indonesia, Nepal, Mozambique, and Colombia.
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