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How It All Began: The YWAM Story

The year was 1956: The era of The Cold War, Civil Rights Movement in the USA, the baby boom, Elvis Presley, I Love Lucy, Marilyn Monroe and a vision that was born.

20-year old Loren Cunningham and three other young men had formed a gospel singing quartet and they were in the Bahamas. Between their singing engagements, they connected with different missionaries. They learned about one incident where some teenagers had traveled to the Bahamas to do missions work on their own but their cultural insensitivity had led to some damaging rumors. One evening after a performance, Loren was heading to bed when he had a vision–he saw a moving map of the world. Waves were crashing onto the shores of every continent, each one coming up further and further until the entire continent was covered. Then, the waves became young people covering the continents. They talked with people, they were in homes, and they preached the Gospel.

Then, the waves became young people covering the continents.

At that point in history, short term missions did not exist as we know it today. Missions was reserved for those who had extensively studied theology. The idea of sending young people as missionaries was unheard of. In 1960, Loren developed the vision God had given him more, YWAM was born and it became one of the first organizations where part of its foundations was built on the idea that young people could be in missions.

His committed obedience to God led YWAM to be a key player in shaping missions to what it is today.

Fast forward to 2020: YWAM has grown to over 1,200 locations in 180 nations, over 15,000 full-time volunteers, and trains around 25,000 short-term missionaries every year. God entrusted a 20-year old young man in 1956 with a dream. The book Is That Really You, God? gives a more complete picture of Loren’s story that led to YWAM. In the book, once Loren received the vision of waves of young people, he asked the question, “was that really you, Lord?” But, his committed obedience to God led YWAM to be a key player in shaping missions to what it is today. The dream hasn’t been fulfilled yet but the waves continue to roll in.

Where have you come from and where are you going? What is God calling you to? How will you respond? Who knows, your obedience to God could change the course of history again.

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