50 Years Later, YWAM Still Innovating Missions

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During it's 50-year history, the Youth with a Mission ministry has helped transform the idea of modern missions by releasing young people from more than 200 nations to help complete the great commission.

The group allows people of any background or nationality to use unconventional methods to share the gospel.

Loren Cunningham's vision of Youth with a Mission first took shape in 1960. Fifty years later, nearly 4.5 million people have been involved with his group.

"I began to see that God was calling us to break some norms and change the paradigm of missions, although I didn't know what that meant except we were used to do the radical," Cunningham said.

His wife Darlene played an integral role in the formation of their work. Together the couple focused on developing others' potential.

"We've always recognized that it's going to take everybody to do it, and that God has uniquely made different people," Darlene said. "We were called to release young people into their destiny."

"Now Christians didn't think that missionaries were anyone but a westerner speaking to a non-westerner, often under a shade tree with a pith helmet. And that was the view of a missionary," Cunningham added. "And that was not what God's view was. We asked God. We said, "Who was a YWAMer, Lord? He said, "Anyone that I send to you.'"

Kenny and Maria Jackson teach and train at YWAM's University of the Nations. They take pride in the ministry's diversity.

"One of the things that's really thrilling to me is a lot of black YWAMers that are from Africa or even YWAMers from Brazil or sometimes YWAMers from Polynesian cultures," Kenny Jackson said. "They get really excited (and say), 'Wow you're the dean of the college of communications,' and it does something. Sometimes it just says," There's room for you.'"

YWAMers recently gathered from more than 100 countries at the final jubilee year celebration in Kona, Hawaii.

"At the opening of the ceremony there, I saw all the nations there and I'm like everyday is like the United Nations meeting in my life," said YWAMer Chimene Djumo.

"I heeded to the call and to the voice of Jesus knowing that He was willing to use an Indian, ordinary person, to bless the nations, added Benny Prasad. "And that fact clearly shows to the world that God is no respecter of nationality, color or anyone. That He could use anybody, from any nation, to pick them up and be a blessing to the nations out there."

Today, more than 20,000 full time YWAMers are deployed in every sphere of society, taking creative risks when few others will.

"When He asks us to take a risk... and you're saying, 'God I can't do this, I can't, I can't do it.' Well then you hear that wonderful voice of the Lord say, 'Oh I'm so glad that you know you can't, now I can!'" Darlene explained.

As staff and students gather to celebrate the past, another wave of young people have received the torch from YWAM leaders.

"All the nations are sending nations. They all have in their Bible the great commission, no matter what language they read it in. And so, we need each other desperately," said YWAM president John Dawson. "So at this point, YWAM is a majority non-westerner mission. It's an incredible thing to see the riches of Jesus revealed through the human creation, blended together in this adventure that we've experienced these last 50 years."

"It builds my faith to know that it's really possible to finish the great commission in this generation," Loren added.

"We've just been the people that had this enormous privilege of blowing the bugle. And we have been honored and humbled by what God has done," Darlene continued. "He indeed is the wavemaker, and it's my desire to see these waves get bigger and go farther and be more powerful."

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CBN News
Wendy Griffith

Wendy Griffith

CBN News Anchor/Reporter

Wendy Griffith is a Co-host for the The 700 Club and an Anchor and Senior Reporter for the Christian Broadcasting Network based in Virginia Beach, Virginia. In addition to The 700 Club, she co-anchors Christian World News, a weekly show that focuses on the triumphs and challenges of the global church. Follow Wendy on Twitter @WendygCBN and "like" her at Facebook.com/WendyGriffithCBN.