Yesterday was Shirley’s and my 47th wedding anniversary. I’m so grateful for the godly wife that God gave me in 1976.
This week my heart aches for the nation of Israel which was attacked by terrorists with great loss of life. I am praying for the peace of Jerusalem and justice for the Hamas murderers.
But today I want to honor YWAM founder Loren Cunningham who graduated to heaven early Friday morning, October 6, at the age of 88.
I thank God for Loren Cunningham.
Thanking God for Loren Cunningham
For those unfamiliar with the life and legacy of Loren Cunningham, let me share a short bio.
Loren and his wife Darlene founded Youth With A Mission in 1960 after Loren received a “vision” (mental picture) in 1956 of young people coming up on the shores of the world like waves of global evangelists. At the time, youth in missions were frowned upon by most pastors and missiologists.
Believing God wanted him to establish a youth-centered, interdenominational missions movement, Loren left the Assemblies of God to start YWAM as he and Dar mobilized young people to do short term outreaches in America, the Caribbean and Mexico during the turbulent decade of the 1960’s.
In 1969, through a direct word from Duncan Campbell, a leader in the Hebrides Revival, the Cunninghams moved to Switzerland and purchased a property in Lausanne to begin training schools to multiply missionaries. Their modular approach to teaching/speakers (from all parts of the Body of Christ) and “live/learn” methods of evangelism drew young people like bees to honey.
I was one of them.
For the remainder of his life, Loren helped mobilize millions of people for world evangelism in Europe, Africa, the America, the Middle East, Oceania, and Asia. In his lifetime, YWAM grew from just he and Darlene to scores of thousands of missionaries working in 200 nations working out of 2000 bases worldwide.
Millions also were trained through our YWAM schools and global University of the Nations.
Eleven months ago, Loren was diagnosed with fourth stage lung cancer and given four-to-six weeks to live. Through prayer and God’s intervention, he lived for another eleven months in his home in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii using ZOOM meetings extensively to encourage the YWAM family and others to “complete the task.”
His final vision was to launch the Pray OMT (Oral Mother Tongue) project to help speed up the oral translation of the Bible into every heart language on earth.
Other global initiatives launched under his leadership include YWAM Olympic Outreaches, the International Torch Run, Cardinal Points Prayer Days, the University of the Nations, YWAM Ships (28 vessels currently serve the most isolated islands and coastlands), and myriads of other ministries birthed by leaders he inspired.
Loren was the first person in history to travel to every sovereign nation on earth, all dependent countries, and more than 100 territories and islands for the sake of Jesus and the Great Commission (Mark 16:15).
As his obituary now states, Loren has added one more “stamp” to his well-worn passport:
As I share in detail in my new book, One Small Life: Revival Adventures from My Fifty Year Journal, I met a youthful Loren Cunningham in New Zealand in 1972 when I was 19 and studying the Bible while seeking God’s direction for my life. Here’s the encounter:
On Sunday night, November 25th, we [four Americans] went with a group from Valley Road Baptist Church to the Auckland YMCA for a missions rally headlined by Loren Cunningham. Also present was Brother Andrew, author of the book God’s Smuggler and head of the Open Doors ministry as well as Don Stephens who would later become CEO of Mercy Ships International.
YWAM had just finished their first Olympic outreach in Munich where nine Israeli athletes were held hostage and killed. Loren, with long hair at 37, shared how hundreds of believers distributed roses in the streets of Munich and ministered to athletes and visitors during the games. Youth With A Mission purchased a Bavarian Castle outside of Munich to house those doing the outreach. Loren’s message stirred me: “Come help us fulfill the Great Commission!”
I nearly jumped from my seat at the missions altar call and made my way to the front, speaking to Loren and Don about coming to Europe to be trained by YWAM.
That decision would set my life’s course for the next forty years.
As he has done for countless others, Loren “Macedonian Call” (Acts 16:6-10), drew me in 1974 to Youth With A Mission’s second school in Germany. The dynamic missions training helped me launch out as a revival evangelist both within YWAM and the global Church.
My first and only trip to Israel was due to Loren’s vision for a three month “Middle East Field Trip” during YWAM’s first European “Schools of Evangelism.” We traveled and camped throughout the Bible lands and Eastern Europe while reading the Scriptures on location and sharing our faith.
I also chronicle this “best ever” live/learn training experience in detail in One Small Life.
(Interestingly, during our trip to Israel in April, 1974, our 120 young YWAM missionaries also entered a war zone. A couple of days before our arrival, 18 Israelis were cruelly massacred in the village of Kiryat Shimon by Arab terrorists leading to Prime Minister Golda Meir’s resignation. In 2023, Israel remains a focal point of world history).
It was a wonderful privilege to know and work with Loren Cunningham throughout my life. He spoke in my hometown, and gave me many confirmations of God-given visions. Even when I “failed” in one of them (death of vision), he invited me to work directly with him for two years out of the Kona, Hawaii YWAM base.
I learned a great deal about godly leadership by watching Loren Cunningham.
One Small Life contains a chapter called “Walking With Wise People.” In it, I mention fifteen leaders who made the greatest impact on my life and work.
First in the list is Loren Cunningham.
Here’s part of my tribute to his life example:
Loren taught me many things about leadership. I learned from him that the number one quality of a leader is self control because leaders are carefully watched by others and need to protect them. A pastor friend named Gordon Hanstad says, “The number one gift I can give to my people is my own personal holiness.”
Loren Cunningham gave me that gift for a lifetime of involvement with YWAM.
Loren never let fame and notoriety go to his head. He was a steady, humorous, wise, humble man who lived a simple but strenuous life for his Lord and Master. I often watched Loren in leadership gatherings or prayer meetings where the expression on his face indicated he was listening to and communicating with God.
He and Darlene’s life story written years ago entitled Is That Really You, God? stands as a testament to that fact.
Loren loved God, heard from God and most importantly obeyed God in all the things He showed him for the advance of Christ’s Kingdom.
He displayed an obedient, radiant, and contagious faith.
I thank God for the life and work of Loren Cunningham. I believe history will record that he was one of the greatest missions mobilizers of all time.
All for the glory of Jesus.
“Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23).
Since the greatest form of admiration is imitation, may we go and do likewise.