Loren Cunningham, the influential founder of Youth With a Mission (YWAM), died last week in Kona, Hawaii, at age 88. He also was the author of several books, including “Is That Really You, God?,” “Making Jesus Lord” and “Daring to Live on the Edge.”
Cunningham was born in 1935 in California and came to Christianity at 13 at a revival. In 1956, he reportedly had a vision.
“Suddenly, I was looking at a map of the world, only the map was alive and moving,” he said, according to “The Christian Post.” “I could see all the continents, and waves were crashing onto their shores. Each wave went onto a continent, then receded, then came up further until it covered the continent completely.”
The waves became young people covering every continent. “They were talking to people on street corners and outside bars,” he said. “They were going from house to house and preaching the gospel. They came from everywhere and went everywhere, caring for people. Then, just as suddenly as it had come, the scene was gone.”
Cunningham founded YWAM in 1960, and today the organization has some 2,000 chapters around the world, including Kansas City – a major ministry hub.
“Millions have served in YWAM programs as students, short-term volunteers and full-time staff,” his obituary said. “Many have credited YWAM as among the world’s largest and most significant mission movements.”
“Not many people come down the road of life who have an impact like Loren Cunningham,” said evangelist Franklin Graham. “He was a force for the Gospel. His vision and passion for reaching lost souls with the Good News of Jesus Christ was unwavering – and God gave him the ability to communicate, to inspire, and to motivate thousands of young men and women to go into the world and do the same.”
In a statement, Wycliffe Bible Translators praised his life: “Well done, Loren. You dedicated your life to seeing the Great Commission advanced. I can only imagine the countless people you’re encountering in heaven because of your dedication to making disciples of all nations — for God’s glory and the good of His people everywhere!”
Pastor Wayne Cordeiro, president of New Hope Christian College in Eugene, Oregon, posted: “To me, he was a giant of faith and a pioneer. We don’t have many of them. Loren, among a few others, led the way. He inspired me to love missions.”
His family announced earlier this year in March that Cunningham had been diagnosed with stage four cancer. His wife said he would not be undergoing clinical treatments.
“We have already decided as a family to prioritize Loren’s quality of life over trying to extend the length of time, through chemo or other treatments that could reduce his energy and productiveness,” she said. “He has Jesus, family, friends and vision. Who could ask for more?”
Cunningham is survived by his wife, Darlene; children David, Karen and Judy; and three grandchildren.
YWAM has a strong presence in the Kanas City area, with ministries such as Team Xtreme. For more information, visit www.ywamkansascity.com
–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice