Book Report 1 - "Is that really you, God?" by Loren Cunningham

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Youth with a Mission

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When I first heard about this Hawaii thing I had no clue what it was, other than it was a photography course run by a Christian group called PhotogenX. The more research I did into it the more I found out about outreach - what to pack, when to arrive, what visa I needed, how I needed to pay for my fees, etc. You get the picture, I was busy.

I knew that PhotogenX and Youth with a Mission (YWAM) were related and I also knew that YWAM had been around for a while but I just didn't feel the need to dig into that side of things - the practical matters were in the front of my mind.

After weeks of prep stretched over a few months I made it to Kona, Hawaii safe and with all my gear (minus one lock that the TSA cut open). I took it for granted that YWAM existed on this island and that it had been around longer than me. In fact, YWAM turns 50 this year - by then I'll be 24 - so that's 26 years of work done before I was born - another 15 or so before I became aware of YWAM. This book documents YWAM, from the very start to the Anastasis arriving in Kona. 

From my viewpoint the book breaks into two parts - "Where did God lead?" and "Where did we go?". There's a bit of drama in there too and a bit of romance (what story is complete without one or the other?). First however, it's important to understand that throughout the book many would have said that missions were for trained missionaries - people of the word, who had devoted lots of time and study to becoming a missionary. Missions are not a new concept - they are biblically based. Mark 16:15 reads "He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation". The thing YWAM did differently was to focus on youth doing missions.


The centerpoint of YWAM and this book is most definitely the vision Loren had in 1956. "I was looking at a map of the world, only the map was alive and moving!" ... "I could see all the continents, and waves were crashing onto their shores." ... "The waves became young people - kids my age and even younger - covering all the continents of the globe" ... "preaching the Gospel".

This book title stems from that vision. Loren had to ask if that was from God or if he imagined it and in my opinion to do less would be foolish. What I've been learning this week is that there will be times when you just don't know if something comes from God. Sometimes you need to step out and try it. This is where God lead and Loren followed.

Smooth Sailing

Summarising this book into a report isn't as easy as I'd like - despite the book being a rather easy read. I was planning on going through some of the details of the book, the progression, etc. but that would make for a very, very long blog post, so instead I want to talk about the difficulties encountered and leave you to read the rest of the book yourself. I'm taking this approach because I believe that too often we stand up and preach about all the good things that happen, but don't give any time to the mistakes. This creates a false impression that Christians make no mistakes and that if you do, you're the odd one out.

The story of YWAM is not all plain sailing (pun intended, but we'll get to that). Early on YWAM rubbed the Assembly of God the wrong way by recruiting youth from all denominations. Until this, YWAM had sat under the umbrella of AOG, but the choice was to stay and be AOG or leave and be all-denominational. Thankfully for me (since lifeswitch is Brethren, even though I don't consider myself to have a denomination) YWAM became it's own entity.

The lesson from this is that sometimes you may be called to go against the leadership of the day - just like Jesus had to. I truly believe Jesus must have made a lot of churches very uncomfortable and angry - if we're called to follow him we could end up doing the same. This can mean giving up our reputation, position, standing and stature in an organisation that we genuinely like for the sake of doing what we're called to do.

The other thing I want to talk about is the Maori. The Maori was a ship YWAM wanted to purchase for use as a mercy ship. She would sail to places that needed help with supplies and support - a very admirable (expensive) endeavour. However money was not the problem - a deposit was raised and final payment due in a month. Focus was the problem.

We can easily fall into this trap, in fact I have a few times. If we lose sight of the fact that what we are doing is to glorify Jesus then we shoot ourselves in the foot. For YWAM it was how they put so much value in the ship itself, not the provider of the ship. For me it's how I would turn up to lead a bible study without having prayed before hand, relying on just my knowledge of the material.

The hard thing YWAM had to do was let go of this thing they'd placed so much value in and suffer the embarassment of telling the world "God will give us this ship" only to have it sold for scrap to another company. This cost them money, but earned them humility. So was the ship a mistake? Did God not lead them down that road? I think that if God didn't want YWAM to have a ship he would have blocked their second attempt too. This didn't happen and a few years later YWAM ended up with the Anastasis.

YWAM is present in 1,100 locations in 170 countries with 30,000 volunteers and 200,000 short term missionaries worldwide across cultural and language barriers. It's easy to look at something as big as this and assume it always existed. One thing I will give away from the book is that Loren's heart was touched by an 8 year old Arab girl in Israel, pleading 'Baksheesh', asking for money. Loren didn't even see this girl, his father saw her and shared her story in their local church.

I wonder if that's the position I'll be in when I return to New Zealand. I'll have 6 months of time to describe - the experiences, highs and lows and I have little doubt that 50 years on from this part of the book there is still lots to be done. The times and tools have changed, but the need has not.

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This page contains a single entry by crimson published on April 19, 2010 10:51 PM.

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