By Mark Ellis —
Faith comes by hearing, hearing from the Word of the Lord. (Romans 10:17)
Loren Cunningham, the founder of YWAM, recently recounted a story of faith involving the ministry’s formative years in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1974.
“We were told to start a school in Switzerland and we already had gone in and the school was going and bought our first property,” Cunningham said December 5th at the Finishing the Task conference.
One morning during his devotional he prayed, “Lord, what’s on your heart.”
Then the still small voice of the Lord impressed on him: I want to give you a farm for YWAM.
“I grew up mostly in L.A. and thought milk comes from cartons, not from animals. It just seemed so out of context. So I said, ‘Lord if that is really you, will you give me confirmation?’”
Then God led Cunningham to the Book of James. Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (Romans 2:17)
The next day, Saturday, Cunningham learned that a neighbor’s farm was being auctioned, so he decided to step out in faith. “I went over to the auction and bought a roll of barbed wire and a milk can and a hay wagon.”
When he purchased the three farm-related items, he did not have a farm.
On Monday morning, some of the students at the School of Evangelism questioned him about the hay wagon. “God is going to give me a farm for YWAM,” he told them.
“You keep saying God is giving you the farm; what about us?” one student replied.
“You haven’t heard from the Lord,” Cunningham said.
“Can’t we hear from the Lord?” the student asked.
“Go seek him,” Cunningham replied.
In a short while the entire campus had received confirmation of the word and became convinced God was going to provide a farm that would be used to train missionaries.
A female Swiss student named Jojo went home and confidently told her parents, “God is giving us a farm for YWAM and we bought a hay wagon in faith.”
Her father, a godly man, tried to caution his daughter about the difference between faith and presumption, hoping she was not setting herself up for disappointment if the farm never materialized.
Less than two weeks later the father was talking to a man who said, “I have this farm and God told me to give it to a mission. Do you know a mission that needs a farm?”
“YWAM!” the man cried out excitedly. “They bought a hay wagon in faith!”
When Cunningham visited the farm in Burtigny, Switzerland, for the first time, he was amazed that it was no ordinary farm. “It had once been used as an orphanage. They had dormitories, a classroom, a cafeteria, a great kitchen, and all kinds of apple trees.”
Since the farm was given to YWAM, it has been used to train several thousand young people — especially French speakers and missionaries to the francophone world.
Cunningham marvels today at the way God directed him. “I didn’t know the end from the beginning, but I knew the next step I needed to take,” he says.
Encouraging the students to seek the Lord was also important. “United faith is more powerful than individual faith. There are times when you need unity in your faith, and when we come together with our faith something happens.”