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Loren Cunningham Wants to End Bible Poverty. Let's Help Him.

I first heard Loren Cunningham, the founder of Youth With A Mission, speak in the fall of 1972. 

At the time, Loren was 37 years old with a bit of long hair (Jesus Revolution days). I was nineteen.

From the first moments I heard him, I knew that he was in touch with God and carried a bigger-than-normal vision for world evangelization.

This past weekend, I had the privilege of hearing Loren speak again in Lynden, Washington. He is now 80 years old and a senior statesman in world missions.

His world vision hasn't changed. He wants every person on earth to have a Bible in their mother tongue. He wants to end what he calls "Bible poverty."

Let's help him.

My life was changed through hearing Loren Cunningham share his heart forty-five years ago. At the end of his global missions message, he gave an altar call for those who were willing to join the movement. I was one of the first ones to get to my feet, go forward, and make plans to join this small group of Christian radicals that called themselves Youth With A Mission.

What was so powerful about Loren's message?  A number of things: 

  • Loren talked about God having a plan for each of our lives (Psalm 139). That was attractive for a nineteen year old college dropout who was trying to find himself and his future.
  • He talked about hearing God's voice and obeying Him in our lives. Who wouldn't want to hear the voice of the Creator of Creation and Author of Salvation. Is there any greater motivation for living a life of meaning and purpose?
  • Loren spoke of serving a life goal that was worth living and dying for--not living a "small" life but connecting with the God of the universe who is worthy of all that we are.
  • I was amazed at Loren's vision, his depth of understanding of world issues and events, the many nations he had visited, and his passion to see every person in the world reached with the message of Jesus' love.

I did want to make an impact in the world. Loren convinced me at nineteen that the greatest way to do that was finding His plan for my life within the context of the Great Commission.

Today, four decades have gone by since hearing those inspirational words and serving full-time in Youth With A Mission.

Words can change a life.

Now fast-forward to Lynden, Washington. 

Lynden is a beautiful farming community just south of the Canadian border in the northwest corner of Washington State. It was founded by Dutch immigrants in the 1800s who both loved the land and loved their God.

The Dutch Reformed Church is a pillar in the Lynden community, its history and its people. Lynden has historically sent out missionaries--many into our organization in the past fifty years. Some of my early team members were from Lynden and carried great Dutch names like DeYoung, Sebens, and DeBoer. 

Holland itself has a wonderful history of involvement in global missions.

About eigtheen months ago, an associate pastor who had previously served in YWAM, invited me to come up and talk about starting a new YWAM base in Lynden. Lynden had sent many people to Youth With A Mission but never hosted a local YWAM presence. That day I met with about twenty YWAM "alums" who had a heart for a local YWAM ministry but didn't know how to start it.

A few months later I got a call about a couple of Lynden businessmen who wanted to meet me for lunch. I drove up and we dined at a Thai restaurant that was housed in an indoor mall owned by a Christian construction company. They had purchased the "historic end" of Lynden's Front Street (complete with the city symbol of an working windmill), put in an indoor canal to make the Dutch residents feel at home, and were in the process of renovating the windmill, a food court, and a small hotel attached to the mall.

The businessmen said they would love to have YWAM in town, and if we could start a base, they'd give us free space in the mall for a Discipleship Training School and renovate it to meet YWAM's needs.

I was really encouraged by their generous offer. There was only one problem. We had both YWAM alumni and local business support, but had no YWAM leader or team!

No problem for God.

A few months later, Jeremy and Gen Dorrough came through town on a YWAM recruiting tour for a British Columbia-based DTS. (Jen was born and raised in Lynden.) They "happened" to arrive in town the very week that some churches had called a meeting to talk about YWAM coming into the area. I was supposed to address the meeting, but couldn't make it. 

So Jeremy and Gen found themselves talking to the pastors and soon thereafter, God spoke to them about staying in Lynden and forming a team to birth YWAM's newest base in Washington State.

The rest, you can say, is history.

As a side note, we usually don't start YWAM bases with associate pastors, alums, the offer of buildings--and no teams. The normal YWAM method is to raise up a group from a thriving YWAM work and send it out to pioneer new territory.

But God's not limited to such methods. Sometimes He can bring the cart before the horse.

Which brings me back to Loren Cunningham and last weekend.

The new YWAM team under the leadership of the Dorroughs officially launched YWAM Lynden, on July 19. in conjunction with the area churches at the town's annual Raspberry Festival. They knew that the downtown area would be roped off for culinary delights, kid's basketball tournaments, and other special events. They approached the city about concluding the Raspberry Festival with a large praise rally just beneath the windmill on Front Street.

The city leaders said yes. YWAM and the local churches decided to call it "Make His Name Famous."

That's Jesus--the Name above every name. And they boldly invited Loren and Darlene Cunningham to come speak at the event.

Since I met him in 1972, Loren has traveled to every nation on earth preaching the Good News. He's one of the few people in history to accomplish that task. As always, the Cunninghams prayed over their voluminous stack of ministry invitations, and God told them "yes" to go to Lynden.

So they came--a little out of their way--on an extended family vacation. On Saturday evening after YWAM and church volunteers fed a free barbeque dinner to over sixteen hundred people and after worship teams lifted up the Name of Christ, eighty year old Loren Cunningham made his way to the stage on Front Street to share the word of the Lord.

He didn't disappoint. His warm and visionary message took me back forty-five years. The body had aged, but his mind and heart were the same. They still flashed and beat with a passion to see everyone on earth come to know the Savior of the world. This time the emphasis was on getting the Bible into the mother tongue of every people group on earth.

Loren shared stories (as only he can) about meeting with kings and presidents of nations, having an audience with Pope Francis, and working with many other mission organizations to complete the Great Commission. He said one of the keys to that task is giving every person in the world a Bible.

He called it Ending Bible Poverty Now. Many of us share a concern for helping end food poverty in the world. But Loren rightly said that Bible poverty is an even greater need as God's Word is the only sustenance that can bring salvation to every person (2 Timothy 3:15).

He shared stories about how God's Word changed Europe and North America---bringing with it the freedoms and advances of Western civilization.  He explained how one Norwegian, Hans Nielsen Hauge, carried the Bible to practically very home in Norway in the 19th century--traveling 10,000 miles a years--even on skis!  The Bible brought literacy and faith to Norway and helped make them one of the world's great missionary sending nations.

Loren told the crowd that Wycliffe Bible translators believe that an oral translation of God's Word can be in every language by the year 2020--and the written Bible in every major tongue by 2033. Only a few years ago they thought that task would take 150 years.

Now they say it can be down in eighteen years. 

Loren announced that goal like he thought he would be here. He might--at a robust 98. If so, he'll probably be working on a plan to make sure every person has an access to that Bible by 2050.

Loren wants to end Bible poverty. Here's how you can help.

1. Go to End Bible Poverty (the "Now" is important in the name) and sign the petition stating your commitment to be one of million folks to pray for the Bible in all languages by 2020 and 2033. 

2. Send this e-mail to your list of friends and ask them to do the same.

3. Begin researching how you can help link together people who might help with these oral translations.

4. Work in your neighborhood and nation to bring God's Word to all within your reach.

5. Purchase Loren Cunningham's The Book That Transforms Nations or Vishal Mangalwadi's The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization. They can be purchased at or YWAM Publishing.

Muslims don't want the Koran translated into other languages. They say it's only perfect in Arabic. (I think they are embarrassed by its poor grammar, lack of historical content, emphasis on violence, and lack of truth and power.)

We WANT the precious, beautiful, and life-changing Word of God to be in every person's language on earth. Let's do it in the next eighteen years. Let's end Bible poverty now.

Loren Cunningham is pointing the way to change the world through the God's Word.

Let's help him.






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