The 1970s: Two Hotels, a Shipwreck, and a Vision
From December, 1969 to the summer of 1970, YWAM held its first school, the School of Evangelism, with a total of 36 students. The students’ lodging and classes took place in a newly renovated and leased hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland. By the end of the year, YWAM purchased the hotel and made Lausanne, Switzerland its first permanent location.
Later in the decade, another YWAM school would begin, a school that would become the foundation for YWAM’s many training programs. By 1974, the School of Evangelism was being offered in New Jersey as well as Lausanne. The New Jersey school leader, Leland Paris, who is now YWAM’s director for the Americas, noticed that many of the YWAM students had no Christian background. Many had recently come to Christ through the Jesus Movement. “I remember asking a student about his religious background,” recalls Leland. “He said, ‘Drugs.’”
After consulting with Loren and other YWAM leaders, Leland began a school that would focus on biblical foundations and character development as well as missions. The school, the Discipleship Training School (DTS), quickly caught on and was also offered in New Zealand and Los Angeles, which added an outreach phase to the program. This format: three months of lectures followed by two or three months of outreach, is still used in most Discipleship Training Schools today.
By the year 1970, YWAM had a total of 40 full-time staff. That year, Don Stephens found a castle to act as the Munich, Germany base for 1,000 volunteer YWAM staff and he began to prepare an outreach for the ’72 Olympics. This was the first of many YWAM Olympic outreaches.
Aside from the Olympic outreach, a new YWAM vision came into port. YWAM had three schools running, and Loren knew that there should be something more, and once again, he envisioned a ship for ministry. The year 1973 was supposed to witness the launching of Mercy Ships. 93 of YWAM’s 200 staff came from 15 different countries and 35 different locations and met in Osaka for one of their annual meetings.
Before the meeting, the team looked forward to discussing the potential of the “Maori” ship, on which YWAM had made a deposit of $72,000. Their last payment was due two weeks after the annual meeting. But God had something different in mind. Instead, He convicted the group of worshipping a tool for ministry and not Him. With Scripture and visions and an abrupt stop to the support funding that had been flowing so effortlessly before, God put a halt to the Mercy Ship ministries for a while.
Later that year, the Maori was sold for scrap, and all the money and the hard work of sixty staff members was sacrificed in hopes for a resurrection of the project. One businessman who had invested in the project told Loren, “It’s the best investment I’ve ever made if you have heard from God.”
The 92 students who were planning to come and study on the Maori in California changed their plans last minute and went to a camp and school in Hawaii instead. In prayer times there, the vision was born of a university in YWAM and hope for the ship ministry was renewed.
These visions began to come to life as a diamond in the rough was found in 1977. YWAM leased the Pacific Empress Hotel in Kona, Hawaii and began the cleaning process and renovations in order to turn it into the campus for what was initially called the Pacific and Asia Christian University.
In 1978, a ministry to involve children and teens, called King’s Kids, was founded.
Also that year, Don Stephens visited an old passenger liner in Venice, Italy, called “Victoria.” Once again Loren’s vision about the Mercy Ships was confirmed and God spoke about ship again. YWAM cautiously began negotiations to buy it. Don Stephens and other YWAMers lived on a campground with 400 outreach participants while negotiations took place. By 1979, the ship was paid for and towed to Greece to be renovated. The ship, renamed “Anastasis” (the Greek word for Resurrection), was such a mess that the galley alone took twenty-five young people three weeks to clean.
As the Anastasis was being prepped for ministry, YWAM also had teams visit refugee camps in Thailand. Gary Stephens, brother of Don Stephens, led a team to one of them.
“They did what even the refugees had been unwilling to do: shoveled out the human waste, repaired broken sewage pipes, and fixed toilets. Gary reported back that the refugees marveled. Here were young people who were paying their own way to come and do a job no one else would consider. Time after time they were given the opening they hoped for: They were asked why they had come…”–Is That Really You, God? by Loren Cunningham