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Loren Cunningham, Youth With a Mission founder, dies at 88

Loren Cunningham, co-founder of YWAM, urged South Koreans not to hesitate in sending Bibles to North Korea.
Loren Cunningham, co-founder of YWAM, urged South Koreans not to hesitate in sending Bibles to North Korea. | File photo

Loren Cunningham, an author and founder of the prominent Christian youth organization Youth With a Mission, has died from cancer. He was 88.

In an announcement on its Facebook page, YWAM confirmed that Cunningham had died in his sleep at his home in Kona, Hawaii, on Friday in the early morning hours local time.

Cunningham is survived by his wife of 60 years, Darlene, his children, David, Karen and Judy, and three grandchildren, Madi, Kenna and Liam.

According to the obituary posted on his website, Cunningham founded the global missions group YWAM in 1960, which boasts around 2,000 chapters in nearly every country.

“Millions have served in YWAM programs as students, short-term volunteers and full-time staff,” stated the obituary. “Many have credited YWAM as among the world's largest and most significant mission movements.”

Born in 1935 in California, Cunningham felt called to ministry at 13, when he attended a revival meeting. In 1956, while staying at a missionary’s home, he had what he later recalled as a vision.

“Suddenly, 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. Each wave went onto a continent, then receded, then came up further until it covered the continent completely,” Cunningham recounted, as quoted in the obituary.

“The waves became young people — kids my age and even younger — covering all the continents of the globe. They were talking to people on street corners and outside bars. 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.”

Loren oversaw the launch of various Christian entities, including YWAM Olympic Outreaches, the International Torch Run, Cardinal Points Prayer Days, the University of the Nations, YWAM Ships, and Pray OMT, among others.

Loren also authored several books, including Is That Really You, God?, Making Jesus Lord, Daring to Live on the Edge, Why Not Women?, The Book that Transforms Nations: The Power of the Bible to Change Any Country, and We Can End Bible Poverty Now.

In March, it was reported that Cunningham had been diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer following a full body scan in Honolulu, according to an update given by his wife, Darlene.

“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 stated, as reported by CBN.

“He has Jesus, family, friends, and vision. Who could ask for more?”

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