It all started when a 20-year-old American college student, who was in the Bahamas on a singing tour, spent some time in prayer. As he leaned back in his bed and looked up, he saw what he called a “mental movie.” He saw waves on a map. The waves turned into young people, going to every continent, sharing the good news about Jesus. “Was that really you, Lord?” he asked. This radical idea, that young people could be missionaries, stayed with this young man, Loren Cunningham. Four years later, in 1960, he started an organization with that idea expressed even in its name: Youth With A Mission. Today, Youth With A Mission (YWAM) has grown into one of the world’s largest Christian mission organizations. The story of how YWAM began and how it grew is a story of God’s direction and God’s grace in using ordinary people from countries all over the world.
History of YWAM Costa Rica
In the late eighties Terry and Donna Keith from YWAM Miami started to bring short term teams down here to work. In 1990 the first operating location as YWAM Costa Rica was opened up in Heredia. YWAM Hawaii started sending outreach teams for several years which was a great support to grow and establish the base under the leadership of Arturo Chacon. In 1994 the base moved to San Rafael, but, in 1998 relocated to Los Angeles. This base is now known as YWAM Heredia, in 2005 Terry and Donna Keith returned to Costa Rica and became the base leaders.
In 1997 Heredia staff members Kenneth and Elena Orozco moved to Bambu of Talamanca, to work with Bribri indigenous communities close to the south Caribbean coast of Costa Rica. As a family they served there until 2009 planting a church, running Niko camps and working in several communities with volunteers and visiting teams.
In 2004 Giacomo and Marjolein Coghi started pioneering a new base in San Jose and the next year Diego and Salla Silva were sent out from Heredia to start an operating location in Guanacaste. In 2018 YWAM Puerto Viejo and YWAM Liberia were pioneered.
More about the founders of YWAM International
Loren and Darlene Cunningham are the founders of Youth With A Mission (YWAM), an ever-expanding global “movement of ministry organizations,” born in 1960, which has reached into every nation.
Loren is also the founder and President of the University of the Nations (U of N), YWAM’s global university. Since its inception in 1978, the U of N has grown to offer more than 800 courses and seminars (125 different courses/seminars).
Loren has personally gone to every sovereign nation on earth, all dependent countries, and more than 150 territories and islands, for the sake of the Gospel. This has given him valuable insights into global trends and uniquely prepares him to share God’s strategies for world evangelism. His wisdom, experience, leadership understanding and call to build bridges of unity within the body of Christ have caused him to be sought out by leaders of nations and organizations worldwide. He speaks publicly in 30 to 40 nations a year, and has spoken to live audiences from a few to more than a million people gathered in one location.
Born in Taft, California, Loren’s family heritage is rich with generations of Christian ministers. His educational background includes three Bachelor degrees, a Master of Science in Administration of Education, and two Honorary Doctorates. Loren is the author of five books, translated into nearly 60 languages: Is That Really You God?, Making Jesus Lord, Daring To Live On The Edge, Why Not Women? and his latest book, The Book That Transforms Nations.
Darlene Cunningham was born in Vancouver, Canada, to Pastor Ed and Enid Scratch. From an early age, she was aware of a distinct calling from God on her life. The course of that call became clarified forever when she met a handsome, single young man-with-a-vision named Loren Cunningham. After marrying Loren in 1963, she helped co-found the international mission organization, Youth With A Mission (YWAM).
Darlene is a “prime mover” in YWAM in the areas of facilitation of vision and leadership development. One of her greatest heart motivations is to discover leadership gifts in young men and women, and to help them reach their full potential in God. Darlene directs one field-based Leadership Training School annually or biennially, held on location somewhere in the developing world.
Darlene is eagerly sought as a speaker worldwide because she is recognized as a woman of faith and wisdom who hears from God. She is uniquely qualified and experienced to give leadership to those within Youth With A Mission because she understands the lifestyle, pressures and joys of the Mission from an inside perspective. Whatever the context, she constantly points the hearer to God’s faithfulness in every situation, and His great grace.
Loren and Darlene live in Kona, Hawaii. As members of YWAM’s Global Leadership Team, they help oversee one of the largest Christian charitable movements in the world.