“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne.”
Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT
I find myself often remarking in these days, “Just as Loren and Darlene have always modeled for us YWAMers how to live full-on for Jesus, now they are showing us how to faithfully run the race to the end.”
It’s no surprise that Loren is dying as passionately as he has lived. And the greatest gift to all of us is that he is doing it so transparently – with openness about his condition, and with humor and grace! He recently addressed a group of 700+ YWAM leaders attending the Global Leadership Gathering in Thailand by video – from his bed! It was shocking to all in attendance, but oh, so personal. As his familiar, warm voice rang out clearly, it put their hearts more at ease. He is, after all, the father of our mission and we are a global family, gathered around his bedside. Some who witnessed this said that seeing him lying there brought home the reality that he truly is leaving us soon. But it also reinforced the reality that Heaven is for real and we do not hope in vain. Jesus and His Gospel that we have all given our lives to are worth living for…and dying for.
Loren has always been a very grateful person. But the way he has expressed it may not have been understood as such. He has not been profuse in saying “thank you.” Rather, because he is a “maximizer,” when someone has done a good job, he has affirmed it by building on it. I think people sometimes thought they didn’t do well, but it’s quite the contrary. By building on it, he was saying “this is really good! With this strong foundation, we can do this…and that…and the other thing.” As he is “finishing well” and the global family is gathering around his bedside, one of the things I see him doing much more intentionally is verbalizing his gratitude with the words, “Thank you! I’m proud of you! I love you!” This is so important for the success of the generations to come.
It’s possible that Loren has spoken via Zoom to more people on Planet Earth in the past few months since his cancer diagnosis than he spoke to throughout his lifetime of ministry. His message today is even greater in its impact than the original vision of the “waves of young people” coming from everywhere and going to everywhere; covering the continents of the world with the Gospel. Because his “final days” vision is far more grassroots and granular than reaching continents or nations – it’s a vision to get the Bible translated orally into every Mother Tongue language on the face of the earth (8000+) so that every individual can hear the Gospel in the language that speaks most deeply to his or her heart (prayOMT.com).
Yes, those of us surrounding Loren have heard this OMT vision over and over…and over and over and over. He eats, sleeps, lives and breathes it! That’s leadership. That’s tenacity. That’s being “faithful” to the vision God has entrusted to him. That’s part of “finishing well.”
He did the same thing with the vision for the University of the Nations. He held it in his heart for nearly ten years before he ever shared it with anyone – pondering, waiting for the right timing. He then spoke it out continuously, over and over again, when few initially “got” it. Now the
U of N, our “multiplier for missions,” has grown to 800 locations in 160+ nations, offering higher education to tens of thousands – especially from the Global South – who may never have had the opportunity otherwise.
Just as God created the earth by “speaking” it into existence, by listening and co-creating with God, Loren “spoke” the vision of the U of N into being. And he is now doing the same – until the end – with the vision of getting the Bible translated orally into every mother tongue.
What are some lessons we can learn from Loren about “finishing well?” The same lessons he has been teaching us throughout his life and ministry:
Listen to the voice of God.
Tenacity. Integrity. Faithfulness. Self-control. These are all descriptions of HOW Loren is finishing well. And humor! It is the Cunningham way of putting people at ease. At recent Kona staff meetings, Loren has often joked about death. People don’t know whether to laugh or cry. But the way he does it, talking about his anticipation of seeing Jesus, his mom and dad, Howard Malmstadt, Billy Graham and others – brings such an awareness that death is not the end; it’s just the beginning! He has his eyes fixed on Jesus “the author and finisher of our faith.”
That’s Loren’s primary lesson to us about finishing well: run hard and keep your eyes on Jesus!
International Assistant to the Cunninghams