‘Roy, could you come over to my place please?’ It was a Friday evening, and Loren was just back from a tour; I assumed that he had new trips to plan. I had been working in Lausanne as his scheduling assistant for a couple of years by this time.
Each time I’d drive him to Geneva Airport for a flight to the US I would joke, ‘Don’t forget to drink a strawberry milkshake at Dairy Queen for me.’ I discovered those sweet treats during our Crossroads DTS in Oregon a few years earlier.
Putting away my phone, I walked the short distance from the base to Loren’s house. Ushering me in, he invited me to take a seat and I proceeded to take out my notebook. ‘You won’t be needing that,’ he informed me before going to the kitchen. He returned immediately with a large white cup festooned with the Dairy Queen (DQ) logo and containing a strawberry milkshake.
Clearly, he had not transported the drink from the US, yet he had been thoughtful enough to get hold of the DQ cup while there in order to surprise me on his return. It was a special moment to savour, one of many good memories I have from working with him for five years.
I was nearly forty when we took our DTS in 1995; once completed, we planned to move to YWAM in Switzerland the following summer. But with no sign of our work permits being granted, yet having our British home to prepare for renting out, plus the myriad of logistics for moving a family abroad, we knew that a delay was inevitable. So, what does a restless individual do while waiting for God to move? Answer: he starts to look at how his Heavenly Father wants him to use the intervening time. Something stirred in me, getting my attention about the major outreach in Atlanta that YWAM planned during the Olympics in July 1996. I contacted the outreach organising team and received a warm invitation to go and help.
With a huge crew, plus an array of teachers and trainers arriving to speak to the outreach participants, someone was needed to coordinate the arrivals and departures of speakers at the Airport. Before joining YWAM, I had worked with train timetables, so was used to logistics. I took the job and often found myself driving around Atlanta, ferrying speakers to a variety of Christian host homes. I chauffeured Loren and Darlene, taking them to meetings and appointments which gave us quality time together. Sometimes, I wanted to pinch myself as a reminder that this was really happening since I was so new to YWAM. Loren and Darlene were down-to-earth which made for lots of good interaction. All too soon it was time to fly home where the welcome news awaited that our Swiss work permits were finally granted.
Once in Lausanne, I was given a desk next to Andy Beach who had been Loren’s scheduling assistant for the previous twelve years. I felt my heart start to beat a little faster one morning when he spoke of his plans to relocate.
‘I will be leaving YWAM soon to head back to the States. There’s a vacancy with a Senator in Washington DC and I feel God calling me there to be his planning assistant.’
‘Um, so there’d be an opening here?’ I muttered.
‘It’s just that I worked with railway timetables back in Britain. So, I could do that job. Do you think…’
‘Wow, I’ll talk to Loren and we’ll get busy praying.’
How amazing that God had already scheduled me to drive Loren around Atlanta a few months earlier. He had got to know me a little and would know whether we’d work well together as a team.
Several days later, Loren emailed me with an invitation to become his new scheduling assistant. I was over the moon. When I worked on the railway I occasionally helped schedule Queen Elizabeth’s Royal train. Now, in less than two years I had gone from working with the Queen of England’s train to booking plane trips for the President of YWAM. What a privilege to have served both people who’ve had – in markedly different ways – such an international impact for the Kingdom.
At the beginning, I battled with the complexities of scheduling Loren’s travels. You’d think that with so many London suburban trains having been at my fingertips (one arrived every thirteen seconds at peak times), it would have been a piece of cake. Not so! Now, I dealt with an individual rather than a line of train carriages; this was quite different. I had to handle a torrent of emails and juggle speaking schedules, hospitality arrangements, connections with planes, trains (yes, they were OK!) boats and buses as well as the inevitable piles of books which needed to arrive in requisite numbers on time in Amsterdam or Buenos Aires or Canberra. On top of this, I oversaw the office accounts.
Not long into the job, we decided that I should join Loren on one of his speaking tours to experience the other side of my planning for him. We went to Central America where, in awe, I watched him at work. In each of the seven countries we visited, he was full of fervour and eagerness, preaching and sharing with anyone who would listen. Jet lag didn’t slow him down, exhaustion wouldn’t stop him and separation from Darlene wasn’t an issue.
One day while changing planes in El Salvador, Loren passed the time reading, keeping to himself. A lively group of teenagers wearing King’s Kids T-shirts sat down beside me. Even though I already knew the answer, I quizzed them about King’s Kids. They enthusiastically explained about its links to YWAM, mentioning that they were returning to North America from an outreach in Brazil. ‘What is YWAM and who founded it?’ I enquired. After hearing about Loren, I casually asked ‘Would you like to meet him? He’s just over there.’ The youngsters’ reactions were priceless. Loren was happy to converse with them and sign their outreach diaries. I’ve no doubt that the encounter made a lasting impact on them.
During a family holiday in the Nordics that summer, we crossed the Arctic Circle on a comfortable Finnish train and took our daughters to the Santa Claus Village. We suspected that the ‘Santa’ we met could have been a Christian. He showed a keen interest in why we lived in Switzerland, what we did for YWAM and my work with Loren. He kept us talking for quite some time, even as the queue to see him grew behind us. When I next met up with Loren – in Latvia – I boasted that even though he meets kings and presidents, I have encountered the real Santa Claus!
In the summer of 2000, the Cunninghams moved back to Kona. I continued to work for him from Lausanne but, being half a world away from each other, not to mention a spread of twelve time zones, brought challenges. During the spring of 2001 I felt it was time to step down. Fortunately, I was able to train up my replacement before the terrible events of September 11th resulted in turmoil throughout the aviation world, which would have made my task impossible.
I learned so much during my years of serving Loren. Being an administrator who naturally looks for the most “efficient” solutions, I became grounded in being directed by the Holy Spirit – especially when things did not appear to be logical in a common-sense way.
Although I finished working with Loren over two decades ago, the guiding principle of seeking first the Kingdom has been a strength and purpose in my life ever since. I will always be grateful for his patience and encouragement as well as the privilege of learning from such a humble, Godly man.
Extracts from Perfect Timing – Adventures of Family, Faith and Finance
Available at amazon.co.uk copyright Roy Jones.