More than 300 people from 32 nations from North and South America, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Pacific islands converged in Missouri, USA for the YWAM DNA Infusion leadership development event, led by Darlene Cunningham. For the first time, a one-week DNA Lite was also offered alongside the DNA Infusion in which YWAM DTSes and second level schools joined the gathering.
Leaders from North and Central America worked together to host the event.* The DNA was held at a Windermere Conference Center nestled in the Ozark Mountains on the Lake of the Ozarks. Outside, spring was emerging with beautiful dogwood, oak and fir trees. The conference center offered a wealth of opportunities for networking and relationship- building from hiking trails, sand volleyball courts, extensive decks with rocking chairs, and caves to explore.
Staff from YWAM Madison, Wisconsin ran a children’s program alongside the DNA that taught YWAM kids how to hear from God and intercede for the nations. The children created a 200-foot timeline full of their stories, crafts and intercession notes of all God had taught them in their Kids DNA.
Teaching from Loren & Darlene Cunningham and David Hamilton
The purpose of the DNA was for the founding leaders to pass on to this younger generation the history, values and DNA of Youth With A Mission. The primary speakers in addition to Darlene Cunningham were Loren Cunningham and David Hamilton.
Darlene, the leader of the DNA and co-founder of YWAM, shared lessons from our history that have shaped us, including God’s loving correction to keep us on course. She also gave us an illustration and teaching about the “Belief Tree” to help us make sure that there is alignment and “integrity” between our worldview, beliefs, values, decisions and actions. She exhorted us to pursue alignment so that we could be “Mission True” for generations to come and release many more into God’s missions movement.
David is University of the Nations’ Vice President for Strategic Innovation. He underlined YWAM’s apostolic anointing and God’s covenants to us, calling young people from everywhere to everywhere. He also gave us understanding of societal spheres and God- given domains and encouraged us to think deeply about our decisions and actions so that we can understand both why we do what we do and what the effect of our actions will be for generations to come.
Loren Cunningham, YWAM’s founder, encouraged us to “catch the wave” of what the Holy Spirit is doing in the earth today. The theme that ran throughout his teaching was his passion to “engage with vision for the Bible to be available to everyone on earth in their own language by 2020.” He believes that “eradicating Bible poverty” and getting the Word to the World will create the foundation for the greatest global move of God’s Spirit in history, that will bring about the greatest global transformation the world has ever known.
Key Themes During the Americas DNA
Throughout the DNA, God highlighted several key themes. In this season of YWAM’s DNA being passed to the next generation, the stories of Joshua and Caleb came up several times from members of both the Host and DNA team. Joshua and Caleb were the good spies. They’d seen the giants and massive obstacles blocking their path to the Promised Land. But they had great confidence that their God was able to defeat any giant. Despite this confidence in God’s miracle working power, Joshua still faced huge challenges as Moses passed the torch of leadership to him. Joshua was exhorted first by Moses, then God, and then all of Israel to, “Be bold and courageous, for God is with you wherever you go” (Deut. 31 and Josh. 1). Although Joshua had 40+ years of “leadership training” in serving Moses, it was not until he stepped out to lead that he gained self-confidence that the same God of Moses would be with him too. Through these words, God was exhorting all of us at the DNA not only to be confident in who He is, but also in who He is through us (our own gifts and abilities) and to boldly step out and fulfill our calling. Vickie Hedgepeth summarized it well when she said that Creation itself is crying out for us to fulfill our calling and redeem the world from its suffering (Romans 8:15-21).
There was also a strong sense that God had a great blessing and anointing for us in this season of our mission as we learn to work together across the generations. Loren’s words echoed in our spirits, “I was a young radical. Now I’m an old radical. Don’t mess with my radical!” Paul Allen led us in application of those words by tying them in to the story of Caleb who in his elder years declared that he would conquer the hill country where the giants lived (Joshua 14). Loren has lived with great boldness and vision throughout his life. And even as Loren continues to move forward in boldness, God is challenging us to rise up and take down the giants on the next hilltops.
The “twin” ministries of YWAM Ships and the University of the Nations was also a key theme. Nathaniel Baldock shared videos about YWAM Ship ministries and led us in intercession for YWAM’s 22 vessels, and the many more that are needed to reach remote areas. Through this broadened awareness, the vision to participate in ships ministries grew in all our hearts.
DTS as the “doorway into the mission” also came out several times. We again affirmed Darlene’s words, “as the DTS goes, so goes the mission” and that we cannot by-pass this vital entry point. David Hamilton shared through his stories of pioneering in Chile that the “DTS is a missions movement in a nutshell. It is like a time bomb you insert in a culture to explode the purposes of God.”
Powerful Worship, Response & Healing Times
There were several significant worship and response times during the DNA. On our first full day together, we watched highlights from the historic Azusa Now Gathering that had taken place in California on April 9th, right before the DNA began. Nearly 100,000 people had gathered in the L.A. Coliseum to seek God and commit themselves to unity and honoring one another. As we watched, listened to testimonies from Michael Berg, and engaged with what God had done in L.A., our hearts burned within us to join in the Azusa Now Covenant. Together, we repeated the covenant word for word, and committed to unity with the diverse expressions of Christianity. We also committed to have self-control over all our communication in person, in writing and on social media. As we did, the presence of the Holy Spirit descended. There were many tears as people made phone calls or talked to others in the room asking forgiveness for unkind words or disunity. Out of this time of repentance, great joy filled the room as the Holy Spirit brought forgiveness and unity. In response to another word shared at Azusa Now, we all also joined into the “Go” offering by taking off our shoes and lifting them to the Lord to say “send me.”
On Wednesday evening, we rolled out a massive 4k World Map. We worshipped and interceded for the nations. We prayed for new pioneering ventures in the places where YWAM missionaries are not. We also prayed for several teams who were about to leave on outreach. One participant noted that this evening imparted “a bigger view of YWAM as a whole, excitement in my heart about pioneering, dreaming with God, and vision! I feel God has given me a burden for the nations and praying on the map took that vision deeper.”
Another powerful time came on Thursday night of the first week. The YWAM Lakeside, Montana team led us into God’s presence through several hours of worship together. Throughout the evening, participants shared words God was giving them and led us in response. One participant (Evynn) invited people forward who needed prayer for healing. Almost two years earlier, she had come down with a debilitating mystery illness that drained her energy completely and confined her to bed. Then, God gave her a dream about healing her just a few weeks before the DNA and she came to the DNA trusting that God would completely heal her. Dozens joined her up front for prayer. God’s presence was incredibly strong and many began experiencing physical healing including Evynn. Others experienced deep, emotional healing that allowed them to experience fresh expressions of God’s love.
Networking, Convening Circles, Empowered to Change the World
With over 45 YWAM locations and 32 nations present at the Americas DNA, networking played a huge role in the event. Participants who felt led to pioneer in thematic areas (like education) or in geographic areas (like Utah) called “convening circles” with others who were interested in this passion so that they could pray together and discuss ways to partner in the future. Other convening circles included anti-trafficking, children’s ministries, moms in missions, ships, children at risk, government, refugee ministry, and worship ministry.
Break times and meals turned into innovation opportunities as people shared ideas God had given them and combined them with others’ ideas. But perhaps even more important than new vision was the unity of relationships that emerged from within such a diverse crowd as we shared life together at Windermere. One participant noted, “We met so many amazing people willing to obey the Lord together as whole families! We were very encouraged and our faith was strengthened through these encounters.”
By the time we reached the final day, we were excited to change the world, but sad to leave because of the depth of newly formed friendships. We wrapped up the DNA as we had begun — by focusing on Jesus. David Hamilton shared a devotional called “Remembering Jesus” about the experiences Jesus’ disciples must have told each other between His death and resurrection. We then took communion and shared with each other our own memories of Jesus and His goodness in our lives. It was a powerful moment that sealed the deep work God had done in reviving our hearts, bonding us together and filling us with vision during the DNA.
Darlene’s “yellow list” of parting instructions summarized the entire two weeks. And perhaps these three simple phrases summarize it best:
Hear God. Obey. Don’t give up!
* Host Team made up of leaders from North & Central America who organized the DNA: Paul Allen (DNA Convener & YWAM Madison), Michael Berg (Eastern North America Convener & YWAM Orlando), Vickie Hedgepeth (International DTS Centre for North
America & YWAM Charlotte), John Stenson (International DTS Centre for Central America & YWAM Madison), Wayne Groff (YWAM Madison), Josh Elke (YWAM Sarasota), Kristy Wilke (Worship Leader & YWAM Lakeside), Dallas & Gabi Quantz (Spanish Translators & YWAM Mazatlan). DNA Team who facilitated content & teaching of DNA: Loren & Darlene Cunningham, David & Christine Hamilton, Dawn Gauslin, Nathaniel Baldock (All YWAM Kona).