On Drifting

September 9, 2002

Loren Cunningham tells a story of two young men asleep on a barge tied to the banks of the river, upstream from the Niagara Falls. During the night, the moorings loosened and the barge began to drift downstream. The growing roar of the falls awakened the young men to the imminent danger facing them. But cries for help to the bank to people on the bank were of no avail. At the last minute, before plunging over the precipice, the barge hit a rock and stuck firm. Ropes were eventually thrown out to the two men who were brought to safety. The barge apparently can be seen to this day, still stuck on the rock that saved the men’s lives.

Sometimes in life we can be drifting unawares towards danger. When we ignore principles and values God has spoken to us about as a mission, we cannot expect to escape the consequences.

At our recent Global Leadership gathering in China, Loren reminded us about the proper place of spiritual eldership or oversight. In the name of ‘freedom in the Spirit’ we can sometimes entertain an independent spirit. As the YWAM Global Leadership Team, we were reminded of our responsibility to ensure that throughout our mission, eldership or oversight was properly functioning, and that legal boards providing interface with the laws of the land exercised a diaconal role under the spiritual oversight.

Drifting from these principles and values can lead to major setbacks for our bases and ministries. Right now there are one or two situations in the mission needing attention, resulting from such drift.

Mercy Ships
In the light of this reminder about the place of spiritual oversight, we also have had to evaluate the relationship between Mercy Ships and YWAM International. Mercy Ships is an outstanding ministry bringing hope to countless thousands around the world by offering eye and surgical operations to those in developing countries normally totally outside the range of such help.

Mercy Ships was born within YWAM back in the late 1970’s. The first ship, m/v Anastasis, was purchased by mortgages raised against Heidebeek in Holland, Holmstead Manor in England, Schloss Hurlach in Germany and the YWAM mother base in Lausanne. Many hundreds of Mercy Ship crew and staff have trained and served with YWAM over the past two decades.

Yet recent developments within Mercy Ships have prompted many to ask for clarity on the current relationship between Mercy Ships and YWAM. After a two-year dialogue, we have come to mutual agreement on the implications of the fact that Mercy Ships has been operating under an autonomous spiritual and legal authority for several years now.

In response to a letter from the Mercy Ships leadership requesting a change of status and relationship with YWAM, the Global Leadership Team have thus now officially released Mercy Ships from the YWAM Family of Ministries, honouring the “wonderful work that they do amongst the poor and needy”.

An ad hoc working group has been appointed to address issues still needing clarification, including if and how Mercy Ships would continue to run Discipleship Training Schools, and the status of those trained within YWAM and still serving with Mercy Ships.

Within the YWAM Family of Ministries, smaller, less expensive ship ministries are expected to multiply around the globe in coming years, such as “Marine Reach”, a YWAM ministry currently operating the 283 tonne motor yacht Pacific Link around the Pacific islands. (See www.marinereach.com).

Now there’s a challenge for those of us in European nations with sea-faring traditions!

Till next week,

Jeff Fountain

Till next week,


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