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Values Matter with Darlene Cunningham

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Why Values Matter

When YWAM turned 25 in 1985, Darlene felt impressed to identify, clarify, and start teaching the organization’s core beliefs and values to make sure they were clearly understood by all staff and students, as well as imparted to new generations. In 2020, YWAM celebrated 60 years of service, and Darlene believes this more strongly than ever. “It’s so important to know why we do what we do,” she emphasizes, “because our values inform our decisions.”  She thinks of values as part of the “Belief Tree” illustration she learned years ago, in which our worldview is the soil, and our beliefs take root in that soil. Our values, which grow from our beliefs, form the trunk of the tree, our decisions, based on our values and beliefs, become the branches, and finally, the actions that result from our beliefs, values, and decisions, are the fruit. The six core beliefs espoused by YWAM are: worship, holiness, witness, prayer, fellowship, and service. The 18 YWAM foundational values come from the way the Lord has led them all these years, Darlene says, and fall into four categories:

  • We Want to Know God
  • We Are Visionary
  • We Value People
  • We Are a Global Missions Movement

One of the values that falls under valuing people is hospitality.  As a busy, young mother, Darlene found hosting guests neither easy nor enjoyable.  “I have made all the beds I want to make!  I’ve flipped all the pancakes I want to flip!  And I for sure don’t want to show the city of Lausanne to ONE more person!” she remembers feeling.  Over the years, as she came to understand hospitality as a way to minister to people, rather than merely a social convention, it was still hard work, but it became more joyful.  Darlene points out that hospitality expresses openness and transparency, models inclusiveness, and reveals God’s heart of generosity.  She gives the example of co-workers who average serving 1700 guest meals a year in their home!  

Another YWAM value is teamwork, falling under global missions.  After teaching one of countless sessions at their Discipleship Training Schools, Darlene remembers talking with a DTS staffer named Garth.  He felt called to start a YWAM work in Cambodia, and intended to launch it by himself.  Darlene asked Garth to pray about staffing one more school in Kona for the purpose of inviting and building a multi-talented team to go with him to Cambodia.  He did just that, and God provided a “bumper crop” of like-minded staff and students who committed to work together in Battambang, Cambodia.  “Within the first few years,” Darlene recounts, “they were running a recurring DTS, educating 400 children daily in an after-school program, and serving the community in orphanages, hospitals, and churches.  You can’t create orchestra music alone.  We need each other.  And when we play in a beautiful spirit of unity, people will surely see and glorify Jesus.”  
YWAM's Next Chapter 

Loren Cunningham, Darlene’s husband of nearly six decades, and original founder of YWAM, describes his wife’s role this in the ministry way: “YWAM was founded in 1960, but it really got going in 1963 when I married Darlene. YWAM would not exist today as it is today if it were not for her. She is the talent-spotter, people-developer, team-equipper, community builder and implementer that helped to bring about growth.” Darlene sees her contribution the same way and delights in it. “I have the best job in the whole world!” When asked what she sees ahead for the ministry she’s invested nearly 60 years in, Darlene brims with enthusiasm. “We’ll have more workers around the world, more campuses (of University of the Nations), personal transformation, the nations transformed,” she says without doubt. "The job’s not done!”  

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About The Author


Author, Values Matter (YWAM Publishing, 2020) Co-founder, Youth With A Mission, operating in 200 countries International Vice-Chancellor of YWAM’S University of the Nations, 800 campuses in 167 nations Speaker Teacher Married to Loren Cunningham, Co-founder of YWAM. They share two children and have three grandchildren