The world was a different place when Loren and Darlene Cunningham established the first YWAM school in Europe. It was a time of revolution and we were privileged to be part of the “Jesus Revolution.”
Another revolution raged. Half the world was colored red, and if the trend continued the other half wasn’t far behind, this was the “Communist revolution.”
Brother Andrew invited Carolyn and I to work with his small band of Bible smugglers living in Holland. At a secret meeting of Bible smugglers, which included some of the giants of the faith at that time, we were challenged by a young Yugoslav with a seemingly impossible task.
“I don’t understand all of this,” he said, “but I believe we are to translate the Bible into all the languages of the Soviet Union, and make it available for all the peoples and tribes trapped within their borders.”
It was tough to smuggle enough Russian Bibles for a populace forced to speak the language of the empire, but there were 127 distinct languages from unique and diverse cultures represented. Still, we responded that night with a commitment to do the impossible.
The Wall fell twenty years later, and one of the greatest opportunities in the history of missions opened up. It was as though a huge part of the world that had disappeared suddenly appeared again.
Kamchatka was a major military outpost located between Russia, Japan, and the U.S, and it was completely beyond our reach. It was also home to the indigenous Koryaks. One of our early teams took the printed Gospel and presented it to a Koryak man. When he opened it, his eyes widened, and he exclaimed, “You mean God speaks my language?”
Twenty-two churches have been planted in Kamchatka now. This year they’ll complete the construction of a church that seats a thousand people. The YWAM base, a former youth camp, continues to train and send out workers who often travel 1000 kilometers by snowmobile in some of the most treacherous conditions to reach remote villages.
Many pastors and workers are graduates of DTS and secondary U of N schools. Some travel great distances at tremendous cost to attend yearly conferences where Loren Cunningham and Jim Steir and others have taught.
Ivan is a Chukchi, a missionary to Yamal, which translated means “the uttermost place.” He takes teams to reach remote villages only accessible by a river boat recently purchased by YWAM. He represents the many indigenous peoples who are finally being reached and are now reaching out to others in these remote forgotten places.
As YWAM, we believe, practice, and value our ability to hear God’s voice. He is at work today like never before. Political boundaries and belief systems are being shaken.
Are we aware of God’s movements? Are we listening to what He’s saying and preparing ourselves for what He’ll do?
Where are the young people like this Yugoslav, those who will take a seed from God and water it with faith and see it blossom into fruit?
The Bible says: “In the last days your young men shall see visions.”It also says that your sons and daughters shall prophesy. Where are those young prophets of today?
I believe we have we have thousands in YWAM. Can you by faith begin to see what God has in store, if we listen to Him?
Al Akimoff was born in Kuldja, China as the beginning of the wave of baby boomers burst onto the earth. His parents and grandparents had fled from the persecution and famines in Ukraine and after a long journey that took them through the Urals and Central Asia they escaped into China. They had become believers in a brief revival that swept through Ukraine in the late 1920s.
After some more years of traveling across China and living in refugee camps in Japan and Philippines, they arrived in the U.S. where Al grew up in a Slavic community in San Francisco.
Finding Jesus after a few rebellious years, Al was recruited by Loren Cunningham to join him in a summer outreach in the Caribbean Islands in 1964. It was a summer that changed his life. After graduation from Bible College, Al and several of his college mates traveled to Europe to attend Youth With a Mission’s newly launched School of Evangelism.
It was in Lausanne, Switzerland that Al met Carolyn, another early recruit by Loren; she had been traveling in Latin America with YWAM since she was 16 years old. Their paths became one as they led some of the early summer teams to Spain.
An invitation by Brother Andrew to come to work with him in Eastern Europe took Al and Carolyn to Holland and Eastern Europe. Al’s first Bible smuggling trip was to Moscow in 1970.
In 1973 Al and Carolyn founded YWAM Slavic Ministries to initiate evangelism and discipleship in Eastern Europe. This year marks 40 years that they have ministered among the Slavic peoples of the world pioneering many ministries in the nations scattered across Eastern Europe.
These days you might find Al and Carolyn in the Caucasus Mountains or in a village on the Tundra far above Arctic Russia, as they continue to pioneer new works, something that remains very close to their hearts.