It was many years ago now that a group of YWAM workers met together and began what would become known as YWAM Frontier Missions. The Lord spoke to some of them specifically about His concern for Muslims. Church planting teams were soon sent into Muslim South Asia, North Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.
In 1992, there was an accident and a desert meeting that would change YWAM internationally. The North Africa regional director was carrying an armful of tent poles down a hillside when he slipped and fell. One of the poles went into his eye, and it was blinded. Shortly after, for the first time in our history, YWAM’s global leadership gathered in the Middle East. While praying in the desert, the group felt strongly that God was saying that YWAM had “turned a blind eye towards the Muslim world.” They traveled by bus to the edge of the Red Sea, where each leader chose a rock and, together, they assembled an altar of remembrance before the Lord and made a commitment that YWAM, as an organization, would love Muslims, pray for them, and be more intentional in reaching out to them. They wrote and signed the Red Sea Covenant, which remains one of YWAM’s formational documents.
YWAMers in Australia and India birthed the Ramadan Prayer Guide, “30 Days of Prayer for the Muslim World”, producing the first print edition in 1992. The prayer guide is now a multi-agency project, published each year in more than 40 languages in print and electronic versions. It is used by millions of Christians to pray fervently for Muslims.
Another event sprang from that meeting in the desert. YWAM leaders organized a “Reconciliation Walk”, in which over 2500 Christians retraced the more than 1500 miles of the First Crusade to the Holy Land, proclaiming verbally and in printed form their regret for the way the Crusades misrepresented Christ. The Walk marked the 900th anniversary of this Crusade and culminated in Jerusalem in 1999. Wherever they went, the walkers were met by overwhelmingly positive response from media and individual Muslims, Orthodox Christians, and Jews. In Turkey alone, an estimated 70 percent of the population heard the message. The deputy mayor of Istanbul commented: “This project is very important to Turkey. You can see how much it means to the Turkish people when they line both sides of the road and applaud.”
Every five years, YWAMers working in Muslim ministries gather to share updates of their work, learn from each other, and receive fresh direction and insight from the Lord. The first gathering took place in 1996 in Turkey, then in London (2001), and then Egypt (2006). In September 2011, YWAMers from around the world came together in Pune, India, for the “Mela”, which means “a festival of diversity”. The event featured times to honor and embrace YWAM’s diversity in seeing God’s love expressed by and among so many nations and cultures. The Mela celebrants reviewed the Red Sea Covenant together, and veteran workers were moved as a new generation of co-workers committed themselves to fulfilling the pact. Participants signed a copy of the document to renew this important pledge to the Lord.
Over the last 30 years, YWAM has steadily grown its workforce in the Muslim world, along the way developing specialized training programs, like the School of Islamic Studies, and support systems for those workers. A new leadership role was created in YWAM Frontier Missions as the first “Muslim Ministry Coordinator” was appointed. There are currently 1200 full-time YWAMers living and working among Muslims, many of them from non-western countries. Thousands are now following Jesus as the fruit of their efforts. Hundreds of new churches have begun. The Lord Jesus Christ is being worshipped and praised!