YWAM Minneapolis opened its doors in September of 1998. Like all YWAM bases, it began not as the decision of a centralized planning committee, but as the vision of one person. This is the story of how it began.
In the fall of 1986, David Clark was an 18-year-old freshman at Wheaton College. A missionary named Floyd McClung came to campus and challenged the student body to “radically” embrace God’s heart for the lost and unreached of the world. Floyd had been ministering to “hippies” in Afghanistan with Youth With A Mission. Having never heard of the organization, David was intrigued. McClung’s call to live radically for Jesus stuck in his mind. Shortly after, he read the missionary tale called Bruchko, about a Minnesota teen who left everything to go live in the Colombian rain forest and evangelize an unreached tribe. David decided that he must follow a similar path.
At the end of the school year, he announced to his parents that he was not returning to Wheaton, but felt called of God to go help the poor in Mexico. It took much discussion and prayer before his parents finally ‘released’ him. In 1987 at the age of 19, David traveled to an impoverished community near the city of Merida, Mexico. He had no agency or church backing him, and no committed financial support. By himself, and with his rudimentary Spanish, he arranged to rent a cardboard shack in which he lived and began to make relationships with the people around him. Over the next several years he planted and pastored a church, and also started a ministry for the homeless of Merida.
While working in Mexico, David continued to follow and admire the work of YWAM ‘from afar’. In 1991, the opportunity came to meet some YWAM leaders. While making the long drive back to Mexico after a visit in Minnesota, David stopped in at the YWAM base in Tyler, TX and was warmly received by the base leader Leland Paris. At that time, Leland also served as YWAM’s Field Director for all bases in North, Central, and South America. During this visit, David noticed a deep sense of community and authenticity among the YWAM staff. There was something that these YWAMers had. He knew that in his life and his ministry, he aspired to something like that, but the possibility of joining YWAM was still not on the radar screen.
In 1993, after six years of service in Mexico, the opportunity came to ‘hand over the reigns’ of his ministry. David moved home to Minnesota, and was offered a position at a local Christian organization as the head of their missions department. Over the next two years he would travel around the world, to encourage missionaries and develop ministry models that would make them more effective. He began to realize that many of their struggles stemmed from independence and isolation--similar to the challenges he had faced in Mexico. He came to the conviction that mission workers needed to be part of a community. The idea of a ‘solo’ missionary just wasn’t working.
YWAM continued to loom large in David’s mind. They were working in teams; they were emphasizing personal discipleship; they were focusing on young people; they were radical. It just seemed that they had everything he was looking for. And then one morning in 1995, David was praying, and a thought came into his head: A YWAM base in Minnesota. It made sense, and he wondered why he never had thought of that before.
Unsure of what to do next, David wrote a letter to Leland Paris outlining his vision but also confessing his ignorance of how to begin. He told Leland that he wanted to be involved with starting a YWAM center in the Minneapolis area, but considering his lack of experience with the organization he realized that he was probably not the right person to lead it.
Upon receiving the letter, Leland invited David down to Texas to discuss the matter. There, Leland told David about the numerous attempts that had been made to start a base in the Minneapolis area. He also commented on the thousands of YWAMers who had come from Minnesota. There was tremendous interest in seeing a base started there, but up until then, no one had been successful in doing so. Leland explained that if David first went through the YWAM training programs – both the Discipleship Training School (DTS) and the School of Evangelism (SOE) – and then joined the YWAM staff in Texas for a season, the opportunity may be given for him to recruit a team and establish the center in Minnesota. Energized by this green light, David went back to Minneapolis, making plans to return to Texas to begin his training in June of 1996.
Before taking this next step, however, there arose two developments which greatly affected David’s plans. He had wondered from the beginning what facilities he might use in starting a missionary training center that could provide a classroom as well as living space in which a community could be formed. This became a specific point of prayer. He had seen several YWAM bases that used everything from church buildings to old schools or warehouses. After his trip to Texas, David took a proposal to a Christian foundation with which some of his family members were associated. After hearing David’s vision, the foundation’s board offered to purchase a multi-million dollar property which they would lease to YWAM for one dollar a year. YWAM would then be responsible only for maintenance and upkeep. The property they were looking at was a large estate, comprised of a 15,000 square-foot home, two other houses and several barns-- all set on 240 acres of wooded farmland. In addition, the foundation was willing to pay for any modifications that might be needed to make the rooms work as classrooms and dormitories. David was overwhelmed by this answer to prayer. In May of 1996, the property was secured, with the plan that the foundation would rent it out as a retreat center until YWAM would be ready to occupy it.
A second development was that David became engaged. He had been dating Kim Miller, also a native of Minnesota, for a year, and together they were growing in their excitement over the developing vision for a YWAM base in their home state. They were married January 12, 1996 and headed down to Texas in June.
David and Kim Clark spent two years at the YWAM center in Tyler, Texas. After completing the DTS and SOE training schools, David and Kim served on staff of YWAM Tyler. David was put on a rotation, working with various leaders to become familiar with the administrative tasks necessary for running the ministry.
It was while they were still in Texas, however, that a problem developed that put their plans in jeopardy. Before leaving Minnesota, David had submitted a request to the local Township zoning board requesting a change-of-status for the property which had been offered to YWAM. Word came that the zoning board reached a ‘stale-mate’ in granting his request. They had no established category to fit the way YWAM wanted to use the property, and some of the local residents, knowing nothing about YWAM, were suspicious of a religious group wanting to move in. Three board members had voted in favor, and three had voted against the proposal. The matter was postponed until the next board meeting, where the previously absent 7th member would cast the deciding vote.
During these weeks of uncertainty, when David and Kim were not sure if all their plans might come to nothing, they asked God for confirmation that they were following His will. One night as David was walking and praying, he heard the Lord say to him, “Haggai chapter two.” He had no idea what this passage was about, but he rushed home to open his Bible. As he began to read, verses 7 - 9 caught his attention: “And I will shake all the nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory . . . The latter glory of this house shall be greater than the former, says the LORD of hosts. And in this place I will grant peace.” David felt a deep sense that God was assuring him that He was with him and would bring His plans about. This passage would later become on of the central themes of YWAM Minneapolis.
In September of 1996, David flew up to Minnesota for the next zoning board meeting. After making his appeal, a local resident in the audience (who was there for a different case) stood and spoke of his high regard for the organization of Youth With A Mission. Having never met David, he told the board that he was delighted at the thought of a YWAM base coming near his home. Then, the president of the local bank stood up, and shared that his family had also been involved with YWAM, and that he loved the organization. With this surprising support from the community, the zoning board had no option but to concede. The petition was unanimously approved.
After two-and-a-half years of preparation, the newly formed team of ‘YWAM Minneapolis’ was sent off to Minnesota. David and Kim, along with twelve others, officially launched a new YWAM base in September of 1998. Arriving in Minnesota, the staff divided up the work of caring for the facilities and planning the first DTS. From the beginning, given his ministry experience in Mexico, David wanted this YWAM community to train and include Latin Americans. He also felt that through the Haggai 2:7 passage, God had shown him that “treasures of the nations” were to fill this house. Those treasures were to be young people from around the world who would come to be discipled and sent out to the nations.When their first school began on January 3, 1999, they had eleven students: two from Argentina, one from Brazil, two from Mexico, and six Americans. Both Spanish and English were used, with everything translated. They joked that only God could persuade Latin Americans to come to Minnesota in January! The first DTS outreach team of YWAM Minneapolis was sent to Merida, Mexico, working with the churches David had planted twelve years earlier. Some of the students from this school later joined the staff of YWAM Minneapolis. Others went home to go to college or to work with their churches. Still others went on to work overseas in full-time missions. This would become the pattern for the graduates of future training schools.
Since its inauguration in 1998, YWAM Minneapolis has continued to offer discipleship and missions training by running two DTS’s and one SOE annually. Outreach teams have been sent to nations throughout Latin America as well as Europe, Africa, and Asia. The “treasures of the nations” have come to the house in Rockford. Over 400 students from 27 countries have attended the training schools.
Today, YWAM Minneapolis has 47 staff members from nine nations. The base continues to run its signature training schools, but has also expanded into many new areas of ministry. Every summer, YWAM Minneapolis mobilizes hundreds of youth through its short-term Mission Adventures outreaches. YWAM Minneapolis is feeding hungry children around the world through its “Kids Against Hunger” program. Every week, teams from YWAM Minneapolis reach out to the nations in our own city. And new projects are always on the horizon.
The beginning of the ‘YWAM Minneapolis story’ speaks of what one person can do when ready to give his or her life to God’s service. David Clark’s desire to do something “radical” for God as a teenager set the trajectory for his whole life. His early years living among the poor in Mexico showed him both what he could and could not do alone. Naturally independent, he began to learn the value of Christian community and the need young people have for training and guidance who, like himself, desire to do great things for God.
The present story of YWAM Minneapolis is no longer about just one person. It’s about a group of people who are committed to relationship with one another; to a common vision to discipleship nations; and to passionate relationship with Jesus Christ. The staff and students of YWAM Minneapolis firmly believe that the best is yet to come!