Youth with a Mission (YWAM) is an international ministry that began 52 years ago, but continues to spread worldwide, establishing itself in Akron in 2010 when leaders felt a call to bring it here.
YWAM covers many nations of the earth, including China, India and Australia, but is also planted in strategic places in the U.S.
The mission has 16,000 full-time workers all over the world, in hundreds of different countries.
"Our heart is to see people know God and then make God known," Jennifer Patterson, Director of YWAM Akron, said.
They do this through intercession and prayer, evangelism, training, discipleship and empowering people to go out into the world and be God's representatives.
"Our focus is to encourage and empower young people in missions. Our heart is to champion young people to do what they have been called to do, whether it's be a traditional missionary, or maybe be a missionary in the career that God has called them to as a teacher, lawyer, police officer or homemaker…," Patterson said.
Though their heart is for the youth, they have evolved to welcome all ages, creating a place for everyone.
"We want to encourage all ages. We believe that it's important to mix all ages up because we can encourage one another," Patterson said.
They also mix denominations.
"We have people from all over the Body of Christ. We're not just from one denomination, we're many denominations of believers," Patterson shared.
This includes 14 churches that are involved, and continues to grow.
Called to Prayer
"At YWAM Akron we really felt we were supposed to create a real strong core of intercessory worship and prayer," Patterson shared.
Valerie Long, who comes to weekly prayer and worship gatherings, appreciates its benefits saying that it's "freeing".
"It's very refreshing, especially the worship gatherings. There's a wide range of ages and styles, but it's very free," Long said, sharing that some even dance.
And as for their prayers, they pray as they feel led.
"It has been for the U.S. Today was for Akron in general. Sometimes we bring forward personal things and we bring forward ministries such as with the refugees," Long said.
Putting Prayer into Motion
"Evangelism, training and discipleship come out of the intercessory worship and prayer, like a stream, it comes out from our really knowing God and hearing Him," Patterson said, envisioning a tree with many branches, representing their call to the community.
The group takes it to the streets, worshipping with guitar and singing outside of the University of Akron, as well as Highland Square and up and down Main and Market Streets. They often ask people if they need prayer and talk about Christianity when questions arise.
They also go into the homes of refugees to pray. Their heart for connecting to the community is very evident.
"We're looking to work with local churches and really encourage ministries that are already doing things in the city. (We want to find) how we can serve the city and help with that," Patterson shared, "And how we can encourage people in their callings and just mobilize the city into missions locally and abroad."
One way to get connected is to attend the "Akron Worship Gathering" every 2nd and 4th Saturday of the month.
"It's a gathering of Christians from around the community, the city, and region to come together and worship and then enter into prayer together over a specific topic or two for the evening," Patterson explained.
"We usually pray for something that has to do with the city - one of our spheres of society. We prayed for the whole criminal justice system last time. One Saturday we prayed very specifically into the education system. We prayed into businesses - praying for those men and women who are Christian and those who aren't. We pray for God's will to happen," Patterson continued.
They pray corporately and also have an "open mic" for people to come up and use the microphone. They also pray in groups as they mix worship and prayer together throughout the evening.
Praying for the nations is also a key part of what they do.
"If we feel like there is a specific nation on our heart then we might spend some time praying for that place," Patterson said.
They often have missionaries located in different countries who they center their prayers on.
For more info. on YWAM please visit www.ywam.org.
Watch for Part Two next week where Jennifer Patterson will share from her experiences in worldwide missions, how they are reaching out to local refugees, the miracles that are happening here in Akron and their future plans!
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