History YWAM Netherlands
During the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972, fifty young Dutch people who had traveled to Germany by bus, joined a thousand other youth from different parts of the world for a large evangelism outreach which was organized by YWAM. For Dutch people this was the first important introduction to YWAM. The following summer another outreach was planned, this time in Amsterdam. Those were the days of the ‘hippy trail’ which embarked in Amsterdam and finished in the Far East. The Amsterdam Vondel Park served as an ‘open hotel’ for young travelers who came from all over the world. Don Stephens, who led this campaign, asked Al Akimoff and Romkje de Graaf to arrange housing for the outreach participants. They found two old house boats which were bought and towed from Rotterdam to a temporary berth behind Amsterdam Central Station. Named the ‘Ark’, these boats were stationed there for over 12 years and became YWAM’s first permanent location in the Netherlands.
After the 1973 summer outreach Don Stephens invited Floyd McClung to start using the Ark as a center for ‘friendship evangelism’. At that time Floyd lived in Afghanistan where he was leading a network of communal houses. Help was offered in these communities to young westerners who had withdrawn themselves from society. The Ark seemed exactly the right location to establish a rescue centre at the beginning of the drug route to the east. A few months later, after a long journey, Floyd and his wife Sally arrived in Amsterdam in an old refurbished van. Under Floyd’s leadership the Ark gained a reputation of a place which had compassion on people and where intellectual questions about Christianity were answered. “It doesn’t matter to people how much you know, until they know how much you care’, was Floyd’s favorite expression.
There was a growing need for trained staff to work among disillusioned young people in Europe and the East. Volunteers from all over Europe, North America, even Australia and New Zealand came to join the Ark.
Floyd learned that in the Veluwe, an area towards the east in the Netherlands, a property with several buildings was for sale and seemed suitable to serve as a training centre. Together with Romkje de Graaf he drove to Heerde to check out this former leprosarium named ‘Heidebeek’. Within a few months the property was purchased. Floyd and Sally moved to Heidebeek to start the new training centre. Floyd’s heart remained focused on Amsterdam and four years later he transferred the Heidebeek leadership to Romkje’s husband Jeff Fountain. Floyd and his family returned to Amsterdam and moved into a small apartment at the Oudezijds Voorburgwal.
A core team had gathered around the Urban Mission challenge – ministry not only to young travelers but also to ethnic and cultural groups who were outside the reach of the established churches. Among those groups were the prostitutes, the Turks, the Chinese, the Punks and the Zeedijk drug dealers. One large building, the former ‘squatters building’ at the corner of the Prins Hendrikkade and the Zeedijk, was an object of prayer. This used to be the Salvation Army headquarters. A sect called ‘The Children of God’ lived in this building at the time we bought the Ark. It was used for drug dealing. YWAMers prayed intensely for this building, that it would once again be used for its original purpose – the proclamation of the gospel in the heart of Amsterdam. After extensive negotiations YWAM was able to purchase the building and gave it a new name: ‘The Samaritan’s Inn’. Everyone who passes by the building is greeted with the message in blue neon letters on the roof saying: GOD ROEPT U (God is calling you) – JESUS LOVES YOU.
Currently this building serves as headquarters for many youth-focused activities in the city. On the ground floor a lunch/arts café and an evangelical bookshop are situated. In 1985 the former ‘Sailor’s home’ across from the Scheepvaart museum was bought and renamed ‘De Poort’ which means ‘The Gate’.
While the ministry in Amsterdam primarily aimed at cities as a modern mission field, Heidebeek developed into a ‘springboard for world mission’, through which many teams were sent to other continents. Both locations developed training programs including the Discipleship Training School (DTS). In 2003 the ministry of Mercy Ships choose to continue independently from YWAM.
In the meantime new generations of leaders have taken over from the YWAM pioneers in the Netherlands. Floyd and Sally McClung and Jeff & Romkje Fountain laid a strong foundation in Amsterdam and at Heidebeek upon which new, young leaders with their teams continue building.
YWAM’s work is still developing. At the moment over 200 full-time volunteers are working in the various YWAM teams around the nation. Apart from Amsterdam and Heidebeek smaller teams are active in the provinces. The spectrum of training programs, through which people can be prepared and involved in world mission, is still increasing.
Today YWAM offers many opportunities for youth, singles, families, professionals, lay people, (early) retired people from different church backgrounds and walks of life to contribute tangibly to the fulfillment of the Great Commission. The vision of waves, received by Loren Cunningham at a young age, is still alive and wave after wave is still building – waves of especially young people who go into the Netherlands and to the ends of the earth.