Choosing to Work Together Like Twins!
A University of the Nations and YWAM Ships Collaborative Partnership

ywam-fleet-map-2016-v4YWAM Ships Kona was incorporated in 2011. It was established as part of a renewed push to fulfill the “twin” strategy that was implemented by Youth With A Mission in the 1970s. The idea was to increase the reach of the University of the Nations (UofN) into places that are otherwise inaccessible. YWAM Ships Kona has established a center by repurposing an old hotel on Ali’i Drive, overlooking the pier and bay, in downtown Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. It is less than a mile away from one of the larger UofN locations, YWAM Kona, led by YWAM founders Loren and Darlene Cunningham.

YWAM Ships Kona director Brett Curtis said, “The UofN campus has a worldwide vision of reaching everyone in every nation from mountain tops to mega cities with practically-trained workers; while the other twin —YWAM Ships Kona — is operating floating bases specifically designed to host teams reaching hard-to-access communities on islands and up remote rivers.”

“We are separate legal entities, yet collaborating as one, much like real twins would if working in the same industry – perhaps one a home builder and the other in real estate.” In our case we are engaged in missions, and our complementary gifts enable outcomes that otherwise would not be possible, especially when it comes to reaching the most isolated islands, those without airports.
Jim Walker, who oversees training at YWAM Ships Kona, said the university component has successfully contributed to the work of missions since it was launched almost four decades ago. He cited the UofN’s use of courses that last from three to six months — typically three months in the classroom followed by a two- to three-month practical field assignment.

“The value of our educational model is that things learned during the lecture are skills the students apply immediately in the field,” said Walker, who has been with YWAM since 1995. “We see tremendous results from the students — not only from their efforts on outreach but also the fruit of their lives long term.”

Walker went on to say that the university’s system of engaging students in using their training within months of learning it in the classroom provides great experience for retaining what is taught. “In the field it also enables practical assistance, which in the healthcare category, is in high-demand among the underprivileged nations we travel to,” Walker said. “I can’t think of a better learning environment for students pursuing an education.”

The UofN’s courses allow students to make a direct impact through their training, even years before completing their degree. “Our curriculum is intentionally written for developing world applications. In the healthcare college where I work, we find local and regional governments are delighted to see us come with skills to pass on and engage local workers. One of our favorite things is to work along side people from the villages we go to,” Walker said. “Our focus really isn’t to box students into a particular type of developed-world hospital role but to equip them for a field application where it’s needed the most.”

The modular-course model the UofN uses was developed by the late professor and renowned scientist Dr. Howard Malmstadt (who authored three books on modular education was also a co-founder with Loren and Darlene Cunningham of the UofN). Paul Childers, chairman of the UofN Kona’s leadership team, said this approach has proven results.

“It is the most effective when the lecture is followed rapidly with practical experience,” Childers said. “This model provides significant retention in learning and a basis to go on to future courses having context.”

Curtis received an Executive Master of Arts degree in leadership from the UofN in 2015 after completing his thesis on crisis management. He said YWAM Ships, with its capacity to transport UofN field teams, provides a unique role in this global effort.

“Carrying students and volunteers to isolated locations that have no airport is our focus. Using ships is not just a good idea, it is the only option when trying to reach some 1100 islands in the Pacific alone,” Curtis said. “There is no other way to reach them and serve their needs.”

The UofN network has established hundreds of courses in seven colleges offering associate’s, bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

“UofN students are taking courses as diversified as water technologies, healthcare, innovative farming and linguistics,” Childers said. “Where there is a real need in the field, we probably have a school for it; if not we’ll try and develop one so our workers will reach the field prepared.”

Curtis said that YWAM Ships — together with the 600 (and growing) UofN campuses around the world — needs more ships to be deployed. There are currently 24 vessels in YWAM. Curtis said there is a real need for at least 40 in the Pacific alone.

Loren Cunningham, co-founder of Youth With A Mission reports, “Since the university was established in 1978, the UofN has grown to offer more than 500 different kinds of courses and hundreds of seminars (some of which are offered in 97 languages), running now in 160 countries.”

Cunningham went on to say, “Jesus said ” to the ends of the earth”— From Jerusalem, halfway around the globe, are 1100 + populated islands in Pacifica, with only 200+ islands with airstrips. Nearby are the Philippine Islands with more than 2,000 islands & Indonesia with more than 6,000 populated islands out of 17,805 islands counted from a Google overhead picture”. Obviously there is much growth needed in our ship network in YWAM.

“This responsibility is such a privilege,” Curtis said. “I have been involved for over 30 years and continue to push hard to see our YWAM ships deployed on all seven seas reaching the world’s most isolated communities. We are very excited to see an increasing number served each year because of the growing capacity of this ‘twin’ model — ships and universities.”
To learn more about the University of the Nations, visit and


Disclaimer: YWAM Ships Kona is an independent and separate 501c3 organization from the University of the Nations, Kona Inc. These two entities are independent and separate in all aspects, legally, financially and operationally.