The Haywagon Story

I realize it’s a bit long, but if you’ve never heard this it’s worth the read. The beam I’m holding, below,is the last remaining piece of the haywagon.

Since it’s a perfect example of the death-of-the-vision principle, it’s a resurrection tale as well.

In early 1974 Loren was in prayer at the Lausanne base, and received what seemed like an unusual word from God: to pray for a farm. Unusual, because farms in Switzerland were virtually impossible to come by; they are almost always family-owned, passed down through the generations and very rarely ever sold. Without any possibilities in sight, Loren nevertheless held fast to what he believed God had told him.

Then he heard that all the equipment of the farm across the road from the YWAM base was going to be auctioned off. The Lord spoke again: “Go to the auction, and buy some farm equipment; because I’m going to give you a farm.” In obedience, Loren took a step of faith and bought a milk can, a roll of barbed wire, and an old, run-down hay wagon. The last item would prove to be more than simply symbolic.

One of the young Swiss staff members at the Lausanne base saw the hay wagon being pulled into the base parking lot. She was shocked to learn that Loren had paid 1,000 Swiss francs for it (as were several other staff). The next weekend she told her parents about Loren’s word about the hay wagon, the ridiculous price paid for it, and the word about receiving a farm in Switzerland. Her father listened with great interest, because he was on the board of a certain orphanage in a village called Burtigny! It was none other than La Maison. He approached the other board members, informing them that YWAM was praying for a farm and asked if they would consider the organisation as a possible candidate. This began a lengthy five-year process, during which the orphanage director repeatedly rejected the pastor’s proposal.

Loren left Switzerland in late 1974 to begin the Kona base in Hawaii, then Joe P. left Lausanne for Kona in 1976. But the francophone staff at the Lausanne base were convinced that the property and its farm was God’s provision and continued to press forward in prayer over the next years.

To make a long story short, the property was turned completely over to YWAM in 1979. It was debt-free, the freezers were full of food, and there was money in the bank. The property included a large central building, a fully-functioning small farm, a large professionally-equipped garden, a carpentry shop, a garage, a stone bread oven, several apartments, four barns, 18 Swiss cows, and their cowbells.

Four young Swiss couples left the Lausanne base and moved to Burtigny in November 1979. They held their first DTS there in 1980 and from the outset had a clear vision to see the training up of francophone youth into missions. YWAM Burtigny has strong links to French-speaking Africa. In keeping with the strong social legacy of the orphanage, the base also took to heart its call to Mercy Ministries on the local front. They took care of the aging staff who had faithfully worked in the orphanage, set up a counseling centre, worked in programs for the restoration of drug users and held regular Summers of Service and ministries with local churches.

The buildings were run down (the school wing was actually condemned), and we have been doing non-stop renovations ever since 1980, some quite extensive. YWAM has used the now modernized former orphanage as a training centre for short- and long-term missionaries, and by the time of the centennial of the buildings in 1999 we had trained as many young people as the number of orphans who had been sheltered here during the 80-year life of the orphanage.

Here’s the point: that small, seemingly insignificant step of faith (in reality a step of obedience) of Loren’s buying the hay wagon was the thing the Lord used to put us in touch with the board member who became our link to the orphanage director. And that first investment of 1,000 Swiss francs has been multiplied many thousands of times over. God is good!

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