Châtel is a cluster of houses situated 740 meters above Lake Geneva with less 100 inhabitants. Two of these houses overlooking the French and Swiss Alps belong to Youth With A Mission.
In 1910 Jacques Rossier moved to Châtel. He bought ‘Les Sapins’ and‘Les Charmilles’, the names given to the two large houses which now belong to YWAM. M. Rossier came from a traditional Protestant background and for a time had been a pastor of an Evangelical Church. He quickly established the ‘Rossier Association’ which was characterised by a community lifestyle. The Association accrued farms and houses over the years and became very well known and highly regarded in the area.
M. Rossier established a school in ‘Les Sapins’ and children from as far away as Paris attended. It had a good reputation academically and concerts were held here. Unfortunately over the years he started to become authoritarian and preached that here would be the new Jerusalem. As a result, the people had to take a vow of celibacy and were not allowed to leave the association. Following M. Rossier’s death, people from outside came to help with administration of the properties, but due to the way the Association’s affairs were handled many of the houses and farms had to be sold. Eventually all that was left were two houses in Bugnaux (a small village 2 km down the hill from Châtel) plus ‘Les Sapins’ and ‘Les Charmilles’.
In the mid 1980s a family from YWAM Burtigny made contact with people from the ‘Rossier Association’. At that time the Association consisted of 7 women and 1 man - all in their 80ies. The family started to live with them and care for the members in their old age. 1987 the buildings were given to YWAM by the ‘Rossier Association’. Three families from YWAM Burtigny moved into ‘Les Sapins’ and ‘Les Charmilles’ and began a rehabilitation program which has become recognised by the Swiss Social Services. Over the years many people have been ministered to through this very effective ministry. A big renovation programme commenced - with the help of a large mortgage - to reconstruct the two houses and to convert the barn into a meeting room and living accommodations.
One family after another left Châtel until July 1997 when Dr. Bruce and Barbara Thompson (who originate from New Zealand) along with a small team took up residence in Châtel. At that point, the focus of YWAM Châtel expanded to incorporate counseling training. The first training school was held here in the spring of 1998 - a Methods and Models of Biblical Counseling School. Since then many different courses and seminars were offered here and allowed Châtel to become a resource campus for the College of Counseling and Health Care. The courses include: Foundations for Counseling Ministry (FCM), Addictive Behaviour Counseling (ABC), Family Ministry (FMS), Systemic Approach in Counseling (SAC), Crossroads Discipleship Training School (CDTS), Leadership Development Course (LDC), as well as different seminars like The Divine Plumbline, Relapse Prevention, Theophostic Prayer Counseling, Dissociative Identity Disorder and more. During the spring of 2002, the Thompsons retired from Châtel. George & Shellie Counts from the USA took over the leadership for the following 3 years followed in 2005 by Thomas & Renate Grunder from Switzerland. In June 2011 a team of 3, being Martin Bauert (CH), Sylvie Bolay (CH) and Evelyn Essig (D), were commissioned as the new base leaders.
From 1998 to 2012 a total of 40 three-month courses were held in this facility. In those courses approximately 500 students from over 40 nations were enrolled. While the students were equipped for ministry, God brought personal transformation to their life. Many went on to do three-month field assignments among the nations, being ambassadors of healing with a message of hope. Training, equipping and releasing for ministry has become a major emphasis in Châtel. Seminars and hospitality are other ministries of the centre. Worship and intercession are also crucial components of the life of the community. Châtel has become an international training centre as part of YWAM’s global University of the Nations with the aim to equip and transform people from the nations to bring the whole gospel to the nations. It is a place of revelation and restoration.
When Youth With A Mission was founded in 1960 in North America, the focus was to get youth into short-term mission work and to give them opportunities to reach out in Jesus' name. YWAM's co-founder, Loren Cunningham (see photo at left), believed that years of theological training did not necessarily qualify people to serve the Lord effectively, nor should they be a requirement before encouraging young people to pass on the love of Christ through missions. At the time, this was considered a revolutionary concept.
The idea of having relatively untrained youth doing missions was generally not considered and was even seen as potentially dangerous. However, over the years, while mistakes have of course been made and learnt from, the concept of short-term missions has added huge numbers of people to the task of world evangelization. It is now accepted as a valid contribution to mission work . Over the last 40 years, YWAM has grow to more that 16,000 regular volunteers and missionaries in over 1,000 bases on every continent and in over 160 nations around the world.
YWAM - The Accronym
Naturally, the accronym YWAM has attracted an endless stream of alternative meanings, some of them quite humorous - of course the younger single generation explain that YWAM stands for Young Warriors After Maidens for the guys; and Young Women After Men for the gals. Others insist on Yes We Are Mad or You Would Ask Me. Of course Youth With A Mission prevails and stands among many missions organizations and groups throughout the world as one that makes an impact on dicipling the Nations - To know God and make Him known.