YWAM England prepares to mobilize public campaign as UK threatens the visas of 350 missionaries

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez, |
This team of YWAM missionaries from many different nations share the Gospel in London. | YWAM England Facebook

LONDON (Christian Examiner) -- The England and Wales office of international mission organization Youth With a Mission (YWAM) will learn later this month if the British government will revoke its visa sponsorship license, requiring the faith-based non-profit to send more than 350 missionaries out of the country within 60 days.

The organization claims the unprecedented move is an attempt by the United Kingdom's Visa and Immigration Office to reduce the country's immigration numbers, a policy that already has impacted several faith based groups in 2014.

Christianity Today reported that among the faith-based groups targeted last year was Wycliffe Bible Translators and Nations' Trust.

According to the YWAM Harpenden blog, the group was first inspected in September and cited with two violations, then notified Dec. 23 of additional concerns. The government suspended YWAM's sponsorship license for 20 working days and asked the mission group to respond. YWAM is asking area residents to contact members of parliament (MP) by January 20.

The News North Wales reported YWAM Wales staff member Mark Vening as saying the organization was caught in immigration politics.

"We understand and support the right of UKVI to investigate, but we just wonder if we are a little bit caught in the crossfire of the debate on immigration," said Vening.

Vening also told the news source that across the UK there are about 500 people volunteering on behalf of the organization at any given time and that half or more are on UK visas sponsored by the faith-based organization. Should the license be revoked, YWAM England would have to halt a number of operations in England and abroad.

But Vening said YWAM planned to "pull out all stops" and "mobilize a huge public campaign," if that happened.

"We don't want to be seen as the whiny nonprofit who is just stomping its foot and being petulant," he said. "We're very, very open to working with the government to get this sorted. But we're a little shocked and a little confused with what's happened."

"Nonetheless," Vening added, "we are doing everything we can to comply with the law and ensure that our missionaries remain a blessing to the UK and, through our YWAM England and Wales teams, to the rest of the world that YWAM seeks to share the love of Christ with." 

YWAM field missionaries operate on a volunteer basis and support themselves and their families through personal fundraising.