Arnie Jacobs: Still Going Strong After Six Decades of Service

Arnie and Mary Lou Jacobs have lived incredibly full lives. They have poured their hearts and souls into the mission of Young Life, to go where kids are and introduce them to Jesus. They are as passionate about reaching adolescents today as they were when they started on Young Life staff 62 years ago. God has provided them with amazing experiences within Young Life — camp, relationships, and the opportunity to impact others.

When I met Arnie, he greeted me warmly. He invited me into his home and announced, “This is my honey, my wife, Mary Lou.” Immediately Arnie started sharing stories and memories about life as Mary Lou offered us tall glasses of iced tea. They were unbelievably welcoming, and made me feel extremely comfortable.

Arnie’s memory is incredible. At the age of 93, he remembers everyone’s name, position and personality from 50 years ago. He is full of enthusiasm and stories of events and relationships. Whether it was a quote, a person, or a memory that Arnie brought up, Mary Lou and Arnie both lit up with joy and laughter when talking about Young Life.

After serving in WWII, Arnie Jacobs decided he wanted to live with a purpose, to do something that made an impact on the world. In 1952, Arnie was introduced to Young Life by some friends and decided to drive out to Star Ranch in Colorado Springs to find out more. There, not only did he meet Jim Rayburn, but the rest of his life was laid out for him by God’s providence. “Where do you want to go?” Rayburn asked Jacobs. And so their journey began.

Arnie, with Mary Lou by his side, started Young Life in Greenville, North Carolina, in 1955. With the help of some friends, some significant fundraising and generous accommodations, Greenville Young Life was up and running. With his connections, Arnie started Young Life club in Asheville, North Carolina; Philadelphia; Washington D.C. and Colorado Springs. God used Arnie and Mary Lou to change lives all over the country!

Arnie and Mary Lou have seen most of Young Life’s 75-year life span. They’ve done incredible ministry and developed some amazing relationships along the way. They hosted the first week at Trail West (Young Life’s family camp in Colorado), became close friends with Jim Rayburn, and Millie and John Carter, and connected people in the U.K. with Young Life. They also made some incredible relationships with donors like Eli Lilly Jr. and the mayor of Indianapolis, Dick Lugar (who gave Arnie the key to the city for his work with Young Life!). 

Whether it was loading up 13 busloads of kids in Indiana to go to camp during the summertime or developing friendships with students in local areas, Arnie and Mary Lou have had a deep passion for Young Life. They have been obedient to God’s will in order to touch the lives of those around them. In turn, Young Life has made a significant impact in their lives as well. More than 62 years after that first conversation with Jim Rayburn, God continues to direct them where they need to go, who they need to be as leaders and with whom they need to connect in order to share Jesus with everyone.

Arnie is still a part of Young Life today by making calls, talking with donors and thanking people for being a part of this amazing story. He files reports to the president once a week and is exceptionally valued for his contribution. In his words, Young Life is “the best fun and most fulfilling thing you can do. It’s about friendships and it’s what Jesus would do — hang with those who are lost.” 

For all your work with and compassion for adolescents and for sharing the Gospel of Jesus — thank you, Arnie and Mary Lou Jacobs! We celebrate you and your six decades worth of service.