Our Interview with Bob Lonac, President and CEO – CRISTA Ministries

Young Life A & F: How did you come to Christ? How were you introduced to the Young Life mission, and in what ways have you served?

B.L. Throughout high school, I was the typical Young Life poster child. I had never attended church in my life when my Young Life leader, Bob Runion, asked me to help start a Young Life club at Clayton Valley High School in Concord, California. Along with four of my close buddies, we took the 32-hour bus ride and boat trip to Malibu the summer of my junior year in 1962. We had an amazing week. 

I laugh about it now, but we spent each evening trying to skip out of the nightly Young Life club. Bob would round us up and make us come. After the “Night of the Cross,” he lined us up outside our cabin and one by one we came in to meet with him. We all gave our lives to Jesus and prayed with him that unforgettable night. The following week we started our weekly Campaigners group, began a Young Life club that fall, and never looked back. Two of us went on to Westmont College. 

After I graduated, Bob Runion called again. I had been a volunteer all four years during college, and he invited me to come on staff as a “trainee.” I led three Young Life clubs those two years. Then, I became the area director in Fresno, Oakland, and San Jose, California. After that, I became regional director in the San Francisco Bay Area, divisional director, vice president and senior vice president in the Western United States. Thirty three years later I decided God was calling me away for a new adventure.

Young Life A & F: What have you done since leaving Young Life?

 I became the chief operating officer of International Justice Mission in Washington, D.C., where I spent six wonderful years. In 2007 my wife Kathleen and I headed out west to Seattle for an opportunity to serve as president and CEO of CRISTA Ministries, where I remain today. CRISTA is a family of ministries serving people globally through education, relief and development, broadcast media, youth camps and senior care. Our diverse ministries are united by a shared mission: to love God by serving people. I remain just as inspired today by the opportunity to serve Him through my professional career as I was when I began with Young Life.

Young Life A & F: How did Young Life influence these roles?

Young Life mentors poured their lives into me. They cared, corrected, challenged and prayed for me. This not only molded me into the person I am today, but provided a model for me to follow in my future roles. They taught me that relationships matter immensely. Over my life, I have had the joy of serving in roles that are all about making others grow, learn and become more of the people God has made them to be. I traveled the world developing international Young Life programs and worked personally in urban ministry. This expanded my horizons and opened my eyes to new ways of understanding God’s work.

Young Life A & F: How has involvement with Young Life influenced you not only in your professional life, but personally, as a husband and father?

. Young Life was a great experience for not only me, but for our family. It was certainly not without its challenges – some deep and profound – but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Young Life A & F: Any words of encouragement that you might say to Young Life staff and volunteers?

. Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly, as unto the Lord. Be passionate and be brave. God will lead you one step at a time. I could never have imagined the experiences I have had in my life, but looking back I see that God prepared me for each one in amazing ways. At the time I had no idea where I was headed, but God knew all along. Do not be weary in well doing. God is good and will reward those who diligently seek Him. 

Young Life A & F: Any final words for other Alumni and Friends who are considering involvement?

 Do it! You won’t regret it! ​