From the Grapevine

Hanging with Mary Kate

In the fall of 2011 Cassie Furler, a volunteer leader for Southlake Carroll High School in Texas, received an important call from a mom in the area. "She talked about being concerned for her daughter," Furler said, "and that one of her friends had told her to check out Young Life. We talked for an hour about her daughter, Mary Kate." Furler was excited to find that Mary Kate lived only blocks away from her. By the end of the conversation, it was obvious God was at work.

Furler wasted no time looking up Mary Kate on Facebook. She quickly discovered they had 60 friends in common and her two best friends had just started coming to club. "Every Monday for a month I'd text her two best friends and have them invite her to club. She finally gave in and came," Furler explained with a smile. Mary Kate not only came, but was there the night Furler told the kids that if they ever needed a place to go to get away and hang out, they could come to her house. Right away Mary Kate starting going to Furler's to hang. "Little by little I got to know Mary Kate. We were both obsessed with Sonic drinks and Tyler Perry movies," Furler laughed.

One night, a few weeks later, Mary Kate asked Furler a question. "Would you still hang out with me if I wasn't sure I believed in God?" Furler told her, "Of course!" For the next year, Mary Kate continued going to Furler's house at least twice a week.

A change was coming for Mary Kate. Furler remembered, "I invited Mary Kate and her mom to our church and they began a new journey. By the spring, Mary Kate was ready to fall in love with Jesus, and she did."

In 2012, Mary Kate was baptized at Furler's church and shared her testimony with the congregation. She also went to camp and has been one of Furler's biggest advocates for Young Life.

This past summer, Mary Kate wanted to be a counselor at a camp she had attended since she was little. After her application was turned down, Furler called to see if she could sign Mary Kate up for Young Life work crew training. "They said she could come to the last meeting, but more than likely she wouldn't be able to be placed because it was so late in the process." God surprised them both and opened the door for Mary Kate to do work crew at Saranac Village (Young Life's camp in upstate New York).

Furler said, "I can honestly say Mary Kate is one of my best friends and I couldn't be more proud of her. It's because of relationships like these, that after 12 years I keep chugging along on the Young Life train."

– Erika Jay 

Age Matters Not

Two summers ago, Frank and Tina Herold arrived at Windy Gap as adult guests. When David Johnson, then an associate area director for Young Life in Bradenton, Fla., found himself alone in charge of a cabin full of boys, Herold volunteered to help in any way he could.

"There's times in your life when God just kind of knocks on your door," Herold said. The contrast in the cabin was apparent. Herold was a white, 55-year-old businessman. The boys he was volunteering to host were African-American teens, all of whom came from the east side of Bradenton where gang violence broils amid enduring poverty.

"By the end of the week, he had built this great relationship with these guys," Johnson said.

Herold had the time of his life and together with his wife decided the fun shouldn't have to end with camp. "They seemed to enjoy me and I certainly enjoyed them," Herold said. He told the kids that, when they got back to Bradenton, he wanted to invite them over to his house for a barbecue.

That one gesture turned into a weekly Campaigners group that has continued to thrive ever since. "We had no idea what we were doing," Herold said. "We just loved them, shared the Lord with them, and gave them a safe place to hang out."

The Herolds' efforts infuse much-needed hope into a menacing environment. News of yet another shooting death among their peers reaches the group every six months or so, Herold explained.

"It's changed who we are as a mission in Bradenton," Johnson said. "[Frank and Tina] really fell in love with who those kids were."

Over the last two years, the kids have become an extension of the Herolds' family. Every Wednesday night, they serve a big meal and have Campaigners before loading up and heading to club later that night. The Herolds try to attend every one of the kids' football games and track meets, and the effect has been life changing. The kids see their Wednesday nights at Mister Frank and Mama T's as the best part of the week.

"I was nervous as a cat," Herold recalled. "I couldn't imagine that these high-school students would want to hang out with a 55-year-old man." However, more kids from the east side of Bradenton find their way over to Mister Frank and Mama T's every year. "If kids keep coming, we'll keep doing it," Herold said. "It's given real meaning to our lives."

– Travis Johnson

A Family Affair

For the McGinnis family, leading kids to Christ is a family affair. Bob and Randi McGinnis, their two grown daughters and their two sons-in-law all work and volunteer together for Allegheny Valley Young Life near Pittsburgh, Pa.

Bob, a self-proclaimed "second winder," first worked for Young Life in the 1960s-'70s as student staff for two years and as full time staff for four. Then, in 1995, when Bob was 47 years old, God called him back to the Young Life mission field.

"Young Life began to show up in a variety of ways," Bob recalled. "It didn't occur to me to step back into the mission."

But now, at 65, Bob is still the area director of Allegheny Valley and plans to stick around for at least a few more years. Plus, he has the best support system — his family.

Both of Bob's girls grew up in Young Life. Beth participated in club throughout high school and college, served on work crew, and worked as a camp intern. Her younger sister, Bobbi, tagged along with Dad on assignments and helped promote club once she started high school. Bob said many of the younger staff members looked up to his family and hoped to raise their families in  Young Life, too.

"They're just like their dad; they have no problem being up front and all that jazz," Bob said. "They just fell in love with the ministry. It's really a blessing to Randi and me."

Both girls could not be happier working with Dad.

"A lot of people say being a Young Life leader is like leading with family, but to actually lead with family is such a blessing," Beth said. "It was always my goal to be a leader, probably because of the way my mom and dad led — it just looked very attractive."

Bobbi agreed with her older sister. "Personally, I think it's a huge blessing because usually ministry takes you away from family," she said. "It just made sense to do it together. Working together grows you closer to God together."

Bobbi is Allegheny Valley's part-time administrator. Her husband, Nathan, leads with her at Freeport Senior High School. Beth, and her husband, Jonathan, both volunteer as WyldLife leaders at Highlands Middle School.

"If you can't recruit them, grow them," Bob said with a laugh. "Both of the girls have had a tremendous impact on the way their dad does ministry. They have always wanted to encourage me to be better and keep with the times. And Randi is a remarkable partner. The three of them have had an incredible impact on my life. I know I am a better area director because of my family."

– Emily Parker