Passages

​Edward "Barry" Asmus

January 18, 1942 – ​March 30, 2020

By Jeff Chesemore

Barry Asmus enjoyed a 35-year career speaking around the world on his topic of expertise: economics and the free market, and was named “one of the five most requested speakers in the United States” by USA Today. He was also the author of nine books and winner of numerous awards, including being twice voted the Outstanding Professor of the Year.

For the man who “wanted to be remembered for leading others to Christ,” however, perhaps one of his most personally gratifying accomplishments was his more-than-four-decade involvement with Young Life. Starting in the late ’60s, Barry alongside his wife, Mandy, ministered as a volunteer leader, faithful donor, committee member and national trustee.

In a 1990 article in Relationships magazine, Barry shared how Mandy introduced him to the mission:

“ … as we made our way to my first Young Life club, it was like a homecoming for Mandy. Ten years earlier she had committed her life to Christ in Young Life, and now she was eager to introduce me to the group.

“That evening in 1967 began a lasting relationship with the mission. I got involved in Young Life clubs.

“I can still remember my first attempt to give a short talk to a group of kids. I was unbelievably frightened. All my training as an educator hadn’t prepared me for teenagers who could see right through me. They would whisper, point, laugh, giggle. On the outside I smiled, but on the inside I didn’t fare as well.

As I look back, I see that three guys who hassled me the most in club went on to work in Christian ministries. Thank goodness, it is the message and not the messenger that changes lives.”

In 1971, Barry and Mandy linked arms with two other couples and started Young Life in Boise, Idaho; soon they also pioneered ministry in Moscow, Idaho. They led the clubs there until 1975, when Young Life staff were hired. After moving to Phoenix in 1983 for Barry’s new role as an economist and senior fellow for the National Center for Policy Analysis, the couple joined the local Scottsdale  committee.

In 1988, Barry became a member of the [Young Life] Board of Trustees, where he served during the presidency of Doug Burleigh. “We just count it a privilege to be in the mission and it’s a thrill to be on the board,” Barry said. “We have loved every year of our involvement in Young Life!”

Barry concluded the aforementioned Relationships article by describing his passion for the good news of the gospel.

“The message of hope and forgiveness in Jesus Christ is so attractive, perfectly powerful and timelessly true that neither the brash nor the subdued, the happy nor the hurting can ignore it.”

Barry is survived by his wife of 57 years, Mandy, his son, Andy, and daughter, Angela, and their families.

Fred Davis

May 8, 1934 – May 12, 2020

By Jeff Chesemore

Fred Davis, a legendary civic leader and businessman in Memphis, Tennessee, has graduated to glory. In addition to being an important pioneer within the civil rights movement, he was also a significant figure in Young Life’s history and a great advocate of the mission.

Fred will forever be known as one of the many leaders who walked alongside Martin Luther King Jr. during the Memphis sanitation strike of 1968. He was also sitting on stage the evening of April 3, 1968, when Dr. King delivered his momentous “Mountaintop Speech” the night before his assassination.

Fred’s many accomplishments are a tribute to this trailblazer’s love and service to the Lord and the people of Memphis. He was the founder of Fred L. Davis Insurance, one of the Mid-South’s first black-owned insurance companies. In 1967, he became one of the first three minority members elected to the Memphis City Council, where he served for 12 years. During this time, he and his wife, Ella, fought for the desegregation of schools within the city, around the same time the urban Young Life work was beginning in the city.

A 1995 Relationships article details Fred’s introduction to Young Life:

“In the mid-1970s, Fred was asked to help Larry Lloyd, a young white man who wanted to start a Young Life club in Fred’s home community of Orange Mound.

“Fred had never heard of Young Life, but he befriended Larry, explaining to him the nuances and uniqueness of the black community. Out of their partnership grew Memphis Urban Young Life.”

In 1984, he was one of the first two black individuals appointed to Young Life’s Board of Trustees, where he served two terms (1984-1989; 1990-1996).

“Fred also served on the Urban Committee during his time with the board,” Verley Sangster, former vice president of U.S. Field Ministries, wrote in 1994. “His contribution to Young Life Urban has been absolutely invaluable.”

Fred remained close with the board until the end of his life, President Newt Crenshaw said. “It was my distinct privilege to get to know Fred over the past few years as we invited him to two of our board meetings as a Trustee Emeritus. I also made a visit to Memphis where Fred gave me an insider’s history lesson at the Peabody Hotel on the civil rights movement in Memphis and his role in the early days and in the years to come.

“Fred’s affable nature and kindheartedness were evident from our first meeting. He was pleased to have had a voice in our mission on the important topic of ministering to all kinds of kids — regardless of race, ethnicity or economic background. His voice and his views are still important for us today. We in Young Life will join many in missing our dear friend.”

Former Governor of Tennessee and current Young Life Board Chair Bill Haslam echoed these sentiments about his fellow brother from the Volunteer State. “While Fred and I did not get to serve on the board at the same time, I valued his friendship and everything he contributed to Memphis and Young Life. His integrity and compassion were well known throughout Memphis, and I was one of many who benefited from his wisdom.”

In an interview in 1987, Fred was quick to sing the praises of the ministry in his hometown and around the country. “The field staff in Memphis are doing an incredible job. If what is happening here is an example of what is going on in the mission, then it bodes well for our future.

“I have learned [by being closely involved with Young Life] that ministry can be conducted by non-ordained people who are fitted and trained and sent out to reach kids in their own setting. This is the singular strength of Young Life.

“I hope that we will continue to sail into uncharted waters — especially the city. And that we’ll persevere in joint-venturing ministry with the major black denominations. This kind of venturing offers us a whole new frontier.”

Fred Davis is survived by his wife, Ella, and their three children, Michael, Marvin and Sheila.

Bruce Sundberg

August 20, 1934 – April 4, 2020

By Jeff Chesemore

The mission is indebted to Bruce Sundberg, who along with wife, Beth, profoundly influenced Young Life’s growth around the globe during his 29 years of leading.

From 1952 to 1961, Bruce served as a volunteer leader while at Hamline University and Luther Seminary in St. Paul, Minnesota; he soon came on staff, and for his first 11 years led in Illinois and Missouri. By 1972, he was ready to turn his sights to Asia.

What follows is the account of how Bruce helped establish the work in two countries:

Surely the Lord must have smiled upon the bewildering events — at least from a human perspective — which led to Young Life’s presence in South Korea. In 1970, two Korean gentlemen, Mr. Sun and Mr. Chung, traveled to the United States for ministry training. Accompanied by Mr. Kim Jong Dal, the group arrived speaking very little English.

Bruce Sundberg, on Young Life staff in St. Louis, met the men and because of the poor communication, assumed all three were Christians. He later discovered, in fact, that Mr. Kim was an anti-Christian, anti-American Buddhist and a high official in the South Korean government. Believing a trip to the United States would empower an even greater career in politics — his ultimate goal was to become president of South Korea — he came simply to gratify these aspirations.

Something funny happened on the way to his political dreams, however. Drawn in by the hospitality of Bruce and his wife, Beth, Mr. Kim gave his life to Christ. In 1971, Kim Jong Dal returned to Seoul, not as a rising Buddhist politician, but as a Christian missionary, starting Young Life for the teenagers in his homeland.

After their indirect influence on the work in Korea, the Sundbergs left the states in 1972 to make a direct impression on the Philippines and other parts of Asia. The country had begun Young Life seven years earlier, and the Sundbergs were excited about the prospect of strengthening the country’s leaders, like Eli Yasi, while expanding the work into Manila.

By 1975, Sundberg was meeting regularly with the president of the Philippine Senate. The two formed a breakfast group with about fifteen of the country’s leaders, which included Supreme Court justices, senators and business executives.

“All that time I never mentioned anything about Young Life as I had a sense I was not to. However, I was praying all along about the kids of the Philippines.”

One day, a senator’s aide handed Sundberg a copy of the recent Saturday Evening Post article on Young Life. The senator (who had no knowledge of Young Life, much less Sundberg’s involvement in it) wanted to hear Sundberg’s thoughts on the article and how to reach kids in the Philippines!

“So the next morning, after the meal,” Sundberg said, “the senator turned to me in the presence of all those leaders, and asked, ‘Bruce, please share with us about the article on Young Life and your thoughts about reaching out to the youth of the Philippines.’ Incredible!”

I shared with the Fellowship the Young Life article, including a few things, of course, that were not in the article. There was a very animated discussion that day and a common consensus reached by the end of the meeting that they wanted a Young Life-type outreach in their country. Then they turned to me and asked if I would implement it. In my fondest dreams and hopes that was what I had prayed would happen, because as soon as they did that I knew that it was their work; it was no longer mine.”

Over time, Sundberg connected with Cardinal Jaime Sin, the Archbishop of Manila and spiritual leader of the country’s thirty-eight million Roman Catholics, who gave the work his blessing. Soon the work there, which was called “Bigkis” — the Filipino word meaning “bind together,” — was under way.
(From Made for This: The Young Life Story, pp. 83-85)

In 1980, after eight years in Manila, Bruce left Young Life staff; two years later the mission asked Beth to head up Young Life’s international student exchange program, Amicus, which she faithfully oversaw for the next 18 years. Upon leaving staff, Bruce joined The Fellowship in Washington, D.C., and focused on ministry in Cambodia and Liberia.

Bruce is survived by his wife, Beth, his daughter, Ashley, and six grandchildren.