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building a community to reach a community

A Mentoring Ministry is Born

Who would have ever thought?

In 1979, GFC was a gathering of 45 people meeting in the gym of Towne Acres Elementary School. There were two college students from ETSU among those who attended on a regular basis. I (Michael Marion) and Sherry Peters were actively involved in Campus Crusade and attended GFC through the influence of current GFC elder Earle Chute. Little would we know that about 36 years later, we would be married and still attending GFC!

We both thought we’d go on staff with Campus Crusade (or CRU as it is now known). But our plans went awry when we fell in love and decided to get married. We thought, "We’ll take temporary jobs and join CRU later." In the meantime, we became house parents at an emergency children's shelter. We were able to see up close what breaks the heart of God... abandoned, broken, wounded children. Soon, in the midst of this, we became foster parents as well as having our own children.

We never planned any of this. We were youngsters who loved the kids who were without, which was very similar to our personal backgrounds. Sherry became like a mom to hundreds of kids over a ten year period. After ten years in the group home and three kids later, we both felt God leading in another direction. We began to see a pattern. The boys who we were the closest to changed the most. It was all about connectivity to their hearts. Although the truth was that by the time a boy got in the system, he would probably remain there in some form forever - and this reality was what broke my heart!

As I considered this, a chance to coach a basketball team for 8 year olds emerged. With a whistle and a ball, I discovered I could gain access to their minds and hearts. Then it happened... suddenly and unexpectedly, an incredible impression on my heart to start a weekly group called "Boys to Men." As we shared our vision with GFC, the church was so supportive. In fact, Boys to Men's first-year budget was $857.00 because GFC had an unspent line item and decided to donate it to our emerging ministry in 1994.

Over the last 20 years, we have seen God work in amazing ways. We’ve seen kids do well and others go to jail. We’ve seen kids succeed and others fail. Kids stay for a few days or maybe a few years, but through it all, we are determined to love them well. GFC has been such a part of this narrative.... with funding, mentors, volunteers, The Giving Depot, prayer partners, and other special events. Whatever good has been done, it couldn't have happened without GFC and its leadership.

We’re excited about the future of GFC's vision for youth and are eager to engage more Rise Up! youth in the GFC narrative. We’re always looking for people who want to get messy for Him by investing in personal relationships (mentoring) with kids. One of my favorite quotes is: "Never underestimate the value of any kid. Who knows but God that He may have been waiting centuries to do something that can only be done through that one individual." Mentoring is a marathon, not a sprint. With that in mind, Rise Up! invites you to be a part of our upcoming Run For Your Mom 5K on Saturday, May 9. You can learn more online at All proceeds will help send our kids to camp this summer.


Mike Marion


2 comments (Add your own)

1. laura corkum wrote:
thank you for your faithful service and creative love . You are so special .

Sun, May 3, 2015 @ 7:46 AM

2. Catherine zapka wrote:
Truly an inspiration.

Thu, May 7, 2015 @ 10:04 AM

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