As a teenager Mal Garvan was a dedicated ‘non-churchie.’ His life-changing encounter came at a Sydney City Mission Camp. He called it his awakening ‘dramatic’ and ‘profound.’ Enthused and energized by his new found faith Mal founded Teen Crusaders.
That was fifty years ago. Teen Crusaders soon became Fusion Australia and then blossomed into Fusion International which operates now in Australia, Canada, U.K., Jamaica, Albania, Indonesia, China, Ghana, Greece, Germany to name a few.
Now in his mid-seventies Mal and his wife Jenny live in Hobart. They have two sons and two daughters and proudly boast of their 11 ‘delightful grandchildren.’
After completing his apprenticeship in precious metal jewellery manufacturing, Mal started his own small business. He began teaching scripture classes, reaching out to youth who had given up on school. He encouraged them to sit next to him in his workshop and there he taught some to work with copper.
With his mates Mal started a holiday club in his mother’s back yard. The attendance grew fast and became known as one of the first Sydney drop-in centres. As many found what Mal calls their ‘spiritual rudder,’ professionals in the field of adolescent mental health were openly impressed. A psychiatric nurse gave Mal support with reading material, expertise and downright common sense.
He introduced monthly day trips to a Fusion property in Ourimbah, north of Gosford. The enthusiasm exploded. To help manage the demand, young people were trained to counsel and care for others.
In 1963-64 Mal completed a 2 years diploma course at Emmaus Bible School. Many of his young supporters were Christians without church backgrounds, he set up a Commando course (now the Foundations Course). As his own qualifications grew, he set up a training programme one day a week for a growing team of young workers and religious teachers, many were university students who enjoyed the practical side of the course. The concept expanded and a network of drop-in centres opened around Sydney.
For more than a decade – from the late 60’s through the 70’s teams from around Sydney Fusion teams converged on the Easter Bathurst motor-bike races. They hosted one of the wildest of all drop-in centres called ‘The Den.’
“It attracted vast numbers including many from the outlaw bikie groups like the Hells Angels,” Mal recalls.
It goes without saying it provided a quick learning curve for youth workers!
Mal Garvan had a record-breaking career as a radio broadcaster. From 1968 he hosted the award-winning ‘Breakthrough Generation.’ At its peak Breakthrough Generation was on every major radio market in Australia and attracted up to 2 million listeners regularly for 40 years.
In 1979 Mal helped with the establishment of the first Christian FM radio station in Sydney. He designed the phone counseling service called People who Care, and also developed the ‘Captain Midnight Show’ which he described as ‘the first of its type on FM radio, Australia.’
I had the joy of working with Mal and the team who designed and organized the Canberra Gathering in 1988. 50,000 Christians from across Australia converged on the new Parliament House to pray. This was described as the largest prayer meeting in Australian history and was the forerunner of the Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast held annually in the Parliament House Great Hall in Canberra.
Mal Garvan was the National Coordinator for AD2000 which he recalled ‘became the sister movement of the Aussie Awakening.’ That event brought all the mainline churches together to reach out to their communities and welcome non-church people. The churches resolved to celebrate Christmas with Advent pageants led by children of all backgrounds and educational systems. Analysts agree one out of five Australians were touched significantly by the Aussie Awakening.
Out of that success came ‘The Global March for Jesus’. In 1994, 250,000 Australians of all denominational backgrounds participated, with 50,000 gathered in front of the Sydney Opera House.
In 1995, Mal took a significant lead in the purchase and development of the Poatina village, enterprise. A beautiful hydro-town became a resort village with a special purpose of caring for young people at risk. In this setting Fusion offered training in youth and community work for those who want to help young people at risk.
In 1999 Mal received an AM award for his life’s work, and particularly for the design of Fusion's training, particularly for the course called the Certificate Four in Youth and Community Work (Christian) that he’d designed back in 1979.
Mal has written 3 books, “Us Aussies – the fascinating history they didn’t teach you at school.” “Breakthrough – a collection of radio scripts from a period of 30 years.”
“Divine Art of Networking “ – a look at the positive and negative structures that we develop around ourselves, also published in German. He has two more books - Elihu's Key and Life it's Worth Thinking About (a collection of radio spots with the addition of a prayer and a Bible verse for each one - almost ready to go!)
Jesus fed 5000 after a boy offered his lunch. Mal gave what he had and the Lord continues to bless thousands as a result.
Finally, here are a few comments he was surprised to receive – along with some 700 others – for his wedding anniversary and 75th Birthday November 2016:-
* “Happy Birthday Mal. - I value your spirit input into my teenage years. Thank you for the blessing you have been to me and so many others.”
* “Happy Birthday – you have changed my life completely my friend.”
* “Bless you and thank you for accepting God's call and touching thousands and thousands of people.”
* “You sure have made an impact in hundreds of lives, Mal! A huge impact 51 years ago when I first met you on Teen Trip!”
* “Your input into our lives back in the 60's has been real & impacting as well as lasting. I remember the teen trips as a 13 year old with great fondness. I still have all the notes that you taught me in that little church hall @ Mt Kuringai. God is good & greatly to be praised, serving Him is a privilege.
Ron Ross is a Middle East consultant for United Christian Broadcasters (Vision FM). Previously he was radio news editor for Bridges for Peace in Jerusalem, Israel.
His career started at WINTV (Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Ron Ross' previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/ron-ross.html