Friends for Life: A New Book about the life and ministry of Mal McSwain

Drew Hill October 12, 2021

Mal McSwain has been one of my heroes since I first went on Young Life staff 20 years ago. Reading this book and the behind the scenes stories of his life inspires me to keep going in ministry. If you need some encouragement, check out “Friends for Life.

Friends for Life is the inspiring story of Mal McSwain and his decades of simple but profound ministry — “a ministry of accompaniment” — in the lives of thousands.

When chatting to a non-Christian high school football player he had just met at the very beginning of his ministry with Young Life, Mal felt the Lord tell him, “You’re going to know that guy for the rest of your life.” That was in 1957 and Mal was 22. Today, 64 years later, the two are still friends and Mal has walked alongside not just Dick Samuels, but many of his California classmates as well.

“Meet people as if you are going to know them for the rest of your life” became a way of life for Mal and his wife Wanda, and a ministry principle Mal taught decades of Young Life volunteer leaders and staff.

Club kid and camper at Frontier Ranch’s first summer, work crew member and summer staffer, student staffer while in seminary, area director, metro director, regional director, divisional vice-president, international associate, and finally Minister-At-Large, Mal had a fifty-year ministry in Young Life. But more than titles, Mal has been known for his decades-long relational ministry to thousands.

Said one former Young Life staff person, “Mal McSwain is the embodiment of Young Life’s relational form of ministry.”

Over the years Mal practiced the simple principle of “being there” for countless people, exhibiting for them the love and grace of Jesus, first with high school students in North Carolina, California, and Georgia, and later with adults around the country.

If you have an interest in Young Life, you will love this book, as it gets to the very essence of what has made that ministry special to so many. And if you have a desire to impact lives for Christ, you’ll find Mal’s example a powerful one to emulate.

Writing with the full cooperation of the McSwains, noted author Bethany Bradsher brings to bear not only her gifted storytelling but also her long history with Young Life as a student, volunteer leader, and staff wife.

You can read more about Mal McSwain’s life and ministry when you purchase a copy of Friends for Life here.

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