Arn Bjorndal Announces Retirement

Arn reflects on the past 33 years with CMYFC

God has led Youth for Christ in Central Maryland since it’s beginnings. After 33 years with YFC as Executive Director, Arn Bjorndal has decided to retire. Linda and Arn had a vision for establishing a ministry to lost youth in Central Maryland back in 1987. They had volunteered as youth leaders in their church for several years and sensed a calling to reach kids who were not attending church. Their work in the local church was fueled by their pastor’s encouragement. Arn had risen in the corporate world to Director of Human Resources for the Singer Company, Link Simulation Systems Division, a high tech simulation manufacturer employing 2000 by this time. Arn & Linda sought God’s will for the mission and found like-minded people to form the first Board of Directors which consisted of Russ Hermanson, Wayne Crowder, Greg Fowl, Gary Rich, Mary Coberly, Nancy Frazier, Larry Schweiger, Linda Strayton and Jerry Wasserberg. Within a short time later Pam Walchle and Bob Cooperman were added to the founding members of the board.

The ministry has grown from its initial stages of one part time employee, 11 volunteers, and a budget of $17,000 reaching 20 students the first year to today with 5 employees, 70 volunteers, and a budget of $350,000 reaching almost 500 students a year.

In addition to the clubs, Arn tried to forge a reputation of being helpful to the public schools. During his time with Youth for Christ, YFC held assemblies concerning decision making, drug and alcohol abuse, racial reconciliation and even sexuality. The seminar offered on human sexuality sparked controversy because it spoke of the emotional damage to adolescents from early sexualization and the physical toll that HIV and HPV bring to a human’s body. Some in the community objected to the scientific facts presented, arguing a more open attitude toward sexuality would make students feel better about themselves.

The ministry’s focus was always on presenting the Gospel of Jesus Christ to young people. In the early years, mainstream high school students were the primary focus of YFC’s attention. But as time went along, the first expansion was to add a ministry to middle schoolers. Grace (Neumann) Rochford added depth to the ministry and eventually included a middle school club in her portfolio of ministries. Gary Rich was hired and took over the club Arn had started and also added a feeder middle school club with the help of Gary and Karen White. From there the ministries became even more diverse with Jody Julian adding a ministry to foster care and pregnant teen girls. The geographic barriers were expanded when Brian Ickes started a ministry in Washington County and Lynette Deener brought a Brunswick club into the mix. Through a simple question asked by Board member Jay Sherman about why we didn’t have a deaf ministry when Frederick is one of the top 5 areas with a deaf population in the USA, a deaf ministry towards students of Maryland School for the Deaf began under the direction of Judd Rexroth. In the meantime, Arn Bjorndal visited a local foster care home and started the ministry to young people who were involved in the Juvenile Justice system. That part of the ministry expanded to Cedar Ridge Boys Home and eventually Victor Cullen Juvenile Detention Center. At one point Tim Ebner joined the staff and developed a monthly outreach called Third Friday that averaged over 300 students at a monthly gathering where the gospel was presented and routinely 30-40 first time decisions for Christ were made. Board member Cris Rhyner visited India on a YFC missions trip and from that trip and several others to India eventually started a new missionary outreach to India that had both a gospel and medical emphasis. 

Arn says the ministry now has a few superstars working for it. First is his replacement, Kathy Afzali. She is a tireless worker and brings a great deal of energy to the position of Executive Director. (Read more about Kathy here.)  Picking up the ministry part of Arn’s job is Isaiah Martin. He has worked with kids in Victor Cullen previously and has picked up the slack at Cedar Ridge as well. Cindy Williams and Andrea Renner oversee the Frederick and Washington County ministries respectively. They both have a God-sized vision to reach lost kids for Christ! Teresa Brown is a very efficient Office Manager who keeps the staff on target administratively and takes care of the payroll, accounting and administration of the office. Finally the longest termer with CMYFC other than Arn, is Barb Hanna, who manages our website and social media. She started as a student, accepted Christ through Campus Life, then was a student leader, an intern, a volunteer and finally a staff member in various capacities. She knows her job well but she also knows the history and the present of Central Maryland Youth for Christ.

Arn is quick to tell you that it was God’s power and ability to make many good things happen. He credits his weakness of needing others to be his strength. (2 Cor 12:9)  Because of his failures and flaws, he would say that God had to fill in the gaps with His Holy Spirit or other people. And it was in those "filling the gaps" that amazing things would happen. Arn is seeking part time employment with the hope to help out with YFC in the future in some ministry capacity.