Each year, Azusa Pacific University underscores its commitment to Christian service by presenting the Alumni of the Year Award to an alum who has made a deep impact on building God’s Kingdom. This year, APU honors Russ ’86, M.A. ’93, and Gina (McDaniel) Cline ’86 for Distinguished Service to the Church. The Clines’ legacy of service spans more than three decades and influences communities across the globe. From youth ministry to leadership training to humanitarian aide, theirs remains a poignant story of how God can take individual callings and weave them into an impact far greater than ever imagined.
A Global Vision of Service
When Russ and Gina met at APU in the early 1980s, they both held a vision for overseas ministry. Russ’ dated back to his experience as the child of missionaries to Quito, Ecuador. Gina’s connects to her faithful participation in APU’s Mexico Outreach trips with her youth group, often hearing inspiring talks from Russ’ father. During college, the Clines worked for APU’s then-Institute for Outreach Missions (today’s Mexico Outreach Program) and Gina completed her social work internship in Ecuador. After graduation, the couple served as youth workers in two churches in Southern California before receiving the call to return “home” to Ecuador.
“In 1993, while attending a youth workers training event, we heard Jim Burns (now senior director of APU’s Center for Youth and Family) share his vision to train youth workers in Latin America,” said Russ. “We approached Jim and his organization, and after a process of prayer, evaluation, and vision casting, we moved to Quito in 1994 to launch the Quito Center of Youth Ministry, an organization committed to training and assisting youth workers and the church of Ecuador.” That organization turned into Youth World, and the Clines built a team of full-time staff, comprised of missionaries and nationals as well as short-term interns and volunteers. Today, Youth World involves more than 50 people, and many more in the process of raising support and language study. The enterprising staff not only trains national youth workers, but also works with short-term missions teams and student ministries, sponsors a program to equip former street boys to be leaders, and runs a training and retreat center.
In 2006, Russ began building a new organization, Leader Mundial (Global Leader), which seeks to create a community of trained global leaders. “Each year, we gather together for training, community, resourcing, and coaching,” said Russ. “The goal is to help these leaders grow in their personal leadership, thus creating a greater impact in and through their organization and vision.” Currently, Leader Mundial works with 27 leaders from 17 countries, including Austria, Cuba, Ecuador, Nepal, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. This community consists of global leaders, coaches, and partners who serve the poor, train young people, care for refugees and misplaced people, provide job skills training to adults, and work with churches.
Willing to Follow, Ready to Serve
Ever on the lookout for emerging needs, in 2010, the Clines decided to merge Leader Mundial with Extreme Response International, a humanitarian organization that serves the poorest of the poor: orphans in Haiti; refugees from Liberia; children living in the dumps of Quito, Manila, and Trujillo; or AIDS patients in Malawi, Guayaquil, and South Africa. Leader Mundial will soon provide leadership training, coaching, and organizational support to Extreme Response International’s partners.
In addition, Gina made plans to combat another rising need: access to professional counseling services for the global leaders and their families. The Clines returned to the U.S. this July, in large part so that Gina could earn her marriage and family therapy license. “One of the purposes for returning to the USA is for me to gain the knowledge, skills, and tools to be used as we work with our leaders and their families,” said Gina. “There are many places in this world where leaders are lonely and hurting and do not have professional help available to them. I want to be better equipped to guide a person to wholeness and healing.”
The Clines aren’t sure where God plans to take them beyond these four years stateside. But they remain open and obedient to His will. Such a willingness to follow remains a hallmark of why they were selected as award recipients. “This is an amazing story of a couple that met at APU and together had a clear vision to serve,” said Craig Wallace ’81, executive director of alumni relations. “We are all called to serve the Church. We all have our own God-given gifts and we are to use them. Russ and Gina have done just that.”
Tally (French '00) Flint, M.A. '05, is a freelance writer and editor in Denver, Colorado. She is the editor of The Mommy Diaries: Finding Yourself in a Daily Adventure (Revell, 2008) and a columnist for MomSense magazine.