Mal Garvin's contributions to evangelism and Christian media in Australia were remarkable.
Christian media and missions pioneer Mal Garvin has died aged 82 after a battle with cancer, and was farewelled with a memorial service at Hobart’s Citywide Baptist Church on Thursday October 12.
Son Nathaniel Garvin, former general manager of Ultra 106.5 in Hobart, announced his father’s passing on Tuesday, October 3.
Across the course of his life, Garvin made remarkable contributions to Christian media and evangelism in Australia.
Ron Ross writes in ChristianToday that Garvin came to faith as a teenager with a dramatic conversion at a Sydney City Mission camp, and with his newfound zeal went on to establish the youth evangelism and discipleship organisation Teen Crusaders, which became Fusion Australia - now Fusion International, operating in several nations.
Ross describes Garvin’s youthful passion for his faith in those early years:
“He began teaching scripture classes, reaching out to youth who had given up on school… 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.
“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…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… Sydney Fusion teams converged on the Easter Bathurst motorbike races. They hosted one of the wildest of all drop-in centres called ‘The Den.’”
Major Contributions to Christian Media
Garvin’s contribution to Christian media began in 1968 with the program Breakthrough Generation which continued for 40 years, and at its peak was on every major radio station in Australia – 120 commercial radio stations – attracting more than 1.5 million listeners.
Through his media career he also presented popular Godspots and a weekly Sunday night talkback show Conversation of the Nation, produced at 95.7 Heart FM Poatina, broadcast on the Community Radio Satellite.
In 1979 Garvin helped establish the first Christian FM radio station in Sydney, forming its first phone counselling service, called People who Care, and established the Captain Midnight Show.
In 1988, Garvin’s Fusion joined forces with YWAM and the Churches of Canberra, to hold a large gathering in Canberra, attracting 50,000 believers, to pray for the launch of the New Parliament House, after it was announced there would be no prayers on an official level at the event. This gathering was described as the largest prayer meeting in the nation’s history and was the forerunner to the Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast now held annually in Canberra.
In the mid ‘90s Garvin was involved in developing Tasmania’s Poatina Village enterprise, a village designed to care for young people at risk.
And in the years leading up to 2000 he was involved in leadership with initiatives such as AD2000, the Aussie Awakening and the Global March for Jesus, events that touched the lives of many thousands of Australians.
In 1999 Mal Garvin received an AM award for his life’s work and a decade later he was awarded the Order of Australia for ”service to the community” and for ”the development of social welfare programs that support and guide young people, and as a broadcaster and author”. In 2007 he was awarded Christian Media Australia’s Legacy (Lifetime Achievement) Award.
In 2009 Garvin retired from Fusion Australia after a three-year handover period. At the time of his leaving Fusion’s national executive found that he had engaged in ”inappropriate behaviour” leading up to his retirement, and a 2010 media report by journalist Derryn Hinch linked him to accusations of sexual harassment. Garvin defended himself in a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald, writing that Hinch’s accusations were ‘so far from the truth’, saying rather that he “made a number of errors of judgment…I am prepared to admit I made mistakes, but nothing that looks like what was described in the article.”
Trip Down Memory Lane
CMAA chair Penny Mulvey attended the Garvin’s funeral in Hobart saying it was a moving “trip down memory lane” reflecting on Garvin’s achievements.
“Mal’s love affair with his saviour was lifelong and relentless,” she said.
“Thousands upon thousands of people have given their lives to Jesus as a result of interacting with Teen Crusaders, Fusion, the Foundations Bible course, his radio segments the Aussie Awakening, the Australian arm of the Global March for Jesus and the list goes on.
“The Order of service included the verses Mal and [wife] Jenny have been reflecting on during his last few months of life: ‘Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.’ (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).
“There is much we can learn about living for Christ through the example of Mal and Jenny Garvin.”
Mal is survived by his wife Jenny, four children and 12 grandchildren.