Jim O'Bryan Stories

I started out at Glendale Community College and then transferred to USC on the GI Bill. I was on the leadership team of the InterVarsity group for three years and served as the chapter president for the last two years before I graduated with a degree in business in 1950.

Urbana 1948

I went to Urbana 1948 with four other USC friends. We drove my 1947 Chevy all the way there and back, driving day and night to get there. It was a crazy adventure that I would never let my own children do now. But in the 1940s we were young and invincible.

Mel Friesen

Mel was our staff member. I remember him as being a very responsible, hard working, creative, driven risk taker. He was just the type of fellow that was needed to pioneer a movement. After I graduated I remember visiting Mel and Helen on their farm in Pixley, California. The family farm was failing and Mel decided to leave InterVarsity, return to Pixley and try to save the property. The house on the property was insufficient so Mel built a concrete block home with his own hands. While doing so Mel, Helen, their disabled aunt that they had invited to live with them, and a couple of their children lived in the garage. On the day we were there, he was out in the fields until 11:00pm harvesting the crops. I am grateful for his influence on my life.

CBS Committee

In 1969, Paul Byer made the controversial decision to abandon CBS as an InterVarsity training facility. I know it was an agonizing decision and many friends disagreed with him. But the staff team was exhausted with managing the facility, student attendance was in the decline, and finances were failing. Given the circumstances it was a wise decision and history has proven that correct. Paul’s decision opened the door for another group led by Bob Mannes to step forward and take responsibility for the facility until the time when InterVarsity could return.

The Plan

The group formulated a plan and I was asked to present the proposal to the Board of Trustees in Chicago. The plan was irregular. The committee agreed to assume fiscal and managerial oversight of the property if InterVarsity would remain as the official lease holder. After much discussion, the Board consented. Members of the committee believed that CBS was a tremendous asset. They were willing to take a risky step of faith. The Lord honored their efforts and about ten years later InterVarsity returned.

Two Implications

Two important things happened in the process. First, the structure of InterVarsity changed so that a separate camping team was created to manage the facility. Secondly, Paul Byer was set free to do what he did best—teach the Bible to students. The manuscript method of Bible study emerged to transform the lives of thousands all around the world. God is good.

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