Story of change and direction

Before coming to Hillsboro and Tabor College in 1978, Mike Furches had experienced the dark side of life?gangs, drugs, poverty, home?less?ness, the occult and abuse.

Since graduating from Tabor in 1985, his experiences have ranged from working with some of the top bands in America, to being an authority on mental illnesses rehabilitation.

He became a pastor some 15 years ago and currently leads Mosaic Church, an inner-city congregation in Wichita with an extensive outreach ministry to the arts community and the poor, especially the homeless.

Furches has been read by millions of people via his regular online contributions to The Virtual Pew, a ministry recognized as one of the first online churches, as well as Hollywood Jesus and other syndicated print publications.

Furches will be back in Hills?boro this Saturday at Thee Bookstore to sign copies of his new book, ?The Keystone Kid,? a novel based on his life. The book soon will be made into a movie.

Transforming experience

If it sounds like his time in Marion County was a turning point in his life, Furches is the first to agree.

?The truth is, Hillsboro and Tabor may have been the thing that helped save my life,? he said. ?It challenged my faith, caused me to seriously seek God, and the associations I had there are among the most meaningful of my life.

?I write about them in the book, and to know that it is the conclusion, the point in my life where God really begin to provide love, is not lost on even the atheists who have reviewed the book.

?Hillsboro had that kind of impact on me.?

Among those in Hillsboro that Furches writes about is Ray Franz, longtime local grocer, now retired.

?I worked at Paul and Ray?s Supermarket, among other places, when I returned to Tabor in 1981?I had quit for a period of time after 1978,? Furches said.

He returned to Tennessee that year, got married, and three years later returned after his daughter?s birth.

?Ray took me under his wing, offered me a job, and helped look out for me and my family,? he said. ?I will eternally owe a debt of gratitude to Ray and Aldina Franz. What they did for me and my family is among the things that bring people to tears as they get to the conclusion of the book.?

Franz remembers those days fondly.

?I don?t know what kind of arrangements he had with Tabor?I don?t think he had any money,? Franz said. ?He came and asked for a job. He looked rather shabby and I wondered how Hillsboro people would accept him at our store.

?But I took a chance, and he did fine. People just really rallied around him.?

Beyond his connection with the Franzes, Furches has other fond memories of those years.

?There was a lot more, from my involvement at Tabor, my adviser, Clarence Hiebert, and my involvement in jail ministry, the Intercollegiate Peace Community, and my involvement with Marion (Mennonite Brethren) Church at the time.

?Hillsboro became home, and the people were largely responsible for the formulation of my spiritual and political beliefs and now, life practice.?

Work and ministry

Mosaic bills itself as a church for people who have given up on church. It has weekly winter outreach programs to the homeless and does the Santa to the Home?less at the downtown library each Saturday in December.

The church also hosts the Kansas Film Network and South Central Kansas Film?makers Co-op, which has had filmmakers from across the state attend on a monthly basis.

Prior to being a pastor, Furches worked for almost 15 years in mental health, where he served on the faculty for the International Center for Club?house Development and as executive director for rehabilitation facilities in Hendersonville, N.C., and Tulsa, Okla.

Prior to that he worked with numerous Christian and non-Christian bands after graduating from Tabor.

Furches left the mental health field to return to pastoral ministry. He accepted the pastor position in Wichita at a church called United at the Cross, then left to direct the ministry of The Virtual Pew.

Autobiographical novel

In his book, ?The Keystone Kid,? Furches tells his story through the character ?Anthony.?

?It is a story that shows the tragedy of abandonment, physical and sexual abuse, gangs, homelessness and more,? Furches said.

?It is, unfortunately, a story many can relate to. For those that can relate, they will recognize the continuing nightmares that go from childhood through adulthood.?

Furches said what Anthony missed in his growing up years was acceptance, love and hope. But through the tragedy of those years, Anthony learned to accept himself, found love and discovered hope.

According to Furches, ?The Keystone Kid? has received positive reviews from all sectors, including those who have lived similar stories, mental health professionals, pastors, atheists, celebrities and experts in the field of physical and sexual abuse.

Furches has appeared on national television and radio and in print and various documentaries. He has told the story of Anthony to hundreds of thousands in live presentations, and the story is now available in print.

A special place

Furches and wife Mary Jane have two grown children. He and his family have lived in a variety of places over the years, but one place continues to hold a special place in his heart.

?Hillsboro was in many ways the most impacting town I have lived in,? Furches said. ?In many ways, I still think of Hillsboro as home.

?To get to share part of my story and have my book available in Hillsboro is a terrific honor. It will be all I can do to hold back the tears for this memorable event for me.?

The book signing Saturday will be from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thee Bookstore is located at 117 N. Main St.

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