Gabe McKinney wasn’t exactly on track to become the leader of a national fraternity. His was a winding road to understand manhood. Not lead others toward it.
His twin brother, Elijah, shares about their shared upbringing in Richardson, TX, “Our dad left before we were even born. We grew up with the dynamic of not having a dad, not sure where to look for meaning or value.”
Gabe said growing up with a single mom facing severe health issues, strained finances, and trying to avoid physical conflict from other family members left him going into high school “this really confused guy grabbing at whatever I can. It was me leaning into chasing a dream of manhood that’s been offered to me… girls, sexual sin, achieving in sports, having status.”
As a high school freshman Gabe and his brother were invited to join a young adult group led by a recent college graduate named Bryan. “He talked about the Bible, about Jesus,” Gabe said. “It made me think this idea of manhood that I’d been chasing after was weird, for the first time I got this spark of hope, of something else.”
Gabe said that Bryan “served me and showed me that I was valuable as a person. As a man.”
When Gabe landed at Texas A&M University in 2011, he sought out Bryan’s fraternity called Beta Upsilon Chi (BYX). The mentoring he received from alumnus Bryan led him to go to an open meeting once he arrived on campus. That meeting was all it took. Gabe and Elijah both pledged BYX that Fall.
As they pressed deeper into the fraternity they began to hear more of the guys’ life stories. “Most of them described their dads,” said Elijah. “‘Oh my dad is awesome.’ or ‘My dad does this with me.’ And we were like, ‘Where was this [in our life]?”
Gabe said hearing these stories during his early days in the fraternity left him feeling like he missed out on something that he could never get back.
“As I was around all these great guys pursuing God,” Gabe said, “I started praying.” Gabe describes this dialogue with God about missing a father and questions he had about manhood. “God started talking to me and saying, ‘You’ve been thinking you’ve missed out on what manhood is. You’ve been thinking you missed out on having a dad’ – because I did.”
As the dialogue went on, Gabe said that God showed him the gift of fraternity. “He said, ‘I’m your Father and I love you. And I’ve provided over 200 men to father you through what you’ve missed out on… to move you into manhood.”
Gabe soon became more involved in his fraternity than ever. He was even elected chaplain during his junior year. He wanted to give back to the men who have given him so much. But they had a few more gifts for the McKinney family.
“One day we heard a knock at our door,” Elijah recalls. “Just a knock and then an envelope.” Inside that envelope was $2000 cash and a note that said, “We love you guys. The Lord loves you guys. We and our parents got this money together so you can get your mom a car for Christmas.”
The McKinney brothers were speechless. Their mom had been unable to work and transportation had been a major factor. Their mom describes that Christmas morning, “They gave me the envelope,” she said, “I just felt very overwhelmed.”
Gabe never forgot the gifts that Beta Upsilon Chi gave him. He still wanted to give back. Shortly after his graduation in 2016 he joined the fraternity’s national staff. In 2022 he became the National Fraternity President, now leading all of Beta Upsilon Chi’s staff and nearly forty chapters nationwide.
“Going from some weird, dumb, silly kid who had no idea what he was doing in life. To God redeeming and saving my life, showing me He’s adopted me as a son through Jesus… giving me men to father me and love me. Now I get to lead them. It’s unbelievable, unreal.”
Jared Musgrove is Director of Leadership Development for Beta Upsilon Chi.
Beta Upsilon Chi exists to establish brotherhood and unity among college men based on the common bond of Jesus Christ. The fraternity was founded in 1985.