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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Men and faith

Two ELCA members—Gus Brockmann, a young adult lay person, and Henri Bishop, a retired pastor—share their experiences of the 2005 Lutheran Men in Mission national gathering:

Talking about faith: Men take the plunge  

By Gus Brockmann

The first time you do it, it’s uncomfortable and scary—then it becomes necessary. Talking about God in an academic way during a Bible study is safe. Some theologian already wrote down what to talk about and how to move to the next topic. But sitting down and asking the man next to you, “What’s your God story?” is beyond any comfort zone.

Our culture says men should be strong, confident, work-through-anything people. But that’s not what men need. And that’s not what Lutheran Men in Mission provides. At the LMM gathering ("Running the Race—Keeping the Faith") July 22-24 in Charleston, S.C., we sat in groups, telling God stories, talking about our faith, and praying for and with each other.  

Put five women in a room for 30 minutes and they know each other. Put five men in a room and they know each others’ favorite sports teams. For most men, taking time to share stories about themselves—opening up the soft underbellies of our lives to another guy—was new.

At the gathering, Harvard Stephens Jr., dean of the chapel at Carthage College, Kenosha, Wis., talked about prayer. He began a conversation that men continued informally throughout the gathering, while building the frame of a Habitat for Humanity house or playing in the interaction center. Mixed in with measurements, hammers and saws were the relationships the men built—and the real conversations. On the interaction center’s ropes course, we built trust on a huge scale. There was none of this “fall back and I’ll catch you” stuff but, rather, hanging from the ceiling to be gently lowered to the ground often by two guys you’d never met. When two men are willing to keep you safe from a 30-foot drop, it’s not so hard to share a little of your faith with them.

Finding faith in the parking lot
By Henri Bishop
 
I came to the gathering with one son-in-law and another daughter’s fiance. We were among a multicultural gathering of more than 600 men and women, old and young, who met under the theme of “Running the Race—Keeping the Faith.”

What I most treasure about the weekend isn’t so much what happened inside the convention center with top-notch presenters, fellowship and friendship activities. It’s about what happened in the parking lot.

Saturday afternoon we spent almost four hours in the hot sun putting together a Habitat House. As laborers knelt to nail walls together, the noise of the hammers created the sound of a worker’s choir. More than a dozen men surrounded a 12-by-15-foot wall, lifting it off the parking lot to connect it with other partitions. Like the parable of the laborers in the vineyard, here we were, sharing our skills. Not one of us was more valuable than another or doing more than another. Even the water and Popsicle carriers contributed generously. The ultimate task was to get the job done.

No one was interested in personal recognition, certificates or tangible rewards of any kind. I was reminded of Paul’s words to the church at Corinth: “For the love of Christ controls us”  (2 Corinthians 5:14). Events like this change people’s lives and bless our communities.


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