I just watched the movie, The Great Debaters, starring Denzel Washington. I loved everything about the movie but was moved to tears over one scene in particular. For the 14-year-old young man in the 1940s, the debate trip out of town was an incredible opportunity. However, he witnessed the disturbing reality of racism and violence, for which he was totally unprepared. Upon returning home, we see him walking up the sidewalk to his front door, only to drop his suitcases half way there and rush into the house, frantically searching out his father. He threw himself into his father's arms, buried his face in his dad's chest, and wept.
What was so striking about this scene is the desperate need for the young man to find security and stability—an anchor in a world that had become so confusing. He knew what he needed, and he found it in his father's arms. This spoke volumes about the importance of a father in a young man's life. After watching the movie, I was so sad to think of how many young men in our culture desperately need that anchor in a father and have only a void. No arms to comfort, no words of wisdom, no anchor when life becomes uncertain. They flail and sink into the culture of fatherlessness, violence, crime, and despair. And they pass this on to their sons.
For most PCCs, the focus is on the mom and baby. That was the case with us. In the beginning, we offered pregnancy-related information and services, which insured that our clients were women. Then we introduced Earn While You Learn and an amazing thing happened—the dads started coming. They sat through the pre-natal and early infancy lessons. They really enjoyed learning, except those embarrassing nursing lessons. We had so many dads coming that we made 'Daddy Money' which was our 'Mommy Money' on blue paper, teddy bear and all! I will never forget the dad coming to the front window of the office and saying, "I'd like two dozen diapers please," while he took out his wallet and extracted 'Daddy Money.'
Over the years, we wanted to offer more for our dads who were genuinely interested in growing and learning. We had fits and starts, but there wasn't much in the way of good curriculum just for men. Then we found Men's Fraternity, and it has launched our men's program.
Men's Fraternity is a 24-week DVD series that is the best I have ever seen. It deals with heart issues like 'The Father Wound' as well as practical issues about being a man of God at home, work, church, and with friends. It is definitely Christian but resonates with most men, Christian or not, because it addresses universally felt issues of manhood.
Fatherhood problems are universal in our culture but are extreme on our Apache Indian Reservation, where we have one of our three centers. We decided to face the problem head on in Whiteriver. We received a grant to fund the program and hired a Christian Apache man, Chiefo Parker, to direct it. We wanted to keep the Earn While You Learn concept so we used part of the grant money to purchase 'guy things' like tools and sports equipment. At the first meeting, we had 24 young men. After six months, we have been amazed at the doors God is opening. The core group that meets every week is steady now at around a dozen. Our director also takes the program to the jail every week, and the inmates are required to continue the program at our center as part of probation. The local addiction treatment center busses its participants to the program at our center every week. Chiefo is now on the radio every week, sharing concepts from Men's Fraternity and promoting the program.
We are only in our first year of this program, but we know by the men's response that they are learning and changing. I encourage any ministry that is interested in a fatherhood program to look at Men's Fraternity and see how it can work in your center. If you change only one father, you have changed generations.
To purchase this program go to www.hh76.com. If you would like information on starting a program, feel free to contact me at email@example.com.
Dinah Monahan is Executive Director of Living Hope Women's Centers/Hope House Maternity Home in Show Low, Arizona.