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Leaders of men: Grace teaches community impact with conference

By T.J. Lundeen

Reprinted courtesy of the North Augusta Star

NORTH AUGUSTA—Grace United Methodist Church helped spread its mission of men’s ministry with the Awaken Conference.

The conference, held Aug. 29 in the Wesley Center, brought more than 60 men together to learn about the impact they can make on their community. They learned from Grace UMC’s Associate Pastor Tyler Strange, who headed the conference.

“It’s been a really cool day, to see men come together,” Strange said. “Earlier we had men singing together and you don’t often see that in church. We have men in every group talking and engaging – that includes men with a 20-, 30- or 50-year age gap talking to each other. That’s been one of the coolest things for me to see. It’s been a special day and I hope this has some great ripple effects across the state.”

The conference focused on what men can do, as a group and individually, to advance their communities by being role models for children and students.

“We want these men to have a presence in the community that says God has uniquely created me for something,” Strange said. “We want them to have the confidence to step into that, whatever form or shape it takes. We hope that this starts something. It all starts with awareness, letting them know that we need them, our children and community need them.”

Matt Musolf, an F3 and Real Men Read participant, shared how getting involved in different groups advanced his life.

“If you want to fill your ego, we’re men and we have egos, go do Real Men Read,” he said. “When one of those kids sees you out in the community and comes running up to you, so excited because you gave that 15 minutes. When you can give back, it really gets to you.”

On a more personal level, Musolf was able to connect with his stepson through the ministries he did in North Augusta schools.

“How God brought this back around to family is that I got married about two years ago,” he said. “I’ve got a stepson and we had trouble connecting. He was in kindergarten last year and I got to read for his class in Real Men Read and that broke a barrier. For the first time, I wasn’t just a stepdad, I was a father. It was all of these opportunities that gave this to me. If it wasn’t for other men pushing me to be a head of that class, if it wasn’t for F3, I wouldn’t be who I am today.”

A panel of community leaders: Tracy Johannsen, of North Augusta Elementary School and Real Men Read; Pat Carpenter, of North Augusta Elementary School and Cross Connection; and the Rev. Jim Dennis, of Grace United Methodist Church and Project WARM; spoke to the men at the conference and shared how getting involved can make a difference.

“It’s easier to get men to do something,” Dennis said. “They’re good with blood, sweat and tears. Men will build a temple, as opposed to being a temple. But, in those times, we can share the gospel and fellowship as men and that’s as important as the work we’re doing in the community. I’ve always been an advocate of working in the community, so you can see the impact that is being made from a day’s work.”

Carpenter shared stories of the bible study program she leads at Summerfield Park, where she gives food and school supplies to children in need.

“For 22 years we’ve been able to provide to these great children,” she said. “It started out much smaller, but now we’re able to give full backpacks of supplies to make sure these children are prepared to go to school. Some of them come from nothing, with dirty clothes and need anything we can provide for them.”

While the conference gave the men plenty of ideas of project to take back to their community, it also gave Strange and the staff at Grace an example of what they can accomplish through hard work and planning.

“It’s different than I thought it was going to be,” Strange said. “I’ve mentioned this before, but you don’t know what you don’t know, and I had no idea what to expect from this. We’ve never done this before. To see men talking about Jesus and community is different than what I expected and it’s absolutely worth it.”

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