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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Faith journey turns to action
A men's Bible study group has evolved into much more as members perform acts of random kindness.
By GAIL HOLLENBECK
Published June 30, 2007
Doug Dempsey blows leaves off the top of Carolyn Bentley's home in San Antonio. Dempsey, Todd Hall and Eric Davis helped coat the roof on behalf of the men's ministry at Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church.
[Times photo: Keri Wiginton]
BROOKSVILLE - When the associate pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church was asked to start a men's Bible study five years ago, he prayed that down the road the men might decide to get involved in some type of Christian service.
What has evolved has more than fulfilled his hopes.
"The group took off, " the Rev. Dave Franklin said. "It was amazing. They came with the sincerity of wanting to grow closer to the Lord and learn more about the Bible, and I think God just blessed it."
About two years into the study, Franklin introduced a workbook called The Mind of Christ by T.W. Hunt and Claude V. King.
"We were faced with the reality of what Scripture says, that we're not to compare ourselves to other people and see how well we're doing. We're to compare ourselves to Christ. There was a big change as we started really doing some self-examination and seeing how short we fall. It was some heavy-duty stuff."
Four of the men began to meet together for an accountability group where they could help each other practice what they were learning and pray for direction.
Soon, the men began to put their faith into action.
"They just started on their own saying, 'We want to do something. We think we're not doing what we're supposed to be doing.' So they started coming up with some projects, " Franklin said. "All these guys on their own all came up with the same idea. It was obviously the movement of the Holy Spirit."
More of the men joined in.
Taking seriously what the Bible teaches about helping orphans and widows, the men started by ministering to the children of single parents, modeling what a godly father would be like.
"We had talked about how the father of a daughter is to be a godly man so that the girl has an idea of what she is looking for in a husband, " Franklin said. "For the son, it's to have a godly image so he'll be looking to see what he should grow up to be like. So they came up with a project to take these kids to a ball game."
There were other fun events for the kids, like a bonfire and a hayride. The men also took children to minister at nursing homes.
Projects followed that ministered to others in their church.
One time they wiped mildew from the walls of the home of a senior couple. Another time they made breakfast for a group visiting the church. There was a barn raising. Ceiling fans were installed. They raised about $6, 500 to give to one of the young men who decided to go into mission work.
Some of the projects were just plain fun. Recently they had a barbecue for the young men graduating from high school, to invite them into the group.
"We had some barbecue pork and some wild hogs that I had shot and some other stuff, " Franklin said. "We were shooting BB guns and hammering nails, just fun stuff."
About a month ago some of the men removed a tree from the driveway of one of the men's friends, Thomas J. Deen Jr.
"I had a huge oak tree that was blown over, " said Deen, 82. "All of a sudden four men showed up and sawed all that up and got it off my driveway. I thought it was just tremendous and a great gesture. I found out they do things like this practically every week. I think that's great."
Along the way the group, which includes all the men of the church 18 and up, began calling themselves Men of Faith.
"This is really an unusual group, " Franklin said. "They are from every walk of life you can imagine. We have guys who probably never picked up a hammer in their life and other guys who know how to do just about everything.
"Different education. Different backgrounds. They just have a good time together, whether they're building a barn, cutting down trees, helping a widow with her roof or whatever they're doing. They just got on fire and we just love the stuff they do."
Men who aren't able to attend or work on the various projects often provide the finances needed to complete the work.
Todd Hall is one of the men from the group who is excited about what they are doing.
"Our group is a God-driven group, " he said. "There is no leader. We've had projects come up and have had all kinds of stumbling blocks in those projects. It's like God tells you it's not time and we listen to that. We may plan a project for a month and another project we can plan in two days and it just clicks right along."
Hall loves the camaraderie of the group.
"We need to be supporting each other as men, " he said. "That's how it all got started. I can call any of the guys anytime and they would help me with anything I would need. We open up to each other and have a great time of fellowship. You get around people that have the same ideas and great things will come from it."
Franklin said he thinks this is what Christian men are supposed to be doing.
"We've gotten to the place over the years that we've looked for the schools to do all our moral training and then we get upset when the courts say you can't do that, " Franklin said.
"And we let the government take care of our sick and elderly. We've dropped the ball. It's really supposed to be in the home and the church."
The Men of Faith have been a help to the church, Franklin said.
"Now you have this huge, visible body of men that are willing to step up and do what they're called to do. It's exciting as we watch these guys continue to grow and have such fun with it."