THE AMAZING MEN’S HUDDLE IN OHIO

THE AMAZING ‘MEN’S HUDDLE’ IN OHIO

August 17, 2010

 What you are about to read falls under the category of the phrase I’ve been learning to be comfortable with during this time away…and those words are… “Yes, I’m on sabbatical…but I’m not dead…”  And what you will first think to be a time of work and not a time of rest you will soon discover…it is quite the opposite…

About 2 weeks before I left for Ohio I was having a phone conversation with my old grade school friend, Mike.  He’s known as Dr. Woloschak around Austintown as he is the local optometrist.  We’ve known each other since we were 9 years old; we played JR hi sports together; had sleep-overs at our houses, ruled he halls of Fitch HS and were both in Columbus, OH in 1980 when he was in his last year of OSU Optometry School which was my last year in seminary.  I also officiated his wedding to Barb in 1988 and our wives are friends and enjoy being with each other.  Short story.  We’re friends.  Good friends.  Our dads died within months of each other and we would be present in a minute if trouble arises in the future.  In fact, I would hope that every man has a friend like the friend I have in Mike… and each visit home includes time together…  oh yeah…the phone call…

As we shared some life updates on the phone the conversation turned to topics of my schedule in Ohio, men’s ministry and the missional life of Zion Lutheran Church, the church he are Barb are members of, which is a sister ELCA congregation to New Life, the church I had Cub Scout meetings at and the same church that I rode my bike past 1000 times when I was young… just minutes from my house… I never went to worship there with my family as my parents drove the opposite direction past 5 other Lutheran churches on the way to old St. Paul’s …the old church founded by my mother’s GGrandparents… but what Mike said to me caught my ear… a comment about Zion’s men’s ministry…

And it wasn’t but a minute or two later that the idea surfaced to call a men’s huddle for Lutheran Men in Mission…why not?  …there’s an honest need…we knew people and we actually believed we could pull it off… so here’s what happened…

  •  Mike called his pastor… I spoke to Pastor Paul Toelke, the pastor where by siblings and nephews attend and I also email-ed another pastor in Youngstown who was a seminary classmate…
  • Then Mike’s pastor, Dave Smith, called me.  We spoke for over an hour, and discovered we had mutual friends and mutual experiences (like the 1970 ALC Youth Gathering in NYC and life-long Cleveland Indians fans!)…
  • The men’s huddle was on…
  • Then I contacted three men in NE Ohio who I know from our LMM gatherings in Chicago…Bernie Bresson, Tom Green and Darrel Rice…Darrel served with my dad on one of their synod’s camping boards back in the mid 1980’s… sheeeesh….
  • Bernie contacted the NE Ohio synod office and pastors Paul and Dave shared this news with other pastors in the area…and just for the record…being a Lutheran in NE Ohio is like living in Brenham where you don’t have to travel far to find a church…so the prospect of having a numerical response was good…
  • And after a follow-up conversation with Pastor Smith, my friend Mike was placed in charge of the meal… and the huddle was on…food, friends and a teaching/learning time…
  • I was asked by Pastor Smith, ‘do you think anyone will come?’ and my response was swift… “heck,  if you and I attend and Mike and his son, Bryan and my brother David attends and he reaches out to my 6 nephews and a couple of their friends and 2 of David’s friends, we already have about a dozen…let’s build on that!”

And they did…so, as I was at Katy’s on the Friday before the event… Mike called and said, “we have about 33” and that included the 18 men brother David and Ps. Toelke reached out to… but  I had some questions…  Did that number include Bernie and Tom and Darrel? He said he was bringing a friend?  What about my youth sponsor from HS… Ken Welch who is pushing 80 years old but wouldn’t miss an opportunity to come and hang out with me for an evening… did he RSVP?  Mike said, “I dunno.  I don’t think so.”  And so as events like this will go… we didn’t sell tickets…trusting a ‘free will’ offering will cover the meal costs and I insisted the presentation was a gift from me… a homecoming sort of ‘thank you’ and I would not receive an honorarium… and so when Tuesday about 5:30 PM rolled around, I had dropped off my sister at her house and went over to the church…Mike called…the food was being delivered and he was getting the cake from the local grocery store… the event was solid…food for 70..thinking that the now 50ish count might need a little bit extra…

And so now comes the joy from this moment… the actualizing of the evening providing gratitude to God beyond my wildest imagination…

 The doors opened at 6:00 PM… dinner is on and all the meatballs were consumed as 64 men (including me) gathered in Albert Hall, the dining area @ Zion.  From ages 14 – 96…men from at least 6 different churches and 2 women… the ‘huddle crashers’… my sister Janet and Sarah, my nephew’s girlfriend… and of those who were present…included…

My brother David and his co-worker and friend… ‘Big John’ along with my good friend Mike and his step-son, Bryan.  Five of my six nephews…our neighbor, Jonathan, a young boy my mother brought to Sunday School, Bible Camp and stood at his baptism was there, too and those might be the ones I expected…but that wasn’t all…

 Mr. Cecil Duffet and two of his three adult sons and grandson were there…Cecil was my HS ‘Junior’ principal!!! His other son, Bob, who lives in North Dakota…for some reason couldn’t make it (;>]) but is the one I’m closest too as we worked a summer job in an aluminum recycling plant and is now president of a small Nazarene college there…

And as I looked around I saw other familiar faces…Ken Welch told me he would be there…he was…he’s always been there for me and I pointed out his love for me all my life from the time I was a toddler to now…that’s men’s ministry…I reminded those who attended…of the cool BD card he and his wife, Kay, sent to me for my 55th birthday… what youth sponsor sends a grown man a 55th birthday card?????

 Mr. Rick Keiffer was there, as well.  He was my Pony League baseball coach…Gene Boyer Insurance Co…the only team I ever played on from age 8 to HS varsity that actually won a league championship…

Pastor Toelke was there and other men from Grace Church…some who wrapped their arms around me and my siblings at the death of my father in 1987 and most recently my mother.  I shared with all those gathered that men’s ministry includes reaching out to the ‘hurting’ and that could any one of us at any time…even the pastor…

One guy named “Buzz” was there.  His son and I played Little League ball together and Jim and I worked one summer buffing aluminum for $3.85 an hour… that was 1974… and I was driving a 1963 Pontiac Catalina…

 Then one guy came up to me and said, “Do you remember me?” I did.  He reminded me that in 1959 ( his senior year of HS) his dad, a carpenter, used him as the ‘apprentice’ as they closed in our carport, poured some concrete and added some gravel (which is still there!).  What a nice surprise to see Marty Eberth… older than me…but still being a working man for God!

Jerry Will was also there.  He was a long-time school teacher and worked part time selling furniture at JC Penny…the guy who listened to me when I could go sit in a lounge chair and tell him all my college exploits.  Jerry spent his freshman year of college at TLC in Seguin and I trusted him as someone who could understand better than others…men’s ministry in my life when I really didn’t understand that’s what that was…I remain thankful for that kind of love and for his persistent smile and good nature…

And then there was the ‘stranger’ I didn’t know but a man (and his wife even more so) who knew my mom’s oldest sister, Mert, who served as the Executive Secretary of Lutheran Social Services of NE Ohio…Mr. Wayne Schoner is 97 years young and when I shared that he has been married to his wife for over 60 years…the men present applauded loudly… men’s ministry tending to the words, ‘forsaking all others until death us do part…” Way to go, Mr. Schoner and all those other guys, too…

The list of “men’s ministry is…” is long and it would take another whole post to share the material I presented to the men that night.  Most seemed appreciative…Jesus once said, “A prophet is not accepted in his own home town…” and yet while I knew where the cliffs are down the street… I remained ‘wathcful!  But, all in all, I think I enjoyed the evening more than anyone else….

 Ken said to me, “your mum and dad would be proud of you tonight.”  I smiled and said, “They are.”  He nodded; we hugged and look forward to seeing each other again…

And God was happy, too.  Anytime 64 men show up to talk of life and learn about mission to and for and with other men…God is always pleased….

Now, it’s off to Phoenix…it’s my turn to listen…

   Brian

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About briangigee

Loves life; lives love! Bud and Doris' eldest son. Descendant of 'refiners' and 'reformers.' Husband to Margo. Father of 5. Grandfather to 2. Brother, uncle, friend and colleague. Working parish pastor. Became a naturalized Texan in February 2013.
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4 Responses to THE AMAZING MEN’S HUDDLE IN OHIO

  1. Johnie Holland says:

    Sounds like a great time. I haven’t been able to read all these but did this one. Way to spread the LMM message.

    • briangigee says:

      Thanks Johnie…it didn’t seem like work…could have stayed another 2 hours but by 9 PM it was getting dark…some guys had to drive 45 mintues back home… I appreciate guys like you…they are all around us… keep watching…

      pg

  2. Pastor Dave Smith, who until recently was at Zion Lutheran in Youngstown? He passed away yesterday. Remember his family in your prayers. Such an incredible loss.

    • briangigee says:

      I understand he was here in TX in San Antonio. Dave was a good servant to the Church. His life is a testimony to God’s grace. Thank you for sharing this news. Brian

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