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Every now and again, I think we need reminders that good men do exist--that they are out there, quietly and faithfully serving others, helping those in need, caring for their families, and doing their part to make the world a better place. I always appreciate it when I read about such men--especially in the times we live in, where real manhood is mocked in sitcoms, belittled by feminists, and stereotyped by detractors.
The Art of Manliness webzine and Old Spice are sponsoring a Man of the Year contest to give good men the praise and thanks they never seek but so richly deserve. When I found out about the contest, I nominated my husband, who has been my hero from day one -- but this post isn't here to ask for your vote. This post is here to pay homage to the men who go the extra mile, take the heat, stand up under pressure, protect the weak, honor the strong, and live for others.
Real manliness today is a rare gem. Here at LAF, we've promoted and praised Responsible Manhood for years. But ours is a culture that doesn't appreciate the unique and God-given traits of men. Say the word "patriarchy" at a party, and see what happens. Thanks to 150 years of feminism, stereotypes abound: "Caveman." "Tyrant." "Bully."
Detractors of biblical manhood would have us believe the worst of stereotypes--that of the abusive overlord towering over his underlings. But real manhood has nothing to do with lording it over "inferiors" or demanding slippers and pipe while the "little woman" fawns and flutters. Real manhood is Christlike. It says, "My life for yours."
In the spirit of the Man of the Year contest, we'd like to start a new feature here on LAF--the "Men of Virtue" series. I'm inviting women (wives, daughters, sisters, etc.) to publicly praise the good men who are quietly doing their job, living for others, and making it their life's mission to imitate Christ as they lead their families. Maybe you have a brother who serves his community in some capacity, or perhaps your husband works two jobs to provide for his family. Maybe your grandfather flew cover over North Africa in WWII and came back home to lead a quiet life as a businessman and raise a family (as my father's father did). It doesn't have to be glamorous or earth-shattering -- we want to pay homage to and give thanks for the men who do what is right, even when no one seems to notice.
I'm going to kick it off by paying tribute to my husband, Matt. (If you'd like to read my tribute to my late father, click here--he's another one of my heroes!) I feverishly wrote a brief essay for the Man of the Year contest just before the deadline closed, and the 800-word limit was frustrating -- there was so much I wanted to say! So I'll share more here with you. And as you contemplate what you'd like to share about your own man of virtue, don't worry about word limits. We can top out at 3,000--so write what's on your heart! There will be prizes for those whose work is featured here--including, but not limited to, books, eBooks, MP3s, sewing patterns, and gift certificates.
So get those typing fingers warmed up and start posting your tributes through the Article Manager! Be sure to put "Tribute" in the article's title so that your piece will be easy to spot (Article Manager gets swamped from time to time!) And do make sure you include an email address in the "Summary" field so we can contact you. This essay contest will run through January 31, 2009. But even when the contest is over, I hope we'll be able to make this a regular feature with your continued submissions. There are also plans in the works to honor the women in your life as well, so stay tuned!
As I sit here typing, my husband is in Kenya, having just returned from a refugee camp on the Darfur border in Jach, Sudan. Matt works for the Persecution Project Foundation, a non-profit group that takes food, seeds, tools, and medical aid to those fleeing the ongoing genocide in Sudan. An overwhelming number of Sudanese Christians have been burned out of their villages, many of them children who have seen their parents killed before their eyes. They have lost their homes, their livestock, and, in many cases, their entire extended community. While the government in Khartoum speaks of peace, there is no peace, and millions of people are displaced, left to fend for themselves in a desert wasteland.
This is a photograph of a typical Darfuri water supply. It is filthy and is consumed unfiltered by livestock and humans together. As a result, many people are desperately ill and in need of deworming medicines and clean water. When the rainy season ends, they flock south to the refugee camps in search of wells. PPF has dug 20 wells in the past year, all of which are used 24 hours a day, every day. You can view a video of PPF's medical outreach on YouTube .
PPF takes in several planeloads of relief supplies many times each year, partnering with other wonderful organizations like Voice of the Martyrs and African Leadership (to name only two) and providing the medicines, mosquito nets, clothing, and tools needed by those who have been forced to flee their homes. It is very difficult to get supplies in during the rainy season, since the airstrip at Jach is just dirt. You can watch a video of what happened to one of PPF's cargo planes at this link--and be amazed at how hundreds of refugees were able to dig a huge, heavy airplane back out of a mud pit so it could take off!
Unloading supplies in Jach.
Matt began serving on the board of PPF in 2000, and he took his first trip into Sudan after beginning his work as PPF's director of communications four years later. These trips have become the highlight of Matt's year, as he meets with people whose circumstances would lead most to despair. Yet the Christians in Jach are joyful, loving people, thankful for all God has done for them. The first time Matt returned home from a trip into Darfur, he sat in our dining room and shared with our children that the average
tukel (mud hut) was the size of that room (about 10 by 12 feet) -- and housed between four and twelve people. He had visited such a house to meet with a family who had lost one child to malaria and faced losing another without medical intervention. Their hospitality in the midst of so much pain moved Matt to tears as he shared the story with us later.
A Darfuri girl in the camp.
In the years since, Matt has hiked through infested swamps to reach areas that had not been previously touched by aid organizations. He has delivered supplies to Radio Peace, the only local station broadcasting the gospel in Southern Sudan. He has ridden in the back of a jeep between a goat and a soldier holding an AK-47 while jouncing over desert "roads" that were roads in name only. He has faced swarms of mosquitoes, blistering heat, and hostile conditions for weeks at a time without complaint because of his love for the people of Sudan. It is his prayer that we will one day be able to go over to Kenya and Sudan to serve together as a family. Matt has a passion to share his vision with his children and inspires them with the stories of our brothers and sisters in Christ who proclaim God's goodness in the midst of loss. Their steadfastness puts us to shame.
Matt wades through a swamp, headed north to meet with more Sudanese Christians.
But going to Africa three times a year isn't all Matt does. When he is home, he runs his own communications company, puts together mailings and newsletters to raise awareness about the persecuted church in Sudan, works with state and local organizations to promote godly causes, and lives a simple life here in the country with his wife and children. He reads aloud to us all, wrestles with our sons, and attends tea parties put on by our daughters. He enjoys spending time with our neighbors, attending church, and working on things outdoors. He is, in short, an ordinary man who has lived through some extraordinary circumstances. He is the man I look up to--the man who still wins my heart and inspires me daily.
None of this is to say that my husband is a perfect man. There are none. All of us are sinners, and Matt is the first to admit that he is a fallen, broken man -- one that the Lord has graciously redeemed and is refining day by day. I'm thankful for that, because I'm a sinner, too! Sinners marrying sinners has got to be one of God's greatest plans for sanctification. My parents often told me the same thing when I was growing up, reminding me to be gracious if I wanted grace in return. But Matt has always been so patient and caring and tender toward me that I'm left in awe--constantly reminded of the love Christ has for me in the midst of my failures and sins.
This is what real manhood does -- it calls out the best in us. It causes us to look higher than our circumstances and be thankful in the midst of trial. It cheers us on when we are flagging and lifts us up when we stumble. It places others first and goes last. I've seen this in my husband from day one through so many things Matt has said and done-- in the way he respects his grandparents, honors his parents, and loves his siblings. Through the ways he reaches out to others and never meets a stranger. Through his love for the church and the Word of God. In his love for each of our children and for me, his thankful wife.
A good man is willing to lay down his life, losing it so that he may find it in Christ. Such a man is my husband. I pray I never let a day go by where I haven't thanked God for him. He's more than my man of the year; he's my dearest friend, faithful spouse, and loving leader.
Thank you, honey, for 12 1/2 wonderful years, each one sweeter than the last!
Please take time to go and read all the entries in the Art of Manliness Man of the Year Contest -- and vote for the man of
your choice. Let's applaud good men when we find them and thank them for showing the world that manliness is a virtue! And do start writing those tributes for our own "Men of Virtue" series here on LAF. We look forward to reading your essays!
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