Tradition dictates that we call our annual men’s conference “ManMaker.” Honestly, though, I don’t know why. We don’t pretend to be making men over the course of a single weekend (in fact, we often talk about the way that our identity is primarily centered around being children of God, formed in his image, developed over the course of decades). And there’s always a lot of confusion about how we parse the name; across the H2O Network, I’ve seen “ManMaker,” “Manmaker,” “Man Maker,” “Man-Makers,” “Man-Maker’s” — and probably some other variations as well. Regardless of whatever one calls it, though, it’s hard to deny the fact that God does something powerful on these weekends.
We had many of the traditional elements for this traditional event: musical worship… biblical teaching… practical workshops… flag football… pick-up basketball… board games… and lots and lots of food (young men really know how to pack away the calories!). But this year’s ManMaker was also a simpler event than what we often do. We stayed local (thanks to our friends at Riverwood), instead of traveling to a different part of the state. We gathered a smaller cross-section of our network, with students from Kent State University, Youngstown State University, and the University of Akron, instead of the whole network (which stretches from Western Michigan to southern Ohio to Buffalo, New York). We simplified operations by eliminating a couple of meals and the overnight component, instead of overwhelming our hosts or our staff with a 24-hour siege. And we just generally tried to accept our limitations and entrust everything else to the Lord.
Thankfully, God multiplied our “loaves and fishes” to provide beyond any reasonable expectation for the men of H2O. And honestly, even when I stayed up way past my bedtime last night, I felt more energized at 11PM than I’d felt at any other point in the day leading up to that.
The most intriguing part of the weekend for me, personally, was the Free Time last night. We were the group who chose to play neither basketball nor board games. Instead, we just talked. And I really enjoyed the group that ended up hanging out for those couple hours. They seemed genuinely enthusiastic to talk with me, not just in spite of my age and/or position of church authority but because of those things. They wanted to ask follow-up questions based on some of the things I shared in my message. They wanted to hear stories from my years of ministry experience, and they wanted to talk about the art of storytelling itself. They wanted to talk about vocational ministry. And in everything, they were just eager to learn. It was fun to see the “fire” in their “bellies.”
The other thing I hope to remember from this year’s event was the musical worship. I always seem to forget how different it sounds to have all-male voices belting out “Be Thou My Vision” and “Goodness of God” and the like. Even as one of the organizers for the event — knowing full well how everything was put together — my soul was filled by the beauty and mystery of what happened in those sets of musical worship. I’m thanking God for a successful ManMaker event in 2024.