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Rediscovering what manhood means

March 26, 2006|By BOB MAGINNIS

Biologically, a man's role in creating a child is relatively brief. A physically healthy child can be born even if the father disappears the day after conception.

But when it comes to a child's mental and social development, decades of research has show that a father's involvement is vital.

That's why William Emanuel has made fatherhood the focus of the fifth annual Manhood Training Retreat that will be held at the Mount Aetna Camp and Retreat Center from Friday, April 21 to Sunday, April 23.

The title comes from Chapter 4 of the Old Testament Book of Malachi, verses 5-6.

"Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:

"And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse."

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Emanuel said that "We believe there are circumstances in America and around the world that are perfectly defined in these two verses."

"The problem is defined there - and the solution," he said.

"With the break-up of the family and the breakdown of social morals, our children find themselves being educated by gangs and media conglomerates, which teach drugs, alcoholism, violence and sexual promiscuity," he said.

"The Manhood Training Seminar will teach males what they should and should not be doing and their roles as males in society," he said.

In other countries in Africa and Asia, Emanuel said the family is much more important and boys are trained from an early age that a man's role is to hold society together and preserve the culture.

Some of these countries don't appreciate the American-style entertainment being exported, Emanuel said, because it makes their children rebellious.

"We at the Manhood Training Retreat are planning to stand in the gap to preserve and bring back the male role that has been forgotten and lost in the confusion of things in America," he said.

Given what scientists have found out about the benefits of having an involved father, the seminar's focus seems most appropriate.

In a 2004 publication of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services written to promote fathers' participation in the Head Start program, the authors cited research showing why it's good for fathers to be involved.

"Scholars now know that boys and girls who grow up with an involved father, as well as an involved mother, have stronger cognitive and motor skills, enjoy elevated levels of physical and mental health, become better problem-solvers, and are more confident, curious, and empathetic. They also show greater moral sensitivity and self-control.

"As they grow, well-fathered children are substantially less likely to be sexually involved at an early age, have babies out of wedlock, or be involved in criminal or violent behavior. They are much more likely to stay in school, do well there, and go to college," the authors said.

In a 2005 interview with Emanuel, an electrical engineer by training, he told me that "our goal is to reach young men, to help them understand what it does mean to be a man."

Learning to be a true man, he said, means learning how to prepare for life, for college and how to conduct a relationship with a woman, before and after their marriage.

"We're trying to make them into true men with some purpose and some direction so they can help their communities and themselves," Emanuel said.

That's a lot to accomplish in a weekend, but Emanuel begins by taking those he hopes to change for the better out of their normal environment to the campground on Mount Aetna Road.

Participants will arrive at the center about 3 p.m. Friday and will stay in cabins on the site, where meals will be provided through Sunday, when the retreat ends.

Not only will the participants hear from a variety of presenters, they will also participate in physical activities, including canoeing and boating.

Presenters include Evangelist Drew Smith, pastor of the Maranatha Outreach Church Ministry Beverly Healthcare Center; Bishop Lovell Wilson, executive pastor of the Maranatha Church of God in Frederick, Md., Minister James Griffin, longtime teacher and treasurer of the Citizens of New Jerusalem (CONJ), a Christian home fellowship ministry and Dr. Michael Parsons, a dean at Hagerstown Community College.

Also on hand for the event will be Darien McKinney, a criminal-justice major at Virginia State University; and Dakollie Elmer Lavala, a native of Liberia who is active in the Maranatha Church of God in Frederick and a member of Bethel World Outreach Ministries in Silver Spring, Md.

The cost for the weekend is $135 per person. Two people donated enough for two youths to attend last year after my column on the retreat ran. This year, I've had a commitment for $135 from a man who wants to remain anonymous.

If you can help, checks should be made payable to the Mount Aetna Camp and Retreat Center. Please note that it is for the Manhood Retreat. Mail them to The Faith of Jesus Center, 935 Marion St., Hagerstown, MD 21740.

For more information, call 301-791-5776 or visit Emanuel's Web site at

www.peopleofcolor1.com.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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