Neatly dressed men took off their shoes and spread out on church floors throughout Spokane and Coeur d’Alene, asking God for forgiveness and strength to be better men.
“This has been great,” said Dave Smith, a member of Manito Presbyterian on Spokane’s South Hill. “We’re a small group in humble surroundings, but this is huge. The spirit is here today.”
Smith was one of hundreds of men throughout the Inland Northwest who gathered Saturday at churches to watch the Promise Keepers rally at the nation’s capital.
“Every man in here has been broken in some way at some point in their life,” Smith said. “This is about asking for forgiveness, lifting up to God and being accountable and responsible.”
Smith beamed with spiritual enthusiasm as he reflected on his life before he became a Christian several years ago.
He said his and his wife’s first child died at 19 months, when Smith wasn’t a Christian.
“I was angry with God,” Smith said. “I began to wonder, ‘Where is my son? What happened to him?”’ Smith said he believes God took his child to bring him and his wife closer to God.
At Harvest Christian Fellowship on the North Side, church members frequently had to adjust their television monitor to get a better picture. But one man said his reception to and from God has never been more clear.
“I was just, just … I didn’t have the guidance that I needed until I gave my life to Christ,” Gregory Howell said. “To be a real man is to answer the call of Christ.”
Promise Keepers has always experienced some kind of opposition since former University of Colorado football coach Bill McCartney founded the organization in 1990.
Howell said that opposition is misguided.
“It seems like everything in our society is about getting away from Christ,” he said. “A hundred thousand men pack a football stadium every Sunday to cheer for their team - nobody says a word.
“But when you put on your Promise Keepers shirt and want to cheer for God, some people will want to look at you funny. We’ve misplaced our priorities.”
About 100 men who gathered Saturday at the Coeur d’Alene Assembly of God Church were loggers and businessmen, a forklift salesman, a vending machine merchant. They were husbands and brothers and single men planning for marriage.
“I’ve experienced an awesome power in the last three hours,” said Mike Anton, 24, a husband and father with another child on the way. “I’ve done extreme sports - like skydiving. That can’t compare to this.”
Anton, who described himself as a workaholic, said the gathering gave him connections - to preachers, to other men, to God - that already were reshaping his thinking.
“I’m going to spend more time with my family,” he vowed. “I will.”
One charge leveled against Promise Keepers in Washington, D.C., is that the group’s attempt at building better men equates to taking control of women. But at least one woman at a local church Saturday said nothing could be further from the truth.
“I’m 100 percent behind what they’re doing,” said Carol Altmeyer, whose husband, Phil Altmeyer, attended the event in Washington D.C.
Altmeyer watched the live rally at Valley Fourth Memorial Church in the Spokane Valley with her sons Nate, Josh and Justin.
“My husband has been a support to me and our family,” Altmeyer said.”
At First Presbyterian in downtown Spokane, church member Carl Fankhauser said he spent a lot of time praying for the country.
“We’re all too caught up in the things of this world,” Fankhauser said with several men sprawled out on the floor in prayer near him.
“It’s a biblical fact that generations of nations have failed and fallen partly because they turned away from God,” Fankhauser said.
“I feel God has really blessed this nation from the beginning, but I’m also concerned about things that threaten to destroy it,” he said.
He believes material greed is one of the nation’s most serious threats.
“Look at all the multibillionaires we have in this country,” Fankhauser said. “Too many people are so focused on money and nothing else. And then when they get it they’re still looking for something to fulfill them.”
Fankhauser said he then prayed for families.
“If the family falls apart, we fail as a nation,” he said.
Then he said he prayed for a reconciliation between racial groups.
“I can’t see you as a black man, you can’t see me as a white man, we have to see each other as men of God.”
, DataTimes MEMO: Changed from the Idaho edition