By Kris Harris
The Genesis 4:9 Men’s Group started a little over a year ago. However, what started out as a few men getting together in faith, has turned into something quite remarkable. The group was formed with the intention to get together, outside of church, to share faith and everyday life in a comfortable environment. “It was some men, church-going, Jesus lovin’ men, who came together organically with the Holy Spirit in our hearts,” said Fr. Pierre Administrator at Mother of God Chaldean Church in Southfield.
One of the driving forces was to provide an environment where men could open up and talk freely about real issues that they face, individually, as well as issues they see in the community. “Men, and particularly Chaldean men, are just not open and there are a lot of problems in our community (like) gambling, alcohol, drugs, marijuana, and they’ll never admit it’s a problem,” said Jeff Kassab, founding member. “Or, they won’t discuss it with anybody, because they feel we’re Middle-eastern men and we don’t open up to people like that. Well, we wanted to address these issues and realized we needed a Spiritual Director, so we approached Fr. Pierre and he’s was really gung-ho about it. So with his support and the support of Bishop Francis, we tried it.”
With a Spiritual Director in place, the founders decided to meet and discuss the importance of making the group inviting, and without pressure, so that the men would feel comfortable. “It was literally over dinner and we asked, ‘what can we do for the men in our community?’ We wanted to make it masculine and not complicated, but very, very simple,” explained Fr. Pierre. “You’re not going to be asked a question or called upon to talk, so it’s more to encourage and challenge your faith, and to hear a topic that is relevant to you and your life.”
That dinner was just more than a year ago and since that time, the group has flourished. “At our first conference, we had about 50 men and it was guys that already come to church and our own group of friends that we reached out,” explained Kassab. “But in a year and half, this will be our seventh one, we’ve had up to about 150 men. So, definitely the holy spirit has been working.”
The name, Genesis 4:9 Men’s Group, comes from the bible and specifically the passage, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” “You are your brother’s keeper,” said founding member Bashar Kirma. “Whether by blood or by close friendship that’s developed, brotherhood is more. So, you may not know it and you may not need it, but your brother needs you.”
The group meets at Mother of God Church, on the third Friday of every odd month, and brings together men from all around the community. “It’s men from the eastside and westside, some older, some younger, some who are married and others who are single, which was exactly the goal,” said Fr. Pierre. “We weren’t looking for an age group, but for all the men in our community. All are welcome to come pray with us.”
The meetings welcome a speaker and have a topic of discussion. However, the founders knew that format would not last long. “After the first three, we thought that this could be repetitious, so we looked at how we could change it up and to get guys to continue to come,” Kassab said. “We thought after the meeting, when we have some social time, we’d bring in some food and drink that’s donated with the help from the community. It’s a great fellowship night and it’s quality time for men to discuss things that are bothering us. We always reinforce to the men that we are there to empower each other in this spiritual battle we are in.”
The founder’s original intention was to also encourage men to form their own, smaller groups, that would meet every other month. On the odd months, when they didn’t meet, everyone would come together for a Genesis 4:9 Men’s Group conference.
“The overall goal for the group was for men to create their own prayer groups,” said Fr. Pierre. “It’s important for every Christian to do something outside of Sunday mass and for men, it can easier and more comfortable to invite others to your house for dinner and conversation. For the boots on the ground guy, he can host a men’s group at his house and can be really active in his faith and active in inviting others to Jesus.”
The Genesis 4:9 Men’s Group helps members, who are interested in hosting one of the smaller groups, but aren’t sure where to start. “A lot men aren’t sure how to do it, so the first one we’ll help them set up,” explained Kassab. “I helped someone last month, and there was only three of them, but they weren’t sure what to do, so I told them I’d be over to help. And I explained that this isn’t what you have to do, but that these were suggestions, and you need to do wherever the spirit takes you that day.”
Although the conferences were the catalyst, the founders saw that more could be achieved in these smaller groups. “We are more about starting that prayer group than we are about the men’s conference,” explained Kassab. “Because that prayer group is something that’s special between a group of guys. They can sit at home, in a comfortable place, and discuss things and pray. That hour, hour and half, alone I think is a big in our community.”
The reaction and success seen in these smaller groups have been a welcomed surprise. “What we’re really seeing is the fruit is not in the big men’s conference, but in the smaller, private gatherings that are happening,” said Kirma. “Men are thanking us for the help starting their own group. They feel it’s been beneficial because they can resolve real issues. The life changing moments, and we’ve seen them, have happened in these private group meetings.”
One of the springboards in forming Genesis 4:9, was a book written by Fr. Larry Richards called, “Be A Man.” In the book, Fr. Richards talks about being the man that God created us to be. “In commercials and in the media, the man is portrayed as the weaker person, unintelligent and has no idea what to do,” said Kirma. “Just name the show and you see the man as the joke, and Fr. Larry’s book goes against that. Men have forgotten how to be men, and on top of that, men have forgotten how to be men of God, so I think it was a very instrumental book.”
The next conference will be on Friday, March 17th and a dynamic speaker is scheduled to speak. “For our next conference, we got connected with another mens’ group from the Latin church called, Invictus Christi, so we have Darren O’Brien from that group that will come and speak to us,” said Kassab. “So, we’re excited.”
Men should remember that you won’t receive any pressure from the group and that you need only to bring an interest in the role your faith plays in your life. “There’s no string attached,” said Fr. Pierre. “You’re not signing up for anything. You can come one month and not come the next. It’s a very comfortable atmosphere and they should be encouraged that men of their faith care about them and want them to have a deep relationship with Jesus.”