Celebrating mighty men of valor


ST. PETERSBURG – With every holiday, it is important to recognize those in our lives that have made a difference. But when it comes to our fathers, perhaps that need is even more dire.

So with that in mind, to commemorate Father’s Day, the Word of Life Women’s Ministry, an arm of the Naomi Titus2 Covenant Alliance (NT2CA), put together a breakfast of champions, all in an effort to celebrate dads around St. Petersburg.

Five limousines waited to transport the men and boys to the Isla Del Sol Yacht & Country Club, located at 6000 Sun Blvd. Mothers and wives drove their men and future men of valor early Saturday morning to the Word of Life Fellowship Church. From there, representatives from the ministry treated them as celebrities arriving at a Hollywood movie premiere.

“They had no idea,” said Sister Joanne Rainey, Word of Life Fellowship Church member. Fathers and future fathers received invitations alerting them that they were being recognized, but they had no idea what to expect.

“We gave them invitations saying that they were going to be appreciated,” said Sister Rainey. Wives, mom’s and mentors paid the small $20 fee to give their fathers and fathers-to-be a world class morning. “We told them to wear their Tommy Bahama shirts, that’s all they knew.”

Although most men at the breakfast were already established in their leadership roles as a father, there were also young men still attending high school that were honored for their father-like qualities and basically to reward them for following the right path. Some of these young men of valor were graduates going to college, in college or joining the military.

But the program was kept short and sweet. “They don’t want to go through all that glam glam,” said Sister Rainey. “They want it boom, boom.”

After enjoying a buffet style breakfast of grits, eggs, sausage, bacon, fruit and pastries, they enjoyed a peaceful atmosphere overlooking Tampa Bay with sailboats and calming water in the backdrop as the words of Pastor Martin Rainey fell on their listening ears.

“We need men to step up to the plate, but how do we get them back to the plate,” he asked.

Communication, honesty and courage, according to the pastor.

He opened the discussion speaking from his own personal experiences as a young man. Although seen in the community as a man of God, Rainey’s young life was not what some would think.

“I was 15 years old running from the law,” he said. A product of Harlem, when Rainey came to Florida he was trying to start a new life while still running from his old one. Once a high school dropout, Rainey now boast his accomplishments, three degrees to back him up. He was rebellious, a self-proclaimed know it all. But that was decades ago. But today the story for troubled youth is a little different.

“When I was running from the law, you could mess up and get back,” explained the pastor, “but in 2015 if you mess up even a little bit, even in school you have seriously damaged any progress you can make.”

The older fathers in the room shook their heads in agreement. The younger fathers-to-be listened. Hopefully they’ll make better choices before any minor mistakes they make turn into big ones that are difficult to overcome.

But the reason for the day was to say thank you to those who are getting it right, right now. Whether a seasoned man who has proven his worth by supporting his family, standing by his child’s side, being a mentor or a father-to-be who encompasses all the attributes and traits that a winning father holds.

“We look forward to many more opportunities to really celebrate our men,” said Teralyn Hodge, first lady of Word of Life Fellowship Church. She feels not enough acknowledgements are paid to the men who sacrifice day in and day out to provide for their families.  Wives and loved ones tend to get just too busy.

“I just don’t think we do enough of that,” she said.

She hopes that by saying thank you now, the celebration will grow until men from all over the area are being recognized for what they bring to the family as strong fathers.

The event was the brainchild of Sister Rainey, and as humble as she is, she didn’t want to take credit for it. First Lady Hodges wanted to give credit where credit is due.

“I thank Joanne for her insight into sharing this venture with us and bringing forth not only men from Word of Life, but men from the community. Kudos to Joanne for idea.”

After the ceremony and breakfast, the men were driven back to their homes to finish out their Father’s Day weekend.

To reach Holly Kestenis, email hkestenis@theweeklychallenger.com

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