MAXWELL:  In a Promise Keeper’s own words

10/12/1997 – Printed in the PERSPECTIVE section of the St Petersburg Times Newspaper


Rory Staten is a 41-year-old African-American who has been married for six years, and he and wife Nandra have four children. He is a registered nurse, she is the head teller of a bank, and they worship together at Faith Community Fellowship in St. Petersburg. Staten is also something else, by virtue of his recent trip to Washington.

He is a Promise Keeper.

Their commitment to Promise Keepers is personal and compelling, and their words are worth hearing. What follows are edited excerpts from an interview with the couple. Having talked with them, I want to let the Statens speak for themselves.

Rory Staten: I’ve been affiliated with Promise Keepers for about two years. When I first heard of the organization, I felt that here was something that could show me what Christians are doing to become better men. That’s what I wanted: to become a better man, especially a better family man. I’m also a stepfather, and that is a big challenge. But I’ve learned love and acceptance.

I was not raised by my father. I had some mentors. My pastor helped me when I first became a born-again Christian. My father lived in New York all of those years, but we never communicated. That hurt me a lot. Now that I have two sons, one 12 and one 16, I want to teach my boys decency and how to be men. I want to be a good example for them by trying to live a godly life. I’ve found good mentors in Promise Keepers.

I’m also learning how to be a good husband. Until now, I didn’t know how women felt, and I certainly didn’t know how married women felt. By going to Promise Keepers events, I meet married men who share some of their experiences with me and give me insight into how to really relate to my wife. I’m truly learning how to help her, how to listen and how to learn from her, too.

Until now, I learned how to treat women the “street way,” from what I heard from other brothers in clubs and bars. Until Promises Keepers, I never heard other guys discuss their Christian experiences. I never heard Christians discuss how they treated their wives; how they related to their wives and grew together; how they loved their wives; how often they took their wives out; what activities they attended that were exciting and made their relationship more bonding.

People talk about Promise Keepers and racism. I don’t feel racism at all. When I went to Washington, my focus was not on color. It was on the purpose of the program: reconciliation among men. Period. It was about men learning how to relate to each other.

Over the years, so many racial walls kept men apart. This separation in itself was a kind of bondage. Men of different backgrounds simply haven’t been able to relate to one another. But in Washington and at other Promise Keepers meetings, color doesn’t matter at all. As a matter of fact, Promise Keepers stresses breaking down racism in the church because the church doesn’t stand for color.

Three blacks, two Caucasians and two Puerto Ricans from our church went to Washington together. My roommates were a Puerto Rican, a Caucasian and a brother. We were all in the room together. It was beautiful. We held one another and prayed together in our hotel room that night. It was such a bonding, so much love that you couldn’t even think of color.

The other thing is that women have no reason to worry about Promise Keepers having a political agenda. One of the things stressed in Washington was that we would not discuss political issues. We went to pray for this nation, to pray for bringing this country back to God.

We prayed for the politicians. We prayed for our military personnel who couldn’t be there. It was a public prayer and a confession. We prayed together, and we prayed about personal issues of life. And we prayed privately. We lay humbly on our stomachs with our faces down. We prayed about personal integrity, our moral and sexual behaviors, our loyalty to God, to our church, to our pastor.

The National Organization for Women and other women’s groups claimed that men were in Washington seeking control of their wives and their kids. That is not so. Basically, we’re not trying to control our wives. We’re trying to be of better service to our wives, of better service to our children, allowing our kids to see a man work with his wife, clean the dishes, help her out.

That’s what the meeting in Washington was all about. Each time I return from a big gathering, the spirt, the power does something for me. It gives me more strength. It makes me want to do more for my wife rather being so self-centered.

Nandra Staten: I’m excited that my husband goes to Promise Keepers events _ especially Washington _ because he comes back with a more positive insight into his role in the household. He understands more about keeping the peace and playing together. You know, they always say that a family that plays together stays together.

We’ve started implementing what he has learned in Promise Keepers in our daily lives. For example, we now make it a point to sit at the dinner table and eat and talk. He will read a simple Scripture to us before we start to eat.

It’s just good.

He treats me better. I like the way his spirit is now. He’s more upbeat and joyful. My husband is absolutely a better man, a better husband and a better father since becoming a Christian.

And becoming part of Promise Keepers enhanced it all.

I don’t know why women are so worried about Promise Keepers. They should have no fear because what it’s doing is teaching men _ especially our black men _ about integrity. They’re using biblical values and principles to help give their ideas meaning, to become better men.

I see no political agenda behind Promise Keepers. I recommend it. All it is doing is teaching men to accept their responsibilities as a father, as a husband and as a man.