If you’ve ever read Alexandre Dumas’s epic novel, or watched one of its many adaptations, you’ll know that the story’s main character is not one of the titular three Musketeers, but D’Artagnan, a poor man who leaves home to try to join them.
“Somewhere in his journey,” said Michael Oon, “he became a Musketeer, someone who can respect and be caring to the people around him and be someone who wants to serve the king.”
A pastor was reading the novel, thinking about a question his wife asked, about how they could get men more invested in church life. In D’Artagnan, he saw an ideal role model. “This is the kind of man we want in our church,” he thought.
That idea was the seed for the Fourth Musketeer movement, a character-building ministry bringing hope to men through weekend long extreme endurance challenges. Michael Oon is CEO of the ministry’s Australian branch. Talking to Neil Johnson on Vision’s 20Twenty program, he explained that endurance isn’t just a physical challenge. It’s also a spiritual one.
When men are struggling, often they will try to keep it to themselves. But these challenges force them to let go of that habit. “Throughout the weekend, we see a man who initially would try not to show that he’s struggling. But somewhere along the journey, someone puts his hand out, and says ‘come on. I’ll give you a hand’. And that opens up the dialogue. That opens up the opportunity. All it takes is one person to reach out to another guy, and all of a sudden, there’s a connection.”
Men learn through that process to develop meaningful relationships, to share problems and support one another. “So in endurance, lesson number one is this. Don’t do it alone. Ask for help, and surround yourself with people you can trust, people who can cheer you on, people who can look out for you and pray for you.”
Oon remembers one incident where a group of the men were talking about the idea of “the father wound”. This lead one man to reflect on his early childhood, how he lived in 38 different homes over six years, and how that impacted on his self-esteem.
I’m so afraid of being rejected. Therefore, I do not talk to anyone. I stay very quiet, and I remain very withdrawn.
“The men who walked with him had known him for years, but didn’t know this bit of his story. And when all this came out, the surprising result was that instead of being thought of as a wuss or someone soft, the men just surrounded him, hugged him, prayed for him, and there was this great camaraderie and bonding taking place there.”
Oon has seen men completely give up during their challenges, only to be encouraged to keep going by the rest of the team. When we face trouble in our marriage, family or business, we often fall into despair. But overcoming a physical struggle is a great way to learn to endure the ones we face in our daily lives. “I remember this. There’s still more in me. I just have to keep focused, and just keep chipping away. One step at a time, I’ll get there. So that’s a good lesson. There’s more in you guys, more than you think. And this is where your character is developed.”
The Fourth Musketeer is running challenges in Queensland in April and October of this year. They’re open from anyone, of any age, from tradies to CEOs. The only limitation is your own fitness. Oon is also keen to expand into Victoria and NSW and is looking for people to run the challenges there. “Come up to Queensland, do it, and just confirm in your heart, this is the calling. This is what we want. And if that’s you, then we will equip you with the right training, and set you up for the different states.”
For more info about the Fourth Musketeer’s work, and how you can sign up, visit their website.
Tune into 20Twenty and join the conversation with Neil Johnson, weekdays on Vision Christian Radio. Click here for your local times and more interviews.