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DAVID ADAMS speaks to Darren Lewis, founder of Fathering Adventures, about his heart for helping men understand their role as parents…

Darren Lewis says he didn’t really have a relationship with his father.

“He was an alcoholic and a workaholic so I really never knew him…” says the 38-year-old, who now runs Queensland-based organisation, Fathering Adventures, aimed at providing opportunities for fathers to connect with their children. “I didn’t have a relationship with him.”


LIVING THE ADVENTURE OF FATHERHOOD: Darren Lewis and friends with his eldest son Brandon battling the white water.

“It’s really quite a powerful thing, that (father-son) relationship. So if we can start to prevent those wounds – for starters, raise awareness of the importance of that role and then begin to educate and inspire and equip fathers…with all the things that a dad needs to be involved in the life of his son or in the life of his daughter, what then would our world look like?”

– Darren Lewis

In fact, it was only in the last weeks of his father’s life – as the former rigger was dying of liver disease in 2004 – that he says he heard the words he’d been wanting to hear all his life.

“Even though I was 34 at the time, I was amazed how much I still wanted to hear those words, ‘I love you, I’m proud of you’, and so on,” he recalls.

The moment finally came only days prior to his dad’s death. His father had fallen into a coma and wasn’t expected to wake again. Told his father only had 48 hours to live, Mr Lewis had gone into his father’s room and prayed over him, asking him to call out to Jesus.

He was in his father’s room the next morning – he’d taken a CD player in with some of his father’s favorite music, songs by Elvis Presley, and was setting it up when his father woke up.

“I said ‘Dad, you’re awake’. And he just sort of said ‘Yes’. And I said ‘Dad, I love you’. Now I’d never heard my dad say that he loved me and I said ‘Dad, I love you’ and he just nodded his head. And I said ‘Dad, I love you’ and he said ‘I love you too’…”

“The two of us were in tears, blubbering messes, and that’s when I asked him, I said ‘Dad, have you considered eternity?’ and he said ‘I already have. I love the Lord’. Now I don’t even speak like that and it wasn’t a Christian home and here he is, making this statement. It was incredibly powerful. I’d taken up oil to anoint him and pray over him while he was still in this coma and I asked him if he would mind we doing that and he said he wouldn’t mind…”

He says his father lived for around another three weeks, slipping into another coma toward the end. But Mr Lewis says that during those last two weeks, “I got to know my dad in a way that I never expected to know him.”

“And to hear those words was just amazing. So there was great restoration that took place there in me and in our relationship.”

It was his experience with own father and the struggle he saw other men were going through which Mr Lewis says led him to found Fathering Adventures. Officially launched last July, the organisation aims to invest in father-son relationships by taking fathers and their sons away for short periods and helping them to come to a deeper understanding of what it really means to be a man.

Mr Lewis is a structural engineering design draftsman who become a Christian in 1995 and now goes to Grace Crowd church in Townsville.

He has been working with men, from both within and without the church since around 1999 in small group settings and camps. The seed for Fathering Adventures was planted in 2007 when he visited one of his mentors, Robert Lewis, an American author and founder of men’s ministry, Men’s Fraternity, and, while there, took part in an adventure-based father and son ministry in Wyoming.

He says it was only as he got onto the aircraft to leave Wyoming that he began wondering whether such a ministry would work in Australia.

“And I just felt God saying there were many good men’s ministries throughout the world but at the best all they’re doing is fixing those that are already broken. So, yes, there’s healing and restoration available – which is fantastic and I’ve been privileged to be a part in the lives of men and women, relationships and families and so on – but what are we actually doing to prevent these woundings from ever actually eventuating? And the short answer was nothing.”

Mr Lewis – who, with his wife of 18 years Melissa, has four sons aged between 15 and six – says the father-child relationship is key, not only in helping families bond properly, but in helping people establish a relationship with God the Father. He says that while many Christians may have a relationship with Christ, it may not be the case when it comes to the Father.

“What place does the Father take in their lives?” he says. “And earthly fathers almost set the mould for that. And if that hasn’t been good – and my experience has shown that more often than not, it hasn’t been – then that effects their relationship with the heavenly Father also. 

“It’s really quite a powerful thing, that relationship. So if we can start to prevent those wounds – for starters, raise awareness of the importance of that role and then begin to educate and inspire and equip fathers…with all the things that a dad needs to be involved in the life of his son or in the life of his daughter, what then would our world look like?”

Fathering Adventures runs two night adventure weekends for boys, aged between seven and 13, and their fathers (they hope to run similar programs for fathers and daughters in the future) – the next way is being held in mid-June. They will run their first five night father-son adventure in July.


FATHER AND SON: Darren Lewis with his second eldest son, Isaac. Mr Lewis is the father of four boys aged between 15 and six years.

Mr Lewis says the adventures are focused on boys aged between seven and 13 and their fathers – whether these are their biological fathers or uncles or grandfathers or “significant male others” – and that it was “really just about rejoicing in the fact that they’re boys”.

“It is really relationally focused,” he says. 

The ‘adventure’ element comes in the form of activities such as sea kayaking, hiking or white water rafting.

The five night adventures include a more detailed look at what manhood is all about, contrasting the “conventional man” – a man who “just exists” and in many ways is still a boy in the selfish way he perceives the world – with the “authentic man” – a “life-giving spirit” who puts others first.

They look at the four marks of a “real” man – a man who rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, leads courageously and expects God’s greater reward.

“It gives them four little keys that they can talk to their dad about,” Mr Lewis says.

The adventures also involve fathers publicly commending their sons and calling them up or initiating them into the next phase of their lives – a process modelled on a longer rite-of-passage he himself had previously undertaken with his eldest son, Brandon.

Mr Lewis says that one of the things which spurs him on is a vision he had of one of his sons speaking to him in 20 years time, saying: ‘Dad, the world’s in a real mess, isn’t it?’ 

“And me saying ‘Yes, son, it sure it.’ And then him hitting me between the eyes by saying ‘Dad, what did you do? Did you do anything to help turn that around?’ And me being at a loss, saying ‘Well, no, the problem was just too big’.”

“So I guess that was the other inspiration, in a sense – not just my relationship with my dad but my relationship with my sons and what they thought of mel; how are they going to remember me when it’s my turn to pass on; what kind of legacy am I leaving?”

Mr Lewis says he wants to see the next generation of men have a much deeper understanding of what it is to be a man.

“One of the questions I love to ask men is ‘When did you become a man?’ and…most people can’t answer it and when they do, it’s all kinds of flimsy sort of answers. 

“What would it be like to have a 13, 14, 15, 16, 17 or 40-year-old man come to an understanding of what that is and then actually have dad announce that over him, proclaim that over him, and invite him into being a man with a vision for what that entails?

“If we don’t have a definition, if we don’t have a vision of who we’re meant to be, then we’re just going to be wandering aimlessly. Proverbs says that without vision the people perish.”


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