“For though you have countless mentors in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. I urge you, then, be imitators of me.” - I Corinthians 4:15

“Two weeks ago I was as close to the edge as one can be. Close to prison, close to death. Bills and responsibilities were chasing me as a robber. My strength was fading, my focus blurry, and my faith withered. I felt as if I was literally in a tornado. I cried out to God for help and Pastor Peter Watts heard my pain and covered my way financially to a Christian mens gathering called The SIAFU Men's Retreat.

“As we ate breakfast, tears of gratefulness flowed down my eyes. They did not know that earlier I had been on my way to ask for a weapon to seek revenge on my enemy. To be in a storm on one day, and then to be eating on the mountaintop with powerful men of God the next is nothing short of amazing. On the mountaintop, I touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. All the anger and resentment melted away from my heart. I was transformed on that mountain during the retreat.

“After returning from SIAFU, I increased my fellowship with the men's group at my church, The Rock Church. I am truly blessed to be surrounded by humble, powerful men of God. I’m reminded that the scripture says, "Your gift will make room for you and bring you amongst great men.’’

That was the testimony of Luis Clarke aka “Coach Lou.” I have come to know Coach Lou over the years through my time at the school where my wife was the principal. He provided mentorship and uniforms to the kids at the local middle school where she worked. I’m humbled by his story because it is not uncommon to hear men of color talk of the hard times they have experienced since giving their lives to The Lord after having “run the streets” for so many years.

Coach Lou was born and bred in South Los Angeles. He went to the local high school and because of unfortunate circumstances, found himself behind bars as a juvenile. While locked behind bars he gave his life to The Lord and has been serving him ever since. This doesn’t mean that life is a bed of roses for him now. He still has struggles, disappointments, and challenges that he has to overcome as a result of being one of the many returning citizens to our under-resourced communities.

I’m humbled that God would use me as a spiritual father in Coach’s life. Coach is much older than I am, as are a lot of the men that I father in our church. It feels strange taking the role of father in that sense because I still have my own father wounds that I wrestle with from season to season. Through these experiences, I have found that our communities need pastors and church planters to be fathers. We have enough mentors. We have mentoring programs all over the country. There’s The Boys and Girls Club, Mentors Across America, 100 Black Men; yet we don’t have many willing to be fathers.

I’ve discovered that a mentor is one who guides and points out your areas of weakness and lack, but a father is one who comes alongside you to help you grow. Many of our men in the city never had a chance to grow up in a healthy environment being cared for by a father. Many of us had to learn from a single mother or from the school of hard knocks.

I was challenged at that SIAFU Men’s retreat to be a significant father in the lives of men. The way I envision doing that is by following what Paul said to do in 1 Corinthians 4:15. There he tells us to lead by example so that those we are fathering can follow. I may not be their earthly father, but I have been given the mantle to father the men in my life through the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Pete Watts oversees World Impact's mission for all of Los Angeles and its surrounding communities. Born and raised in Southern California, Pete holds a Masters in Education and Administration as well as Theology. After serving as an elementary school teacher, he opened  the Thurgood Marshall Entrepreneurial Academy Charter Middle School in 2007. SIAFU chapters are designed to help identify, equip and release spiritually qualified servant leaders to reach and transform our neediest, unreached communities in urban America.