11 Men & A Prayer – Grapevine Article November 2017 by Ed L.

With a few canoes and horseshoes, and a little help from upstairs, a mountain fellowship begins

It was in Quartz Hill, just west of Lancaster, California, where I first heard the expression, “Why pray when you can worry?” 

Why, indeed? Three years ago, a handful of us stood around after the Wednesday night men’s stag meeting with wrinkled brows, fretting over something we actually had control over, though we didn’t know it at the time. 

We were deep into the planning stages of our men’s spiritual retreat, with AA fellowship, meals, meetings, workshops, volleyball, archery, canoeing and horseshoes. There were those among us who had been blessed over the years at retreats in distant places, so we decided to have one right here at home in the San Gabriel Mountains.

We retreat-instigators stood around after the meeting, two weeks before the scheduled weekend for our first annual retreat, wringing our hands and racking our brains about how we’d meet the two requirements of the local camp host. First, we needed a minimum of 50 men to attend. Second, we would have to pay for event insurance. Now, two weeks out, only eight men had registered and none of us had the $1,000-plus to pay for the insurance.

In the stillness of a moment and in the absence of any new ideas, it suddenly occurred to me that we could pray about it. After all, isn’t AA a program of action, faith and reliance on a Higher Power? Couldn’t we make use of the Third-, Seventh- and Eleventh-Step prayers? Well, several of us committed to pray about the matter.

That week, I prayed about our problems. And as the week progressed, I found myself crafting the perfect solution for God (in case he was stumped and didn’t have one): Obviously, he had to send us 42 more men, whose paid reservations would provide all the money we needed to buy the insurance. Maybe I was practicing faith. I’m still not sure. But I sure as heck was practicing anticipation and expectation, which I’ve come to learn in AA will, more often than not, lead to disappointment and frustration. I was rearranging God’s furniture and identifying his actors so the stage would be set to grant us our pure, honest desires. He must have laughed the beard right off his face!

 I’m not sure if I went to the meeting that next week expecting a miracle. In fact, I don’t remember if I even expected a solution. In any case, it was the cat-that-ate-the-canary smile on Todd’s face that reminded me we had asked that God do for us what all our planning could not do for ourselves. And, because I had dwelled upon the obvious solutions all week, I just knew that Todd had found 42 more men and $1,000.

I wasn’t even in the ballpark. Todd told me that he’d talked to the camp administrators and they had indicated there was no longer a minimum-man requirement. He said that as long as those who did attend signed a liability waiver, we could conduct the retreat without the event insurance. 

Bam, bam. Just like that, our obstacles disappeared.

There were 11 of us with a total of 133 years of sobriety at that first men’s retreat. The second year we had 20 men with 266 years of sobriety. Last year, we were 23 men with 361 years cumulative sobriety. And, two weeks ago, there were 32 men with 385 years of sobriety. 

Both the number of men attending and our cumulative sobriety have nearly tripled. I expect that the retreat is God-endorsed, but I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that it’s old-timer endorsed.

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