ALPINE, Calif. An 18-year age difference and family dynamics kept two brothers apart for most of their lives. What man could not bridge, though, the Lord did through Promise Keepers, the international men’s ministry.
It was the mid-‘90s when Tom Yeager, then 24, received a call from his older brother Terry, who was living in Hemet. Terry wanted Tom to go with him to a Promise Keepers event in Los Angeles.
“My thing was ‘Oh, I can spend time with my brother, Terry,’” he said, “I didn’t really know him, so this would be cool. We really didn’t have a relationship except for Christmas and Thanksgiving.”
A lapsed Catholic who traded in his faith for his driver’s license at 16, Tom changed his mind after finding out that Promise Keepers was a Christian organization that promotes male leadership at home, work and the church.
Although Tom and his wife had settled down from the days of drugs and drinking with the birth of their children, Tom was not ready to return to the faith of his childhood, the days when he passionately pursued the Lord and prayed nightly for a Christian wife.
“When I found out what it was I called him and said, ‘No, sorry, I can’t make it, I’ve got things goin’ on,’” Tom said. “(Terry) said, ‘Well, OK, that’s alright then, I know the devil is doing his job.’”
Terry, it seems, knew which spiritual buttons to push. Tom took the bait and gave in.
“That hit home too hard,” said Tom, who lives in Alpine, where he and his wife, Jennifer, own a cabinetry business. It was at the Los Angeles gathering that Tom rediscovered Jesus, this time establishing a personal relationship with his Savior.
“God was at work all along,” he said.
The older brother knew the buttons because his own had already been pushed. A Christian for about five years, Terry was involved with his church and had looked to some of the older guys for spiritual leadership. In 1994 they invited him to an Anaheim PK gathering.
“I had never seen anything quite so impressive as being in a stadium full of a bunch of guys praising and worshiping the Lord,” he said. “I had never been around it before. It was pretty exciting.”
It was exciting and revealing, and Terry said his life was transformed like never before.
“I was doing the motions,” he said. “I was going to church. I was serving in my local church, I was in the Word, but I wasn’t doing anything where I felt I was really growing. I wasn’t doing any accountability with other guys. I never much thought about a bunch of guys getting together and praying together and worshipping together in a corporate kind of environment like that.”
For the first time he understood the importance of not just believing in Jesus but in also having a relationship with Him.
“He goes to no ends to meet you,” he said. “I think Promise Keepers was a way He energized a lot of men to begin looking. My whole walk has changed. I’m involved in my church. It’s changed my relationship with my wife and my kids and my extended family.”
As grateful as Terry is about his own transformation, he’s even more delighted for his brother, who took a circuitous path with drugs and alcohol.
“I get to see my brother grow, his family,” Terry said of Tom. “He’s certainly been a role model to young people he’s brought up.”
Looking back, Tom admits that he can see God’s handprints all over his life, even during his rebellious years.
“You don’t see that when you are not following Him,” he said, taking a deep breath to control his emotions. “We were all over the board, and just living life like there was no tomorrow. I was the prodigal son. I had the father, I had my inheritance, but I wanted to go play, too. So I went off and did my playing. God loved me that much. When I decided to give my life back to him that night I could just see him waiting therewith open arms.”
Now fully set on the heaven side of his faith, Tom looks back to how God honored the prayers of a young, innocent heart.
“As a child growing up Catholic, I prayed every night for certain things,” Tom said. “One of the things was that I didn’t pray for a Catholic wife, I prayed for a Christian wife. I don’t know why but I just didn’t feel like saying Catholic for some reason. I just remember praying I wanted a Christian wife.”
Both Yeager brothers are excited that other men will given the opportunity to change their lives through the ongoing Kingdom work of Promise Keepers.
“(It’s) a wake up call to men that they need to take leadership in their family, in their community and in their church,” Terry said. “It’s important. We need leaders.”
On Sept. 7 and 8, more Southern California men will get an opportunity to share the experience when Promise Keepers returns to the region with a conference at Viejas Arena at San Diego State University. This year’s theme is “Called Out.”