By Steve Legg
All you need to know about 4M, the most adventurous men’s movement. Do you have what it takes to be the fourth Musketeer?
In the winter of 2008, Henk Stoorvogel was in a lonely place in his life. As a respected leader of one of the largest churches in the Netherlands, travelling and speaking across the nation and writing books, he felt he had neglected his close friendships and was running on empty.
His wife, Ruth, made a suggestion that would change his life: “Why don’t you start a men’s movement? Not one of those cheesy sit-and-listen ones,” she insisted, “but an adventurous one.” Her words were music to Henk’s ears.
He phoned his three best friends, two of whom were Dutch church leaders too and the four of them met together over homemade lasagnas to plot and plan. Henk had just read the classic Alexander Dumas novel, “The Three Musketeers”. The actual main character of the book is d’Artagnan – a young man aspiring to become a Musketeer and a servant to the king of France, but when he first meets Athos, Porthos and Aramis (the “Three”), they end up duelling.
When the Cardinal’s guards arrive to break it up, d’Artagnan and the three Musketeers join forces to fight the guards. D’Artagnan becomes friends with Athos, Porthos, and Aramis and finally accomplishes his lifelong dream – becoming a Musketeer to the king.
This started Henk thinking. “Our highest goal in life is to become servants to the King of Kings,” he told his friends. “Why don’t we start a men’s movement and call it ‘the 4th Musketeer’ after D’Artagnan, who aspired to become a servant to his king?
“We will live along the code of honour of the Musketeers – all for one and one for all,” he continued, “as a brotherhood, standing up for justice, and seeking to lead men to the highest place on earth – to the foot of the cross.”
They quickly agreed upon the name, the Fourth Musketeer, and also agreed on the strategy. “We won’t organise men’s breakfasts or events where men have to sit down and listen,” Henk said.
“We’ll organise Extreme Character Challenges where men will go through ultimate endurance challenges, accompanied by short, inspiring Bible studies, that will help them internalise biblical truth. Everything we do has to be cutting edge, physical and deeply spiritual.”
As so the 4th Musketeer movement was born. The new team quickly set out to organise the first ever Xtreme Character Challenge (XCC) in the Belgium Ardennes. Armed with the support of their churches and 1,500 euros, they assembled 88 men to experience a wet, cold, dirty, but deeply challenging and adventurous life-changing Xtreme Character Challenge.
Henk explained: “When we started to get reports of men becoming Christians, taking up proper spiritual leadership in the homes and becoming better husbands, fathers and workmates, we knew we were onto something – we were definitely on the right track.”
The work spread fast and these days a typical XCC usually starts on a Thursday night and ends on the following Sunday afternoon. It’s a four-day adrenaline charged, ultimate endurance event that tests a man’s character, ignites faith and builds friendships that can last forever. As the men embark on the first day they hand over watches, phones, wallets and car keys. Only the essentials that are on the list are allowed. No extra food, cigarettes or alcohol.
Ten teams of eight to ten men journey together on one route as they are individually pushed further, deeper and harder than they have ever experienced before. It’s not for the faint hearted as fatigue, hunger, thirst, cold and physical exhaustion are to be expected, but behind every challenge there lies deep friendship, brotherhood and camaraderie and a deeper understanding of faith in God.
Some 6,000 men have now experienced an Xtreme Character Challenge and thus have become a Musketeer – proudly wearing their red 4M polo shirt.
Three years into the movement they also created the Muskathlon – an ultimate endurance event at an extreme location to raise significant funds for the fight for justice. Over the course of three years the Muskathlon raised 3.5 million euros for three remarkable charities, A21, Open Doors and Compassion.
The team also organise massive one-off events but do it in their own inimitable way, packing 5,000 men into an arena for a day of activity and challenge. Just getting into the venue means navigating through an assault course, climbing walls and crawling under nets. During the course of the day cars are rolled over and makeshift cannon balls are fired. This is a bloke’s event like no other. The talks too are packed full of challenge and humour and men go back to their towns better equipped to make a difference in their homes and communities.
Today the 4th Musketeer has national offices in seven countries including the USA, Germany, Switzerland, Norway, Belgium, Poland and the Netherlands.
In 2015 the 4th Musketeer will finally launch in the UK. While hundreds of Dutch, German and Swiss men have found God during XCC in the Scottish Highlands, now the first ever British XCC will be organised in Scotland from April 23-26.
It certainly will be a remarkable sight, seeing the first 100 British men roam the Scottish Munros, building character at the borders of the unknown and forming a brotherhood that will last for life.
4M is excited to see the movement take root in the UK. Henk explained: “We see men from all over the European continent lock arms and unite in following Jesus Christ and taking part in the battle for justice in our generation. Originated in the Netherlands, we hold British men in high esteem, as they were leading the way in the liberation of our country in World War II.
“British men have put their lives on the line to give us freedom. In return we love to bless our British brothers by experiencing XCC and Muskathlons together. Already we sense a lot of enthusiasm and anticipation among the guys in the UK to experience the XCC. We are looking forward to a bright future.”
Register for the first ever 4M UK XCC now – www.the4thmusketeer.uk
From issue 44 – December 2014