Fort Mill Times

Baring their souls in a barn. Men’s group in Indian Land digs down to deeper issues

From left, Haines Maxwell Jr., Bryan Fair and Kevin Casner look forward to the weekly meetings of The Barn International Ministries, a men's group dedicated to discussing the deeper issues of life.
From left, Haines Maxwell Jr., Bryan Fair and Kevin Casner look forward to the weekly meetings of The Barn International Ministries, a men's group dedicated to discussing the deeper issues of life.

About 15 years ago, Kevin Casner couldn’t complain. His real estate business was booming. His 4-year-old son was happy and healthy. He was actively involved in his church. Yet, he felt something was missing.

Then, a good friend shared a book with him.

“Books are books,” this Charlotte resident said. “Sometimes they hit people, sometimes they don’t. This one kind of hit me right where I was.”

The readings in John Eldredge’s “Wild at Heart” resonated with Casner. Although he’d grown accustomed to hearing sermons about man’s “deceitfully wicked” heart, Eldredge, in his book, highlighted over 800 scriptures about the goodness of man’s heart.

“‘Wild at Heart’ talks about three of the core desires of a man’s heart: a battle to fight, a beauty to rescue and an adventure to live,” Casner said.

While attending a Wild at Heart retreat in Colorado, Casner met a group of five men who shared a bond he longed for in his life. Born and raised in Charlotte, he called many people his acquaintances.

“But as far as those really tight friendships, to where if the crap hit the fan in the middle of the night and you needed to call some people,” Casner said. “Unfortunately, most men don’t have someone they feel like they could call.”

When he returned to Charlotte, he decided to forge friendships like the ones he’d seen at the retreat. And, his brother-in-law offered him the perfect venue – a barn in Indian Land.

Casner invited a few guys to take an inward journey with him. In the barn, they used a “Wild at Heart” video series to guide them to deeper destinations within themselves, uncharted territories for most of the men.

“We just try to create a safe place that’s not overly structured,” Casner said. “It’s not a secret community, but what’s said here stays here. It’s a safe place for guys to discuss things they may not feel comfortable saying in front of women.”

Similar to many mancaves, the barn bears the likely décor — old license plates and street signs, antique clocks and tools, and a showy display of mounted deer heads and antlers.

But the conversations that take place within those walls go far beyond typical mancave matters.

“This isn’t some type of machismo, endorphin-junkie, macho meeting of guys,” Casner said. “We all fight different battles. Some of your battles may just be getting up (Interstate 77) trying to get to work.”

Nearly every Tuesday for the last 12 years, Haines Maxwell Jr. has spent his evenings in the barn. He likes the format of the meetings. The men watch a movie clip and then break into small discussion groups to discuss how the movie relates to their lives.

Maxwell said for many men who are involved in church, there’s the sermon and the worship, but they don’t often get the opportunity to connect with other guys.

“This is a spiritual journey of the heart,” this Charlotte resident said. “Not every guy that shows up is a church guy, but we have had 15 different churches represented in that room at one time.”

Casner said the men range from conservative to charismatic and everything in between. Baptists, Catholics and former Jehovah’s Witnesses have gathered together at the barn; with some guys driving from as far as Columbia and Salisbury, N.C. in search of a deeper connection.

“Many of us come from different backgrounds with different stories, but when you tell your story it turns out we all have a very similar story,” said Tega Cay resident Bryan Fair. “A lot of men walk around with extremely wounded hearts. This is seeing the hearts of men restored.”

The Barn International Ministries is a nonprofit. All men are invited to the barn, located at 8800 Collins Road in Indian Land, Tuesdays at 7 p.m. For more information, call 704-608-2411.

Stephanie Jadrnicek: