From time to time, we want to bring you the stories of some of the fathers and sons who have attended Christ in the Smokies’ Passage to Manhood Camp. We pray you will be blessed as you read their stories.
Brandon Smith’s son Shannon was entering his senior year in high school and thinking about where he would head for college when the two men came to Passage to Manhood Camp. Brandon himself was busy teaching and wrapping up seminary, but he was also actively looking for a community of men to help him welcome Shannon into what it means to be a Godly man. “After reading Raising a Modern Day Knight, I had been looking for this because I believed it would help Shannon make wise choices,” Brandon shares.
Shannon was understandably anxious and unsure about what to expect at camp, but he was also excited to go. Brandon explains, “We both are pretty close, and he has always seen me as his Dad, but he also had a lot of inner turmoil with his relationship with his father. I have raised Shannon as my own since he was born, but because there wasn’t officially an adoption, I’ve struggled my self with my role.”
Brandon was hopeful about what Shannon would experience at camp. He wanted Shannon to “know what it looks like to have a healthy relationship with men in a way that brings glory to God through lives dedicated to God. I also wanted to help him process his own feelings towards his father, without carrying baggage and shame related to his story.”
Brandon remembers their time at camp as liberating, as Shannon was able to confront his feelings towards his birth father. Brandon was also able to process his own pain, and he left the last day really owning his relationship with Shannon as his father. “In so many ways, my own problems had kept me from bonding with him, even though he had bonded with me,” he reflects, sharing how he felt free to be a dad after being in the company of so many men who loved their sons—both adopted and biological.
Since the pair returned home, life has continued to be busy, but Brandon has been intentional to spend time with Shannon. They bought bicycles and have been riding the trails together. Brandon says their outlook toward life has been much more unified since camp, which has been helpful as Shannon chooses a college.
In their post-camp life, Brandon finds himself more comfortable with the trust that Shannon has in him as a father, and he feels Shannon appreciates him more. “Because Shannon’s father is still a part of his life, and Shannon’s father and I don’t agree on how to raise Shannon, there really was a barrier in my own heart. There was a part of me that was terrified of being rejected as a stepparent. Shannon had always looked at me as Dad, and his father was more or less emotionally absent anyway, but I really just thought at this stage his father would have done many things differently, like help him with a car or help him pick a college. I thought that I’d be an afterthought, and I just had sort of closed my self off in many ways. When I read Shannon’s letter to me, heard him process his feelings towards his father in real time, and realized who I was in his life, I went home and found a Christian therapist to help me process everything.”
“Camp helped me walk away with a son,” he continues. “The biggest takeaway as a stepparent who has done everything, gotten up with him when he was sick, picked out his schools, taken him to his games, and made sure he was taken care of. . . I realized that I was internally operating from a basis of fear. Camp helped me overcome my fear and embrace my son.”
Brandon expresses deep gratitude to Christ in the Smokies for providing the Passage to Manhood Camp and encourages other men out there to take the leap to attend with their sons. “I know there are many in my shoes out there that could benefit from this,” says the proud father.