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PK organizers make it clear that they couldn't hold these events without volunteers, particularly the women.
"Our joke was always that without the women behind the men, the conferences wouldn't come off," says Peggy Ruppe. Her husband, Steve, is listed as Promise Keepers' official spokesman, but Peggy is working the media room feverishly. "We used to feed--our record is 60,000 box lunches served in 23 minutes," she says. "You couldn't do that without women!"
But, she stresses, "we are not doormats." Although her husband was "already a good person," Ruppe says she urged him to go to his first PK event in 1994 because "I really wanted him to hear what I had heard they were saying. I wanted him to have a closer relationship with Jesus Christ, so I sent him."
Many women at this event speak of "sending" their men to Promise Keepers. "That's the way it works with a lot of the wives, mothers, sisters, girlfriends--they're the ones who urge the men to go," Ruppe says. "We're not the stereotype with the little frilly dresses."
At least a third of the women interviewed by Westword are single divorcees. One of them, Clarisse (who didn't want her last name used), is selling books. Since 1993 she's worked at two PK rallies in Boulder, two at Mile High Stadium and one in Oregon. Concerned about media bias, Clarisse speaks hesitantly but says, "I just think it benefits everybody. Not just Christians or people who are religious. Like today, the number-one issue in the headlines is morality, with the whole Clinton thing, and Promise Keepers is an event that calls men to be a man of integrity. As a woman who has gone through the trauma of divorce, who's seen her kids hurt, I see this as a great avenue to prevent divorce and encourage marriages."
"Oh, it's fantastic," says Laura Riegelman, who is working her first rally. "To find this many men in one room is an amazing experience for me. I'm a single woman, and part of the reason I believe I'm single is because of the lack of commitment of the men in my life. I was married for fifteen years and have been divorced for fifteen years." Riegelman says her ex-husband is "saved," but she doesn't hope for reconciliation.
Hundreds of men in the arena are also single. In fact, during his speech on strong marriages, author Dennis Rainey asks these men to stand. He then asks all of the married men nearby to reach over and touch the single guys during Rainey's special prayer for them.
Considering that all of these men are learning how to make commitments, does Riegelman think she might find a good man here?
"Possibly," she says. "There is a little hope, but what gives me more hope is knowing that there are good men out there who can love the Lord and support their families."
Clarisse says that the possibility of finding a man at PK has never entered her mind, despite her six rallies. "I'm here for a reason," she says. "Not to meet people."
And although the crush of men that emerges from the arena during intermissions is good-natured and well-mannered, many have less spiritual, more basic work left to do on themselves. This is evident in the few women's restrooms that haven't been declared off-limits to women with paper signs announcing that, for this weekend, they're "Men's." Women must pass several of these converted women's rooms before they find one they can use; even there, toilet seats have been left up and bowls are yellow with unflushed urine.
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