Our “Lion’s Den” of Victory
How creating an oasis for youth has helped me rediscover my passions in life.
World Tribune: We’ve heard a lot of buzz surrounding your “Lion’s Den” movement toward the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival. Tell us more about it.
Mark Metzner (Royal Palms Chapter men’s leader, Los Angeles): It was born out of my prayer to support one of my young men’s district leaders. He was struggling to do home visits and expressed that having a more casual setting to connect with others would be great. I know the youth are very busy, so I took the initiative to make it into a reality for them.
The young man came up with the name “Lion’s Den,” and we began hosting a gathering every Saturday, open to all the members and guests of Royal Palms Chapter. We chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, have dialogue, eat and play video games, chess or music together. It’s a warm and safe environment for youth to open up and build friendship.
WT: Sounds exciting! What has come out of these gatherings?
Mark: On the first night, we welcomed 12 people, three of whom were youth guests, and one of them registered for the 50K Festival! It was a big deal for the youth member to help his friend register; you could see everyone’s excitement.
The youth are opening up about their struggles and seeking guidance on how to break through. The ones who come out to these gatherings are responding to me now, whereas before it was a challenge. They’re starting to do home visits on their own, and their attendance at discussion meetings has gone up significantly! It’s even helping the men’s division unite and bond, too.
Other youth in the chapter are finding out about it, and it’s growing into a four-divisional effort to promote and make these gatherings great.
So far, more than 140 Lions of Justice from our chapter have registered for the 50K Festival. We’re determined to continue this momentum toward Sept. 23.
My greatest joy is seeing [the youth] breaking through their struggles, and knowing that I’m playing a role in that.
WT: How does this all connect to your personal life?
Mark: I’m seeing the interconnectedness of it all. The different hobbies, work and experiences that I’ve had are all coming back to me in a way that contributes directly to kosen-rufu. It’s reawakening the things I had forgotten about or had to put aside because of my busy schedule. I’ve always enjoyed cooking, making art and playing music, but now I get to do these things with and for the youth. My lasagna is the best in town, and I recently recorded an original song!
I’m just so excited because the youth are excited, and I feel like a young men’s division member. My greatest joy is seeing them breaking through their struggles, and knowing that I’m playing a role in that. Because of Lion’s Den, I have so much more confidence in myself to connect with and register many more youth for the festival.
WT: Why is the 50K Festival important to you?
Mark: I truly see the need for justice, unity and humanism in the world, and I want young people to feel empowered to be leaders in their lives.
As a men’s division member, I understand the struggles they’re going through—I’ve been through them. My prayer is for the happiness of each youth in our chapter, and I’m determined to overcome my own struggles and achieve personal victory alongside them.