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Ken Bevel stars in the movie “Courageous.” (Photo: courtesy of  Ken Bevel)

 A native of Jacksonville, Fla., Ken Bevel is a graduate of the University of Memphis with a B.S. in computer engineering technology. He is also a graduate of the Naval Postgraduate School with a M.B.A. in logistics management.

After 20 years of active service in the United States Marine Corps, Capt. Bevel retired to serve in the ministry on the staff of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Ga. He is now senior associate pastor.

He and his wife, Lauana, have been happily married for 14 years and they have two children, Kyra and Kaleb.

 Bevel is recognized for having played Lieutenant Michael Simmons in the inspirational film “Fireproof.” Here, the Marine Corps Captain-turned-pastor/actor talks about life and his latest role as Nathan Hayes in Sherwood Pictures’ new movie “Courageous.”

What interested you in “Courageous”?

One of the things is the topic — fatherhood. There are many men who deeply desire to be a man of integrity upon whom their children can look to for guidance, instruction, affirmation and love. However, due to a lack of wise counsel, many are straying from the path of true fatherhood and settling for good instead of great. As a man, I long to be a part of the solution that will assist men in being the fathers they were designed to be.  

Tell me a little about your character, Nathan Hayes?

Nathan Hayes is a man most of us would consider a “good” man. He is a hard-working African American male, with a beautiful wife and three wonderful children. Although his life may seem picturesque initially, his earlier years were filled with identity struggles, violence and doubt due in part to the absence of a father.

However, through the assistance of a mentor, William Barrett, Nathan was able to learn what it means to be a man. While the presence of a mentor helped his belief in God and personal growth, he believed there was more to being a father and was willing to seek after it.

Are there any parallels between Nathan’s life and your own?  

Very much so. I see myself in the same light as Nathan Hayes. I too grew up with my father being absent from our home for many years. As a result of the lack of affirmation and encouragement, I grew up doubting myself as a young man and struggling to understand how to deal with the issues of life.  

What message do you want people to take away from the movie?

The message I pray people walk away with is one of hope and the ability to understand “failure is not final.” As fathers and parents, each of us has missed the mark in one way or another. We have provided incorrect advice, scorned our children excessively or crushed their spirits. This is not the end. Our children still need us for encouragement, instruction and for the greatest commodity, love.

So our approach should not be as one who withdraws him or herself from their lives. We should be willing to ask for forgiveness and earn their trust through intentionally rebuilding the relationship.

What does fatherhood mean to you?

Fatherhood means acting as a guide for our children. The job of the guide is assisting our children to safely navigating through life by providing continual love, warnings, protection and guidance.  

What interested you in acting after serving in the Marine Corps?

I wanted to act because I was excited about the impact the Sherwood Movies were having on my life and countless others. Although there were many jobs on the set, acting drew my attention the most.

How did the Marine Corps prepare you to embody and accurately portray the bonding in “Courageous”?

Just like the Marine Corps, most paramilitary organizations are a band of brothers, who seek unity and are willing to go the extra mile for his or her fellow officers. So, this aspect of portraying the character was very easy because the environment was familiar.

Sherwood Pictures’ films like “Fireproof” and “Courageous” have really helped bring the genre of Christian-based movies to mainstream audiences. How do feel about that being part of your film legacy?

I have enjoyed working with Sherwood Pictures and the seeing firsthand how our culture is being impacted by the movies. With that said, a film legacy is not what I am seeking after. My joy comes from seeing mainstream audiences enjoy an entertaining movie, which happens to be produced by Christians, while at the same time being challenged in their faith, family, marriage and level of integrity.

Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

Why do you believe what you believe? I feel this is an important question, because it outlines one’s motives for every action on and off the screen.

Are you happy?

Rather than say “I am happy,” I would rather say “I am joyful.” To me, joy is something I can always have and it is based upon truth versus short-term feelings. An example would be: I would be “happy” to see my children receive academic awards, but I take joy in the fact that they receive academic rewards due to their honesty, integrity and desire to impact their community. Joy has a more lasting impact.

What is your guiltiest pleasure?

My guiltiest pleasure doesn’t come from a dark secret. It’s being a kid with my kids. Some may say it’s getting on the kids level, but I really enjoy doing things like getting inside the “kiddie” jumpy house with my kids and doing back-flips, falling down and laughing with them, or playing hide-and-seek with my kids when all other adults are sitting around talking. I feel like I should be engaged with other adults during those times, but I really enjoy spending time with my children!

What was the last book you read?

The last book I read was “Courageous Living” by Michael Catt.

The book went into the details of living a courageous life in the face of constant adversity. He provided several examples to clarify what courageous living looks like.

The book challenged me personally and caused me to question, “Am I living a courageous life or just getting by?” A great book and a must read!

What are you listening to on your iPod?  

I listen to mostly gospel and contemporary Christian music on my iPod.  When I am working out and need the extra push, I put in a little gospel rap by Lacrae. That really gets my heart pumping!

What is the most important lesson that you learned from your time in the military?

Real leaders never announce they are leaders, people are just willing to follow them.

What has been the biggest obstacle you have had to overcome?

Pride! As a young child, I experienced many difficult times where I felt like a failure who could not be accepted. As I began to mature, I was recognized for many achievements like sports, academics and physical fitness.

As I climbed the ladder of success, my pride was far ahead of me. When I learned of how pride’s damaging effects destroyed relationships and lives, I asked for forgiveness and began putting the needs of others before my own. This was a very difficult obstacle to overcome.

How do you get through the tough times?

The way I get through tough times is with prayer. It is impossible for me to handle life’s challenges on my own.

When do you feel the most content?

I feel the most content when I have my family around me.

What motivates you?

My motivation comes from assisting others to achieve their goals. I have realized that life is more about others than it is about me. I have determined that I must be able to give of my resources and time unselfishly to equip others for great things.

What was the best business decision you ever made, and what was the worst?

The best business decision I ever made was purchasing a home. Although intimidating, after the purchase we received quite a few financial benefits from owning our own home.

One of the worst business decisions made was investing in a home-purchasing workbook for purchasing foreclosed homes with a credit card. Bad move.

When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

In the mirror, I see an unworthy man that is incredibly blessed. The question I often ask is: “Why me?”

What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps?

Don’t try to follow in my footsteps. Everyone has a unique path for their lives. If you live out this purpose, there will be a great sense of accomplishment and fulfillment that cannot be achieved by following the footsteps of another human being.