Alex Eklund had no idea that a simple Facebook status– “I’d rather have a Proverbs 31 woman than a Victoria’s Secret model”– would go viral. He says the update was “no different from the thousands of other updates” he’d posted on his Facebook page.
Now, three months later, Alex and four other Baylor University students– Michael Bartlemay, Michael Blair, Jake Cockerill and Matthew Reid– are running Live31, a movement that’s taken on larger-than-life proportions (already their Facebook page has nearly 14,000 followers).
The movement challenges men to seek out women who exemplify the traits found in Proverbs 31. Women are encouraged to let go of the world’s message that physical beauty is everything and strive to find beauty in God instead.
Live31 caught my attention because Rebel In Fine Linen was born from the message behind Proverbs 31. The Live31 movement is also growing rapidly and I’m always interested in the people God uses for ministry.
What I learned after speaking with these guys is that they’re on fire for Christ, they’re mature beyond their years and their families did an incredible job raising them.
Also, interviewing them made me feel old.
Because I told Matthew to make sure and tell his mom that she is a Proverbs 31 woman in his life. Because I told Alex and Jake that I’m a mother of boys and it’s my prayer that one day my guys would turn out as Christ-centered as the Live31 guys are.
Mostly, I felt old when I told them I was only 14 years older than them. They’re 18. Basically, I’m twice their age.
The guys took time out of their very busy college-student schedules to speak with me (and in Michael Blair’s case, email me back).
I’m so appreciative.
Below are my questions, their answers and insight into a movement sweeping the United States.
Alex Eklund; 18. Alex is a freshman; he is majoring in Political Science and Philosophy.
Jake Cockerill; 18. Jake’s a freshman; he’s majoring in Entrepreneurship.
Matthew Reid; 20. Matthew is a sophomore; he’s majoring in Environmental Health Science.
Michael Bartlemay; 18. Michael is a freshman; he’s majoring in Entrepreneurship and Marketing with minors in Political Science and German.
Michael Blair; 19. Michael is the Freshman Class Senator at Baylor; he’s majoring in Public Relations and Political Science.
Q and A:
Since I know people are wondering, are you dating or single?
Were you raised in the church?
Alex: Yes. I’ve attended the same church since third grade. We’ve always been very active and I’ve been in youth leadership.
Jake: I grew up in a Christian home but didn’t have a regular church. That’s why my main criteria when I was looking at colleges was finding one that would allow me to grow in my faith.
Matthew: I grew up singing in a Gospel choir and ministering through music. My grandfather, uncle and cousin were and are pastors; church became a part of me.
Michael Bartlemay: Yes. I have a lot of experience with mission trips also.
Michael Blair: Yes, I was.
What is your role with Live31?
Alex: On paper I’m the CEO.
Jake: I’m in charge of marketing.
Matthew: Social media.
Michael Bartlemay: Keeping track of finances, what’s going in and coming out.
Michael Blair: I am Live31′s public relations coordinator.
What does Live31 mean to you?
Alex: The idea behind Live31 is really just an extension of myself. It’s my life pertaining to relationships, it’s my frame of mind and has to do with my own self-image.
Jake: The message is what I live my whole life for. I want to look inward and find a woman who loves Christ more than she loves me. I see people in society not living that way and they’re missing out.
Matthew: Live31 encourages women not to give in to societal things like whether they’re just dressing a certain way to please some cute guy, and encourages men to focus on the virtuous side of women.
Michael Bartlemay: This ministry is my passion because it targets insecurity, which I’ve dealt with personally. It just really bothers me and I want to help fight it. I want to make sure people are pursuing Godly relationships.
Michael Blair: It’s unrecognized service towards the promotion of God’s Kingdom.
What is your hope for Live31?
Alex: We’ve talked about expanding into live media. We’re connecting with up-and-coming performing artists for cross-promotion. We’d like to get our name out there and participate in events and functions. Eventually, maybe we’ll do our own events or conferences.
Jake: I’d like to continue to see people impacted. I want to see people turn to God and stop looking at people just on face value.
Matthew: We’re really hoping to get nonprofit status so that we can take money from donations and T-shirt sales and donate it to other ministries. If we’re able to change one person’s life, we’ve done well.
Michael Bartlemay: We’d like to grow and get nonprofit status. I think our goal is to eventually host events and attend conferences. We’re definitely moving in the direction of building our brand.
Was there a Proverbs 31 woman in your life who, through their influence, prompted you to create Live31?
Alex: My mom. My mom does so many things for our family. She works and keeps track of the budget. She is such a Godly woman. I also have a good female friend who is always striving to be a Proverbs 31 woman and the two of us have discussed that a lot.
Jake: My mom, both my parents really. Seeing the relationship that those two had together and how they lived with Christ at the center of their marriage had a huge impact. If I want a relationship to last, I want to do it like my parents have. To see what they’ve gone through and where they are now- they shaped me for my future wife.
Matthew: I don’t want to sound cliché, but my mother was a really big role model in my life. She was a single mom, which was difficult, but she was still able to do so much of what Proverbs 31 describes. She’s a modern-day Proverbs 31 woman in action.
Michael Bartlemay: Both of my parents impacted me. They instilled in a me a respect for women. They taught me to act like a Southern gentleman.
Michael Blair: Yes, my mom and both of my grandmas. All of my grandparents have been married for more than 50 years and my parents have been married for more than 25. They have all shown me what the true meaning of sacrifice and love are.
What type of woman would you eventually like to marry?
Alex: When it comes down to it, I’m just trying to find a person who I can grow in my faith with, someone who is grounded in the Gospel and a person who is willing to take a family in the same direction I’d like them to go.
Jake: I want to marry a woman who I can trust to raise our children. I want a solid foundation for my children’s future, like I had growing up. I want a wife who loves Christ.
Matthew: I’m praying for a wife who really takes scripture and applies it, a woman who doesn’t just believe what her religion says. I want her Christianity and her faith to be her own, not what people told her to believe.
Michael Bartlemay: I want a wife who is trying to become all that she can be in Him.
Michael Blair: Michael answers this question beautifully in a letter to his future wife. You can find that here.
What are some things that have changed for you since Live31 was created?
Alex: We spend a lot of time working on the movement. On a more fundamental level, we’re under a microscope so we have to be extremely intentional about our relationships. We have to be positive with our self-image.
Jake: We hear people say the movement is amazing and I agree that we are under a microscope now. I really have to make sure that any feelings I may have for someone are for the right reasons.
Matthew: I work on Live31 pretty regularly. People on campus have been talking about it a lot too.
Michael Bartlemay: It’s keeping us all busy. My parents love the movement too; I call them and ask what we should do and how to pay for things. They’re really supportive. We didn’t envision anything like this was going to happen.
Michael Blair: The biggest change in my week to week schedule has been coming up with a creative blog post once a week that blesses others. But its also been great to see just how many people are dedicated to their future spouses and want to honor them even though they may not have met them yet.
You can learn more about the Live31 movement at www.Live31.org. You can support the ministry by purchasing a T-Shirt. Money raised will also go to organizations like No More Tears, To Write Love on Her Arms, International Justice Mission and Rewriting Beautiful– all groups that minister to women who struggle with self-image.