Fellowship brings together businessmen of faith

EVERETT — When electrician Jim Eylander attended a meeting of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship in Seattle in 1963 it sparked a change in his life.

The owner of Eylander Electric in Everett had a firm belief in God and on that day in that room he found himself among like-minded businessmen striving to succeed in the private sector without sacrificing their faith.

“I felt a different spirit among the people,” he said. “It was such a good spirit. When you hear testimony from men of how faith had helped them with business and life it brings tears to your eyes.”

Eylander started a chapter in Everett soon after and became its first president. Now 85, he’s still running his business and showing up for the weekly chapter meetings.

“I’m excited because we help people spiritually and we help them get on their feet emotionally without any therapy. It’s just being among us,” he said.

The chapter is part of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship International, a faith-based organization created by Demos Shakarian in 1951 as a means of merging belief in God with business practices. Today there are chapters throughout the United States and in more than 100 countries, according to the organization’s website.

Each one brings together men of different ages from nearly every denomination of Christianity willing to share how their connection with God has helped them find success in commerce and strength in their personal lives.

“The members of our chapters are men, not exceptional men, and just average business people, who know the Lord and love Him,” reads the mission statement of the organization. “They tell other men what they have actually experienced of God, men like themselves, men who might not believe what a preacher said — but who will listen to a plumber, an engineer or a salesman because they are plumbers, engineers and salesmen themselves.”

In Everett, the men gather every Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. to read a bit of scripture and swap a lot of stories. It’s less Bible study than bonding.

At its peak, membership reached 200. These days it is closer to a dozen men, a small tight-knit group who gather at a roundtable in the restaurant of the Holiday Inn.

Tony Cataldo of Everett, the current president, explained part of the decline is due to the rise of chapters in other communities like Bothell.

While the crowd is smaller, nothing’s changed in their purpose.

“It’s one thing to believe. It’s another thing to work,” Cataldo said. “We’re all driven by the goal of passing on knowledge to the next generation.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@heraldnet.com.

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