Strength team delivers weighty message

Team member John Steele braces between two beds of nails while Kevin Suter bench-presses more than 200 pounds. Both are members of the Mike Hagen Strength Team. - Jesse Beals/staff photo
Team member John Steele braces between two beds of nails while Kevin Suter bench-presses more than 200 pounds. Both are members of the Mike Hagen Strength Team.
— image credit: Jesse Beals/staff photo

Men use more than muscle to inspire the young, old.

They claim to be gentle giants, men with hearts bigger than their bulging biceps.

They are the 21-member Mike Hagen Strength Team, comprised of ex-football players and wrestlers, bodybuilders and musclemen, teachers and preachers.

From Florida to Montana to Washington, Thailand to Russia to Honduras, they travel the globe, inspiring both young and old.

Their motto is motivation and they are in Silverdale for five performances at Faith Fellowship Church through Sunday along with a handful of appearances at public schools.

The “night shows” at Faith Fellowship Church combine feats of strength with prayer, while the school assemblies are simply designed to inspire students to excel.

“It’s all about character building and education,” said 49-year-old Mike Hagen, founder and president, of the school assemblies. “Really, I believe, what kids need today is to be encouraged.”

The team plans to visit between 950 and 1,000 schools this year alone and already has stopped at about 200 since August.

“Part of education needs to be inspiration and motivation, that a young person believes in themselves,” Hagen said. “I believe what kids need today is to be encouraged. So many kids we talk to have low self-esteem.”

Hagen and company use their ultra-large muscles to carry out feats of strength unthinkable to most, illustrating the power of the heart and the importance of desire.

“Our heart is to reach the people, to reach the community, to help churches grow,” team member Kevin Suter said, following Wednesday’s opening night show. “We have a blast, we have a good time.”

Suter joined Hagen, Clarence “C-Train” Lee and John Steele for Wednesday’s show, highlighted by Steele smashing a stack of bricks with his head and karate-chopping his way through a series of flaming wood stacks.

“It’s incredible, rolling up frying pans, tearing license plates, biting metal bars with your teeth and bending them around,” said Suter, who joined the team one-and-a-half years ago.

Lee smashes soda cans with his bare hands, Steele blows up hot-water bottles until they burst, Hagen rips phone books in half, Suter bends horseshoes to look like hearts. Steele even sandwiched himself between 2,000 nails while Suter laid on top of him while bench-pressing more than 200 pounds.

“There’s technique to everything, but there’s a lot of strength to it,” Suter said. “We train hard, we train very hard.”

Of Suter’s many feats, twisting the horseshoe is by far the hardest, he said. Only he and two other team members even try it.

“If you slip and mess up it will a rip a hole in your hand,” Suter explained.

Sunday evening’s show — scheduled for 7 p.m. — is touted as the “World Record Show” when the team plans to push its own limits.

“Every show is a little different,” Hagen said.

The glitz and glamor of wowing audiences is secondary to the team’s goal of inspiring average citizens, students and church-goers alike. But it’s a job Suter believes is important.

“We get to go in and talk to the kids and share our stories with them and try to make a difference in their lives,” Suter said of the school assemblies. “I wish there was someone there when I was young who did what we do.”

But while the team spreads its message around the world, Suter said leaving home for extended stints is sometimes trying. He’d only been to three states — Nevada, California and Hawaii — prior to joining the team in 2006. Now, however, he’s been all across America — and the world.

“It’s exciting, it’s neat to see all the different cultures. It’s neat to go different places. You get to meet incredible people, you get to see things you’d never be able to see,” he said. “It’s hard to leave your wife and kids, but at least you get to help somebody else’s, so it’s exciting.”

Faith Fellowship Church is located at 6251 Newberry Hill Road in Silverdale. Both tonight and Sunday’s show begin at 7 p.m. Team members share their stories and reference the Bible between each act of strength.

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