By Derek Gean
MARSHFIELD – An annual outreach of the Webster County Baptist Association led to the Gospel being presented to more than 1,000 sportsmen at Camp Arrowhead, Aug. 28.
At least 21 people made decisions to accept Christ as Savior at the fourth annual Outdoor Sportsmen’s Event; an additional 51 rededicated their lives to Christ; 19 requested information about church membership and 176 had prayer requests. The decisions came as a result of the obedience of more than 200 community volunteers, composed primarily of the association’s 24 member churches.
“Churches need to learn to engage people away from the church,” said John Shuler, Webster County Baptist Association director of missions. “Half of these people that come would never even darken the church door – we get one shot at it.”
Several volunteers have worked diligently over the past four years to build the outreach into a smooth-running, popular community event. Association churches provided busses and vans, along with drivers, to shuttle in the hundreds of people parking in overflow lots at various locations in Marshfield.
Starting out in its first year with around 200 participants, the event has grown exponentially each year, with 1,100 taking part last year and more 1,379 registered this year.
Aside from the bow shoot and food, the event was free and each participant had the opportunity to receive a sportsmen’s Bible and a DVD featuring the day’s keynote speaker, Jason Cruise. Cruise, of Me and Dad Ministries out of Franklin, Tenn., used sportsmanship as a way to share the Gospel. Many of his analogies were used by the volunteers throughout the day.
“The writer of Proverbs tells us there is a way that seems right to man, but that path leads to destruction,” said Gary Dedmon, pastor of Diggins Baptist Church.
“There are a lot of good guys in the world that think they are on the right path, but they aren’t. Romans 3:23 says ‘For we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God,’ and actually what that is, is missing the mark. These bow hunters understand that because they are shooting a target. Those verses tie it all up and share with them the need of salvation. In the outdoors, a hunter can realize God has created everything. Most guys that hunt, even though they are not believers, they realize God created this and put us in control of it; this is a good way to show the guys,” he said.
The event provided activities for the whole family. From 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., including games, displays, music and much more. Prizes were also presented following Cruise’s message. Participants had the opportunity to win bows, other sportsmen’s gear and even an all-terrain vehicle. Various churches provided “comfort stations” which featured free refreshments for participants. The comfort stations also gave volunteers additional opportunities to engage people with the Gospel.
Todd Hungerford, First Baptist Church Marshfield, was in charge of setting up the targets for the bow shoot. He said he has been helping with the event for the past few years because he sees the need to share the Gospel with this niche of people.
“There are a lot of unchurched people out there, hunters specifically; we are just basically trying to get what I call ‘bubba’ to this. We try to put all the volunteers in one shirt, because we may be the only Bible they ever see, so we need to be the Bible,” he said.
Although many just stay and hear the speaker because of the prizes, many often leave with the ultimate prize – a relationship with Jesus, Hungerford said.
“We want to be helpful in planting the seed. We plant the seed and somebody else will come along and will fertilize it or grow it. The speakers do a great job of planting that seed and getting it going,” Hungerford said.
The Christian environment does not seem to be a turnoff for the hundreds of hunters who turn out; in fact, many find they are drawn to it.
“I have shot this event the last couple of years, me and buddies shoot all over the country, this is probably one of the best shoots you can shoot at,” said Willie Jones, hunter. “It’s good Christian people, nobody’s throwing fits, it’s just a good atmosphere,” he said
Shuler said he expects the association will continue to provide the out reach in the future.
Ronnie Whiteford, one of the event organizers, agrees. He said the success comes down to obedience on the part of many others.
“Several people had been praying for this event, it is just so cool the way everyone was prepared. We have all come together and it just exploded,” he said.