I entered the room and immediately started hearing tales of great adventures. The stories were always interesting. Gradually more and more people arrived, greeting one another and talking about the chili that would be served for dinner.
This was the monthly Faith in the Field meeting.
John Surles and I met a few months back. We started talking about hunting and fishing, sharing a few of our own stories with each other as well as what we had coming up in the near future. He then told me about Faith in the Field.
His brother started a program in the Piedmont area of the state where sportsmen could get together and talk about the outdoors as well as how their faith made them who they are today; A testimony of their love for nature and God.
John moved from the area and decided to start another branch himself. The group was formed by different people from different denominations, yet they had the same passions in life.
One gentleman painted a picture with his words of an early morning on Oregon Inlet. The surf was rather calm, a few wispy clouds, and the large warm sun cresting the horizon in the East. The water was a beautiful blue that blended in with the pastel pinks and oranges of the rising dawn. “How could one deny such a sight was anything but drawn in Heaven,” he said.
As his words sank in, I thought about some of my past hunts. When I taught hunters’ education, one of my own lines as I would explain the great opportunities here in North Carolina was “North Carolina may not be Heaven, but you certainly have to pass through here to get there.”
I was blessed to be the featured speaker and hoped my words would be worthwhile. After the initial nervousness wore off and I got to the flow of my talk, I surveyed the group in front of me. I am much more comfortable on my own in the wilds of nature than I am in front of several dozen people. But I have learned that I can break the anxiety by focusing on each person individually and talk to one person, then move on to the next and talk while presenting the speech to the whole. It is similar to hunting. Find the one spot and focus. Put everything else out of your mind other than that one field, that one animal, that one spot.
The group consisted of several ladies, and then roughly three generations of men ranging from high school/early college to early middle age to retirement aged seniors. I watched as they intently listened. Between the initial greetings that started the meeting until the point where I was nearing the end of my testimony, I pictured each enjoying what they love.
I could see the one gray haired gentleman in his skiff tossing the line for a big red, another gentleman, an obvious dog lover, watching in awe and pride as his pointer marks a covey of quail. Still another ambitious soul is the vision of the athletic adventurer; young, muscular, and ready to see all that this world has to offer.
Afterwards, I spoke with many individually and the impressions were nearly all correct. Everything from bowhunting to fly fishing to dog hunting to spear fishing was represented, yet one thing was minutely consistent; their faith.
I spoke with one older gentleman at length. We discussed how much we both missed the days when quail were plentiful. He convinced me that one of the greatest sounds you can hear is the bellow of a dog striking a game animal’s trail. He didn’t hunt as much anymore. He did however have memories of a lifetime of enriching experiences in the outdoors that he was willing to share without delay.
I can only hope that I can do the same in my latter days.
You can visit FaithIntheField.org to see more of what it is about and start your own groups.