Before the Robertson family made ducks their dynasty, the executive producer and host of the Pursuit Channel’s Final Descent Outdoors, 31-year-old Brad Clay, wore camouflage and donned a beard on TV. His target: to deliver the message of the cross to men that have an innate passion for God’s great outdoors, but have yet to know the Creator.
“I tell people I don’t know how to shave because I didn’t have a father to teach me.” His dad, Matt, succumbed to leukemia when Brad was just six years old. The deep void from the loss of his father has shaped Brad’s life and inspired a passion for Fathers in the Field.
“My dad abandoned me by dying. He didn’t choose to walk away, but the father wound was as painful as if he had decided to leave the family.” Although God has many names – Healer, Savior, Alpha and Omega, the name “God the Father” always struck a chord in Brad’s heart.
A father was something Brad longed for. As years went by, he became a lost, bitter and arrogant teenage boy thinking life had cheated him out of a dad. “In return, I had grown up focusing on taking care of myself over everyone else.”
When Brad accepted Jesus as His Lord and Savior at age 15 at a youth event, the first things the Holy Spirit began working on were his self-centeredness and self-sufficiency – characteristics that had been his shield protecting him from further hurt, loneliness and disappointment. Brad had grown up with no one as protector and provider of the home, so out of the fear from watching His father die within six months of diagnosis, he overcompensated by building walls and covering up his woundedness.
“The sacrificial scars of my Heavenly Father began to remove the scars of my father’s death,” said Brad. “Psalm 68:5 says ‘God is the Father to the fatherless’ and He became that to me. For the first time in a long time, I accepted and felt the love of a father, except this time it would not be removed by sickness or death.”
Ironically, Brad was introduced to Fathers in the Field through a television commercial that aired three years ago. “I was that little boy that Fathers in the Field embraces,” said Brad. “There’s a Brad Clay in your town that you can step in the gap to mentor, love and encourage. Be that for a little boy. What’s most costly than your money is your time. Fathers in the Field needs foot soldiers and people to come alongside to pray and support this high calling.”
It’s apparent when talking to Brad that, over time, God has redeemed the loss of his father to shape his life in family fortifying and Kingdom building ways. Foremost, the former youth pastor’s deeply committed to his wife April and to be a present and active father to their three children, the youngest son born this month.
“I went to being a six-year-old kid to 30 and robbed of the simple things most kids get to experience with their fathers like warming up before a Little League game, learning to drive, and yes, even shaving,” said Brad. “I want to be there in ways my dad couldn’t be there for me.”
Today, his influence among outdoorsman, the “good ‘ole boys” Brad says, has created a broad platform as an advocate and voice for Fathers in the Field, but more importantly, God the Father.
The nationally broadcasted show, Final Descent Outdoors, is just one facet of Brad’s non-profit organization, As You Are Going Ministries, named from the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19). The show reached more than 550,000 people in December with adrenaline-laced adventures and the inexhaustible love of Christ.
“I grew up in rural Oklahoma 50 miles away from the closest Wal-Mart where hunting and fishing is all we ever did,” said Brad. “Now, I get to do it for a living for the sole purpose of sharing the Gospel of Christ and challenging my viewers to be better men, husbands and fathers.”
Robbed of the gifts only a father can bestow on his son, Brad applauds the Mentor Fathers of Fathers of the Field who communicate the power and forgiveness of God to boys growing up fatherless just like him. The father wound can be redeemed, as it was in Brad’s life, but it will take men stepping up, investing their time and living out God’s love, forgiveness and grace in real and tangible ways in the wounded hearts of boys.
“There are boys in your community without a man to teach them how to be a man. Be the man to show them how and help them heal from the pain buried deep inside. It’s a gift that can save a life and influence generations.”