On a hot summer evening in August, the West-Berry farm in Columbus, MS became holy ground. The commercial catfish farm co-owned by ministry supporter Ronnie West and his brother Steve, was the outdoor playground for Fathers in the Field Mentor Fathers and Field Buddies to fish, fellowship and feast.
For 12-year-old Derriquon, the event was more than a fish fry, it was a public proclamation of his new life in Christ. Baptized in a horse’s water trough by his Mentor Father Robert Gable, Derriquon’s decision for Christ was a courageous testimony to other Field Buddies learning about their Heavenly Father.
“There were tears,” said Robert, who arranged for Derriquon’s mom, Danielle, and other family members to be present. “It was a good moment and great opportunity to share our bond with others. Derriquon’s only concern was about the size of the bucket,” Robert added with a laugh.
The city-wide event allowed Mentor Fathers from three churches to build camaraderie and witness the ministry in action with their Field Buddies and families. “God used the generosity of the West brothers to provide a catfish farm as a platform to share the Gospel and to help those involved in the ministry to know they are not alone,” said Kevin Drewry, Southeastern Missionary, Fathers in the Field. “It was an amazing event we plan to host bi-annually because community and providing opportunities to share and encourage one another is important.”
Being a Mentor Father is always a family affair and the Gable family is no exception. Robert always wanted to serve God by incorporating his love for hunting with sharing the Gospel. When Fathers in the Field was introduced at Fairview Baptist Church last spring, Robert’s wife Kelly said, “I think that’swhat you’ve been looking for.”
Kelly supports Robert in the ministry by protecting the time he and Derriquon spend together and participating when needed, whether it’s Sunday lunches or taking Derriquon to and from Vacation Bible School (VBS). That act alone provided valuable car time for Kelly to talk to Derriquon about Jesus. Her involvement in Derriquon’s life during VBS week allowed Robert to help bridge the faith gap through their Journey Guide talks and a meeting with Fairview’s College Pastor David Dees.
Derriquon told Robert and David he had prayed to receive Christ but didn’t remember when he had made that commitment. Derriquon agreed to make that day the day he remembers for accepting Christ as His Lord and Savior and they prayed together.
With the next step being baptism, Derriquon’s hesitancy wasn’t being dunked in water, it was “going forward” in front of more than 1,000 in attendance at Fairview on a Sunday morning. “David had the idea to get other Mentor Fathers and their Field Buddies together and do the baptism there,” said Robert. The “there” became the West brothers’ West-Berry Farm with Kevin taking the lead on event coordination and rallying Church Champions, Mentor Fathers and Field Buddies together..
Ronnie and his brother offered their farm and all the catfish the crowd could eat. Ronnie met Kevin through a work colleague who shared with him Kevin’s passion for the fatherless. It was an easy “yes” for Ronnie to meet the fellow outdoorsman.
“When we first got together, there was a connection and undeniable genuineness to Kevin as he shared the mission of Fathers in the Field with me. I talked to my wife and we agreed we needed to support Kevin’s ministry here in Mississippi and throughout the Southeast,” said Ronnie, owner of the third-generation West Brothers Construction, the catfish farm and an industrial cleaning company. “Fathers in the Field provides boys who haven’t had any leadership in their life with a godly father-figure. I’m fortunate to have had a father who loved God and loved to serve. My father’s example and generosity made a difference in my life and I want to do the same with God getting all the credit.”
When God’s people give their lives and resources away for the sake of the Gospel, He richly provides. He leverages each person’s role, gifts and talents to create remarkable events using a catfish farm and water trough to alter eternity.
Fathers in the Field thanks to Fairview Baptist Church (Church Champion Keith Fortenberry), Lighthouse Baptist Church (Church Champion John Pevey) and First Baptist Church of Columbus (Church Champion John Sumrall) for your support and dedication to ministering to the fatherless in Columbus, MS.