Substitute hunting and fishing for football and Stephen Hudson’s story unfolds like the blockbuster movie, The Blind Side. A Mississippi family connects with a boy in need and, through a string of unforeseen circumstances, becomes his legal guardian.
Stephen acknowledges all Fathers in the Field asks for is an intentional three-year mentoring commitment in the life of a fatherless boy and his commitment is well beyond the ministry.
“Yet we couldn’t leave my Field Buddy for the State of Mississippi to take,” said Stephen. “We told him we were different and that his Heavenly Father will never abandon him; but we will? Welcoming Drew to our family wasn’t a big decision to make. We loved him.”
Rewind to March of 2013. Stephen was introduced to Fathers in the Field at Calvary Sportsmen, a men’s group at his church. He was instantly drawn to the ministry’s desire to redeem the hearts and souls of fatherless boys and that night committed to be the Church Champion.
“We complain about the direction society is headed and Fathers in the Field is an actual solution to the problem society has,” said Stephen, a heavy equipment mechanic. “The devastation left in the wake of families falling apart is crime, drugs and more brokenness. Fathers in the Field is a tangible way for the church to step in and be the hands and feet of Jesus in the life of a young man. As rampant as fatherlessness is in our community, Fathers in the Field was a needed addition.”
Soon, Stephen and two other men were ready to recruit Field Buddies from their community. “I met a 15-year-old named Drew. He was older than most boys who start the Fathers in the Field journey, so we got together so I could gauge how committed he would be to a mentoring relationship. If I promised not to make him wear a uniform, Drew was game!”
Drew’s dad was a drug addict and disappeared while his mom was pregnant. She quickly remarried and Drew grew up thinking his stepfather was his real dad until he was nine years old. That’s when the couple divorced and his stepfather delivered a piercing message to Drew: “You are not mine and I won’t have anything to do with you.”
“Technically, by the time Drew got to me, he was abandoned twice,” said Stephen, known as “dad” or “coach” to Drew, a self-proclaimed “daddy’s boy who never had a dad until now.”
As the Mentor Father-Field Buddy relationship grew, Stephen quickly learned about Drew’s way of life. He was left to fend for himself and walked miles to get home from school. Stephen would show up at Drew’s house at the time they had agreed on and Drew’s mom wouldn’t know where he was. Despite Drew’s unfaithfulness, Stephen remained faithful. He always showed up when he said he would.
And then, last April, the unfathomable happened testing Stephen’s commitment. Drew spent the night with a friend. He texted his mom, but she didn’t see his message until the next morning. As punishment, she promptly kicked him out of the house. After a few days bunking with Stephen’s family, Stephen asked Drew’s mom about her plan for her son. Her answer was clear. Drew wasn’t welcome back.
Stephen and his wife, Stacy, knew lives don’t intersect by accident. They had an extra room in their house since two of their three children had moved out. Their youngest son, Devin, is in the same grade and school as Drew. It was an easy decision.
“I was God’s representative when I signed up for Fathers in the Field and this was where the rubber meets the road. Was I going to abandon him, too?”
Six weeks later it was official. Drew’s mom legally signed Drew over to the Hudson’s care until he reaches the age of 18 “whether he likes it or not,” added Stephen.
“I believe the biggest question we can ask committing to be a Mentor Father to a fatherless boy is how far is too far? How much is too much?” said Stephen. “Jesus never asked that question. Jesus didn’t think about that and never made that excuse. That is what drives me when I think I’ve done enough.”
For Stephen, it’s not about his pleasure and comfort here, it’s about eternity. “I can’t tell Drew that Jesus is the better way and then live as if he’s not. There’s a cost to being Drew’s legal guardian and some frustration that goes along with it, but ministry is messy. You’re going to have to die to yourself. How could I say, ‘Drew, good luck with your life. I did my part, now you have a nice life.’”