Keith Polk, one of the first Fathers in the Field Mentor Fathers, recalls the moment when he knew he had made a heart connection with his Field Buddy, Taylor. “We were coming home from turkey hunting. I dropped him off and he turned and waved at me when he walked into the house. I was likely to explode with excitement! Little things like that are important,” exclaims Keith, who, having mentored Taylor for numerous years, has learned to rejoice in the small victories of life with a fatherless boy.
“Taylor’s mom, Daphne, tells me that he used to be full of joy and laughter,” Keith says. “They would play catch together and have a great time. But as he got older, he started throwing the ball so hard that she couldn’t catch it anymore. The reality of his loss set in as he saw his friends out throwing the ball with their dads, while his dad was nowhere in sight. I think it was embarrassing and caused him to draw into a shell.”
Over the years, Keith has bonded with Taylor as the two have journeyed side by side through the Fathers in the Field curriculum, God’s Word, and outdoor adventures like hunting and fishing. “I would love to say that now he’s open with me about everything. But that’s just not the case,” Keith admits. “But we definitely have grown closer. The curriculum has been a really good platform for us to jump into conversations about God and being a godly man. And when we’re out hunting and fishing, you just never know what you might get from Taylor,” laughs Keith.
On one particular turkey hunt, Keith addressed the issue of baptism with Taylor. “It was raining, so we got into a shed and started talking. I knew he had trusted in Jesus Christ as his Savior (before he met Keith), but his mom had shared with me that he struggled with baptism. As shy and withdrawn as he is, I am sure his issue was publicly professing his faith in front of all those people,” Keith says. “We were sitting there and I just kind of round about brought it up. There wasn’t a lot of discussion, but apparently it was enough for him to chew on. Several months later, Taylor was baptized.”
Several years down the road and Keith sees another major stumbling block for Taylor—forgiveness of his dad. “I still see a lack of genuine joy in his life, and I don’t think that will come until he forgives his dad for abandoning him,” says Keith who has discussed it with Taylor. “I don’t know how it will happen, but I believe it will one day. For now, I wait on the Lord, knowing the seed has been planted.”
For Keith and Taylor the Fathers in the Field journey has been one marked by patience, hard-earned trust, and small victories. The wound of abandonment runs deep and mentoring a boy who bears it can be challenging. But as Keith concludes, the reward is far greater. “It’s worth it because it’s what God called me to do. And I get to see Taylor grow. One day, I believe I will see more than a wave when he turns around and walks away. But whether I do or not, I am obedient to the Lord. And, I have grown to love Taylor like a son. I mentor him now because I love him. I want to see him grow like I want to see my own son grow.”