By Kevin Drewery
On a hot summer evening in August 2013, a group of men and boys involved in Fathers in the Field set out for a catfishing trip on a local farm operation in east Mississippi. For some of the boys attending, an opportunity to fish has always come few and far between and this day would be extra special in the life of one fatherless boy named Isaiah. Growing up without a father in the home usually doesn’t lend itself to a childhood full of experiences in God’s great classroom that we all enjoy. Sadly, for many children in this situation, the closest to the outdoors they experience is through the virtual reality of a video game, unless someone stands in the gap for them.
Hope came that hot summer day in August when Isaiah approached David on the way home from a great afternoon of fishing. Isaiah asked, “Are you going to be my mentor?” David was immediately challenged to not only recognize the need standing before him but realizing that he must do something to help meet that need… and why not him?
After a time of prayer and contemplation, David became Isaiah’s Mentor Father in Fairview Baptist’s Fathers in the Field ministry. He serves alongside five other Mentor Fathers (men who mentor the boys) helping fatherless boys in their community through an intentional mentoring commitment.
A painful fact to admit today is that America is in the midst of a pandemic. Only this pandemic cannot be treated with vaccines or pills. The problem is called fatherlessness and it is destroying the very fabric of our society. Today, 50% of this nation’s children are growing up without their father in the home for whatever reason. Many of our country’s children are growing up angry, hurt, and confused. Statistics display that 67% of prison inmates and 85% of juveniles in reform institutions all come from fatherless homes. Something must be done to help.
Fathers in the Field is a national mentoring ministry founded by John Smithbaker, a man who also grew up fatherless. Through the investment of others in his life in spite of his father, John became an avid outdoorsmen, even earning a successful career in the outdoor industry. After years of dealing with the wound of his father abandoning him, Smithbaker finally forgave his father when he himself experienced the love and forgiveness found in a relationship with Jesus Christ and decided it was time to give back and invest in others.
The national ministry exists to help equip men in local churches, many of which are outdoorsmen, intentionally commit to invest in the lives of fatherless boys ages 7-17. The mission statement of the Fathers in the Field program is: To rekindle and establish the spirit of boys who have been abandoned by their fathers; mentoring them oneon- one in life skills through outdoor activities, and by sharing a Christian understanding of our Heavenly Father’s love and sacrifice for His children.
As a Mentor Father, a vetted man commits to take his Field Buddy (fatherless boy) to church twice a month, help widows in their community through service, and do something fun in the outdoors in conjunction with studying a curriculum that addresses the wound that fatherlessness leaves. Men involved in Fathers in the Field not only introduce kids to the great outdoors we all love and enjoy but strive to see their Field Buddy’s heart healed from the painful wound fatherlessness causes.
This is exactly what Mentor Father David has sought to do in the life of Field Buddy Isaiah. David saw this as an opportunity not only for his family to help Isaiah but to use his outdoor hobbies to make an impact. David knew that he was going to spend time in the outdoors and had to ask himself why would he not share that time with a fatherless boy?
Since 2013, Field Buddy Isaiah has participated in many activities with Mentor Father David in the outdoors from fishing to dove, deer, duck, and turkey hunting. Isaiah is being taught about the importance of forgiving others in his life while enjoying the heart-pumping thrill of chasing a big buck in the bottomlands of Mississippi.
A concept that we should all think about for a moment is this, where would our outdoor heritage be today if it weren’t for coattails we have followed of those who went before us? Conservation is a tool that has been used by those before us to ensure wildlife would continue to thrive and flourish. To use the same analogy, mentoring is a tool being used today to help ensure that our youth thrive and flourish as our future leaders, doctors, teachers, and even parents. Without the investments in those coming behind us, we are guaranteed as a society to not only lose our way of life we enjoy as outdoorsmen & women but our strength as a country.
As many wise men have said, to help solve a problem, one must first admit there is a problem. As outdoorsmen & women, we have the God-given responsibility to invest in the next generation coming after us, particularly the most vulnerable among us: the fatherless.
Mentor Father David would describe what he has accomplished in the life of Field Buddy Isaiah as only doing what he felt God leading him to do. Isaiah’s journey is not over and he has a long way to go on the journey to adulthood but having a relationship with Jesus Christ and a godly man to look up to in David, there is a sense of hope now.
On that hot August day in 2013, David didn’t know what a three year journey in the outdoors with Isaiah would involve but he is so thankful that fish are not only what he caught that day but also the respect and heart of a fatherless boy.
If you wish to contact Fathers in the Field to discuss how you could get involved in the life of a fatherless boy in your community, please contact Fathers in the Field ministry by calling 1-844-ISAIAH-1 or visiting their website: www.fathersinthefield.com.
The Mississippi Wildlife Federation is dedicated to getting families outside to enjoy all that Mississippi’s outdoors has to offer. Events such as Outdoorama on the Rez, Gator Bait kayak races, Camp Fish and our Youth Squirrel Hunts are all designed to provide a safe, familyfriendly environment for kids and adults to have a new outdoor experience.