“Take a boy with you.”
This simple and life changing invitation engages men to focus on the broken and hurting hearts of abandoned boys and take action. It disarms excuses of not having enough time and being ill-equipped. And it’s the rallying cry of Mike McNeill as he canvases the Rocky Mountain Region (Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona) as a missionary for Fathers in the Field.
In a short period of time, Father in the Field’s call to men to defend the cause of the fatherless is resonating in the Rockies and beyond as more men boldly commit to sharing the redemptive message of the Gospel with a Field Buddy. As Mentor Fathers, they are not neglecting to take a boy with them, share their love for adventure and the outdoors and help heal a fatherless boy’s life by introducing them to the love, grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ.
“I tell men they’re not going to have to look for time to be a Mentor Father. What I’ve realized is that we don’t manage time, we manage our energy. When you go and do what you do, whether it’s running errands or going on a hunt, take a boy who has been forsaken by his earthly father with you. It’s a way to redirect your energy and maximize the things you have to do and want to do, like hunting or fishing, for the Kingdom.”
Mike, a former professional guide and outfitter, joined the missionary team of Fathers in the Field in October 2013 after years serving in youth, missions and associate pastoral roles in Colorado and Wyoming. As an associate pastor, Mike was influential in helping Church Champion Mark Johnson build the ministry at Neighborhood Alliance Church in Riverton, WY. Mike also shared the names of men and churches to help build the ministry before Founder John Smithbaker asked if he knew anyone for the regional missionary role he now fills.
“God was pushing on me for two months after that before I called John back to ask if he had filled the position. Obviously, it was me the Lord wanted. I get to encourage men to go and make disciples using their God-given passion for the outdoors. Fathers in the Field has created all the tools (Journey Talks and Mentor Father Handbook) to do this and provided other regional missionaries like me across the nation to coach the men as they go.”
You need a flow chart to follow Mike’s richly woven journey and life experiences to help fulfill the Great Commission. From raising two abandoned boys, mentoring and discipling countless kids, building an orphanage in Uganda and Costa Rica, logging in the Alaskan bush to build a community youth center, and managing a children’s ranch for abandoned and abused boys in Shoshone, WY, Mike’s path has led to “such a time as this.”
“God has given my wife Maria and me some incredible training for this ministry, especially through our time at the children’s ranch. It helps us understand where the fatherless boys are coming from and how to meet their deepest needs,” said Mike, a father to three daughters and a grandfather to a baby girl and a grandson on the way. “A young man I mentored since he was eight years old was an affirmation of joining Fathers in the Field. Now, as a young adult, Nick and his wife, Andrea, were the first people to support me financially as a missionary. You just can’t outgive the Lord with your time, energy or resources.”
Mike’s life is a testament to that reality and a conduit to make the truth known in the lives of men who struggle to say yes to God’s calling. Fathers in the Field provides an opportunity for the Lord to showcase what can happen to a local community when men’s hearts are aligned with the heart of the Heavenly Father toward the fatherless.
“I can look back at my life and even when I didn’t understand why something was happening, I can now see that every experience and every ministry position has led me to where God wants me – helping Him raise up men to help grow, nurture and heal boys’ hearts through Fathers in the Field.”
Connecting men’s passion for the outdoors with mentoring fatherless boys is one of those “of course” moments. As Mike explains, “that’s what I’ve done all my life and it’s changed me, grown me and challenged me. Christ has allowed me to build upon my life’s experience, but in a more intentional way. It’s such a joy.”
Still, the fact remains that one of the hardest things a man can do is look into another man’s face and ask, “I can’t do this without help. Will you help me?”
He recalls a Mentor Father in New Mexico who asked his Field Buddy to come along while he hung drywall. Afterward, he took the boy to Costco for lunch and asked him to pick out a Christmas basket for his mom. As he dropped his Field Buddy off, what came next flabbergasted the Mentor Father. The boy exclaimed, “This is the greatest day of my life.” All the things the Mentor Father did that day he was going to do anyway with or without this fatherless boy.
“He felt like he wasn’t doing anything, yet he was doing everything by bringing his Field Buddy along for the ride,” said Mike. “Men, the next time you put your key in the ignition to go be wild at heart, think about this: How much more rich and valuable is that time to God if you took a boy with you?”