Open Range 2024 | All HTL Outdoor Event

Quail Hunting and the Prodigal Thomas

So the last few hunt camps I had at the ranch were really cold, wet and hard. Yes, it was hunt camp and that is what hunt camp is most winter days. Our deer camp is a couple tents and some pop ups. Occasionally a camper, but not always. So last week as I was preparing to take a group of boys on a quail hunt I was battling the idea of not going. Now this adventure is always at the Austin Gun Club, an amazing facility just an hour and a half drive but I just felt drained of energy and passion. I even expressed that to a friend at lunch the day I was packing. It was a heavy week and I fought to pull up from the nose dive.

In your truck when your gas gauge is on E you know it’s time to fuel up. But there are many times I push the limits and drive on E. Even when there is a red light staring at me from my dash and an irritating beeping noise, I keep driving. Until that moment where I know I have got to stop or something bad will happen. Leading into this camp I was running on E and the red light was on, but I continued to push and the fruit from pushing the limits was all but ripe or healthy.

My life verse is Isaiah 40: 29-31, He gives strength to the weary, and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. So maybe I should have thought about praying a bit earlier.

Turns out the weekend was packed with adventure. We had 9 boys and 2 wonderful men helping, leading. We hunted quail behind dogs, shot skeet, learned and shot tactical shooting from SWAT and Army sharpshooters. Saturday afternoon we watched as over two hundred and fifty professional bass anglers weighed in their catch including the new KOZ boat. We cooked and ate the things we killed that night, we dug into a huge batch of homemade KOZ banana pudding, we watched a movie, ate candy and popcorn. We stayed up late and got up early. What seemed like a week was less than 48 hours in worldly time. KOZ time is measured differently.

The adventure also included intimate conversations about Jesus, the hurts these boys face each day, the questions they have about life and Christ. These were the richest times. They journaled and memorized a personal scripture as best they could. They wrote prayer cards that included personal needs for prayer.

Sitting at lunch on Sunday the boys began to share with me the tricks they had been playing on each other all weekend. Pepper poured into someone’s drink, night time trickery, mischievous boyhood pranks. I laughed that I never caught on, I laughed because they were harmless and funny. I laughed because the boys were laughing and enjoying the time together. And then they started talking about the one boy who was asking about baptism and if he could be baptized. He had asked all of them questions about it, how they did it, why, was it scary, was the water cold.

Young Terry knew Jesus, he is a great kid. During the weekend we always teach salvation through Romans 10:9 and about baptism. I realized I had baptized most of the boys with us on a previous camp at some point. Some in a river or horse trough, others a lake or deer pond. Somewhere along the trail, he decided he wanted to make a public profession of his faith. After lunch Sunday we drove to the river and he was baptized. His Band of Brothers yelled and hollered. You could see in his eyes he was refreshed, empowered, renewed in his walk.

We left the boys Sunday with a verse, 1 Timothy 4:12 . After the boys had gone and most of the gear put away I took a walk as the late afternoon sun was setting and warmed my face. I was in awe looking back and thinking about the way God loved on these boys, the men who came, me. I see how the evil one wanted to take me out, keep this all from happening, slow down or even stop the training these boys would get in God’s Word, their walk. I am sorry Jesus I did not come to you sooner. I am your prodigal, I am a Thomas the doubter so often. Thank you for never leaving me, for always loving me back into your arms. Thank you for this time with the boys. Thank you.

1 Timothy 4:12, Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.


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