Outdoor camp brings the gospel to kids

By Drew Hall

“Preach the gospel at all times and when necessary use words.” This sentence ends every email that Brad Gill of 30-30 Ministries sends. It’s also a very good description of what 30-30 Ministries is all about. If you’ve ever tried to share your faith with someone you’ve never met, you should understand completely. Some people just don’t want to hear about God, even if they’ve never had the chance. But, if they were to see how differently you acted and then ask you why you acted that way, it’s a pretty good place to start a conversation about Jesus Christ, don’t you think?

Brad Gill is an editor at Georgia Outdoor News magazine, so he knows a little bit about hunting and fishing. But it wasn’t until he took a kid hunting that he really got the idea of how he could win souls for Christ through this passion.

“The story behind 30-30 Ministries began in 2002 when I first took a kid hunting,” Gill said. “Her name was Lauren, and she shot a small buck during our first afternoon hunt. I was hooked on taking kids hunting from that point on.

“After that hunt with Lauren, I began to have a vision for an outdoor organization that would take youth hunting and fishing.”

In 2005, Gill and his wife joined Crossroads Baptist Church in Eatonton, Ga., and he became the youth director. He led a ministry program that used hunting and fishing to share the Gospel, but it wasn’t until 2009 that Gill knew God was calling him to reach more youth in new and different places through an outdoor ministry. He said it was through many prayers that 30-30 ministries was established as a non-profit organization in 2010.

So, “What is this 30-30 Ministries?” I know you’re asking by now. Well, it is a youth-focused ministry whose mission is to use hunting and fishing as a platform to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition, these youth hunting and fishing events serve to protect the future of these outdoor sports as they instill a deep-rooted appreciation for them.

What started as one camp weekend in August of 2011, grew to five camps in 2012 and 30-30 Ministries has already sponsored seven camps in 2013 to date.

“God continues to bless us with opportunities to set up new camps,” Gill said.

He said the camps provide youth and their parents with one- to three-day, all-expense-paid hunting or fishing experiences. They furnish all of the lodging, food, drinks and the places to hunt or fish. In addition, they also give away a 30-30 rifle through a random drawing to one youth participant at every camp — hence the namesake.

“We partner with landowners, hunting clubs, anglers, sportsmen’s groups and churches in order to use hunting and fishing as a platform to share the gospel,” Gill said. “We host these camps to give youth and their parents the opportunity to place their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, if they’ve never made that decision. If we ever lose that focus, I want no part of these efforts.

“In addition to sharing the story of Christ, 30-30 Ministries helps preserve the hunting and fishing legacies. It’s our desire that youth and parents come into our hunting and fishing camps and leave with a deeper appreciation for our outdoor sports. We’re hoping they continue to pursue those interests after they leave.”

The majority of the camp signups occur on their Web site at www.3030ministries.org. They focus on youth who are ages 12 to 18. One month before each camp is scheduled, Gill’s 8-year-old daughter prays, and then the allotted camp spots are filled by a random drawing.

“We just let God pick who He wants to be in that particular camp,” Gill said.

While all of the participants know this is a ministry when signing up, God might not necessarily be their reason behind wanting to make the trip. For that reason it takes getting to know someone before finding out how you can serve them with the gospel.

“Most of our camps take place over a weekend,” Gill said. “Spending a few days in a hunting or fishing camp with these kids and their parents allows us to get to know them, to serve them and to love on them.

“We host three campfire devotions throughout the weekend. We’ll have a speaker or two come in, and they will share the story of how salvation is only found through a relationship with Jesus Christ.”

Gill said he could think of numerous times when it was obvious the Lord had showed up and “showed out”during the camps.

“We have seen the Lord rescue souls, rebuild families, ignite friendships and empower people to love and serve the Lord,” he said.

But it isn’t just the camp participants who are getting to know the Lord better. Gill said at the Quail Camp in January, the host, Marci McCranie with McCranie Quail Plantation in Eastman, Ga., rededicated her life to the Lord. Her son, Tanner, was saved during the same Quail camp.

“It’s just amazing to see what God is doing in that family right now,” he said.

30-30 Ministries has also changed Brad’s life in more ways than he thought it could.

“When I answered the call into ministry, it strengthened my relationship with Christ,” he said. “I’ve got a different perspective on things than I used to. I realize I am here solely as a servant of His and to do what He’s called me to do.

“I am blessed that the Lord called me into a hunting and fishing ministry where I get to be around the sports I am so passionate about.”

Chuck Hester, of Eatonton, Ga., has helped with 30-30 Ministries since its inception. He said one of the most amazing things about 30-30 Ministries are the friendships that are established. Not only between the volunteers and the families who hunt, but also between the volunteers and the guides, and everyone involved.

“It’s amazing how kids from all over the state that don’t know each other can come together,” Hester said. “Friendships are established with opportunities we’ve never had before.”

One of the most memorable experiences Hester recalled involved a family that was lucky enough to get drawn to three different camps. He said there were two sons and a daughter and the oldest son had even won a gun.

“This past year we had a turkey and trout fishing camp and they were chosen again. The first night after the devotion, we left it open and I was standing around the campfire,” Hester said. “The father came up and we talked for a little bit and he said, ‘I know why we keep getting chosen for the camps.’

“He realized he’d been worrying about his children’s salvation, and forgotten all about himself. He asked for forgiveness and accepted the Lord into his heart right in front of his 16-year-old son. His son accepted the Lord just a little bit later that same night.”

Hester said that even though the big draw to the camps are the once-in-a-lifetime hunting and fishing trips, it’s the camps that have the least hunting and fishing time where they make their biggest impact.

“We’ve found the more time we are able to spend one-on-one building the relationships, the more responsive the people are to Christ,” he said. “The camps that have been so successful are the ones we’ve been able to spend the most time not hunting and fishing, but just to spend time with them.

“We’ve had people to make decisions to better their lives — not necessarily get saved. I like to say, ‘We introduce the creator through the created.’ Seeing the sunrise and how much he loves them.

“It’s been a blessing to see how God can work through so many different people. It’s not about what we’ve done, it’s about what He’s done, allowing us to be at part of it.”

It takes volunteers for 30-30 Ministries to be able to do what they do. Some of the smaller camps might only take two volunteers, but the larger camps can take as many as six to eight volunteers to run smoothly.

“We also have a big need for those willing to cook during our camps,” Gill said. “Having volunteers who prepare our meals allows us the opportunity to fellowship and minister with youth and parents who are participating in our camps. It’s amazing how many of our guests just want to talk about something going on in their lives. When we have to put large efforts into food preparation, it takes away from the ministry we’re called to do.”

For fall 2013, 30-30 Ministries already has an annual Bear Camp planned for the primitive-weapons opening weekend and at least two Deer Camps, one in Morgan County and the other at McCranie Quail Plantation in Dodge County. Gill said they are also working with several other groups about hosting Deer Camps on their properties.

“The phone keeps ringing. We’re learning there are plenty of people out there interested in a youth hunting or fishing camp,” he said.

If you are interesting in volunteering or donating, 30-30 Ministries is operated entirely by donations and any one-time or monthly donations help them continue to meet their goals. You can find out more about 30-30 Ministries at www.3030ministries.org.

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