PLAINFIELD – “He made my mouth like a sharpened sword, in the shadow of his hand he hid me; he made me into a polished arrow and concealed me in his quiver.”
That Bible verse – Isaiah 49:2 – spurred an outreach from Friendship Baptist Church in Plainfield to local sportsmen and outdoorsmen, said Alan Mencer, a bow hunter and church member who helped found Chosen Arrow Ministry.
The ministry’s most popular event is the annual Wild Game Dinner, which attracts 250 to 325 people, Mencer said. The ninth annual dinner is March 14.
Mencer said each purchased ticket includes wild and domestic appetizers and entrees; various side dishes, as well as beverages and dessert; raffle ticket with hunting and fishing gear as prizes; a sportsman-themed slide show; and – most importantly – a brief spiritual message.
“A lot of men today don’t go to church like they used to, say 40 and 50 years ago, but yet they believe there’s a God,” associate pastor Rick Mullan said. “We just want to share Jesus with them.”
One reason both Mencer and Mullan hunt is the connection they feel with God during such activities. Mencer said he enjoys observing God’s design in nature. Mullan soaks up the tranquility.
“It gives me time to get alone with God,” Mullan said.
Other events Chosen Arrow Ministry has hosted include family bow shoots, family fishing days, workshops, and education in hunting and safety. Members even distribute coffee and doughnuts to people standing in line to buy permits, Mencer said.
“It was a way to build relationships with guys that might never darken the door of a church,” Mencer said.
By far, the wild game dinner is the most successful event, Mencer said, although the menu changes every year, depending on available game. Past appetizers included venison summer sausage with jalapeno cheese, elk “Slim Jim” sticks, and nachos with venison in the taco meat.
Past entrees have included pheasant, grouse, Italian-style venison sausage, venison chili, elk stew, goose barbecue, buffalo stroganoff and fried tilapia. Dinner usually features deep-fried domestic turkey and fried chicken for people who don’t like game or who prefer to sample it, Mencer said.
Side dishes include items such as mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and green beans.
About half a dozen men donate the meat, Mencer said. Domestic turkey is used over wild, since not enough is accumulated to feed all the guests. Mencer, who began hunting nearly 40 years ago at age 12, supplies most of the venison.
“Buffalo meat – we’ll be buying that,” Mencer said.
Desserts? That’s a wide-open category, Mencer said.
“We set up two tables,” Mencer said. “There’s cakes, pies, and I’m hoping this one lady makes her cheesecakes. The drinks are coffee and lemonade – stuff like that.”
Expect to hear plenty of stories, Mullan said; and if you’re not hearing any, don’t be shy about asking.
“Outdoorsmen love to tell you hunting stories,” Mullan said. “It’s like asking a grandfather to tell you about his grandkids.”
When ministering to sportsman, Mullan said it’s important to keep one precept in mind.
“Be real,” Mullan said. “They can smell when someone is not authentic.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Friendship Baptist Church’s Ninth-Annual Wild Game Dinner
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. March 14
WHERE: Plainfield Central High School, 24120 W. Fort Beggs Drive, Plainfield
ETC: Wild and domestic entries, free giveaways
TICKETS: $10 (in advance) and $20 (at door). Children 10 and under are $5.
ORDER: 815-436-2380 or www.fbcplainfield.com