Area chapters of Christian Bowhunters Association aiming for the heart

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Four years ago, residents from two Southeast Missouri communities turned their passion for bow hunting into a way to reach others for Christ.

By forming local chapters of the 2,000-member Christian Bowhunters Association, the groups from Jackson and St. Mary, Mo., have used monthly meetings, archery competitions and wild game dinners to continue their vision of using their hobby to spread the gospel in a Christ-based, family-friendly environment.

"We use hunting as a way to reach families in their comfort zones," said Cliff Palmer, chairman of the Jackson chapter. "While other people may have their own places to relax, ours is God's creation."

As the father of two teenage boys, Palmer said the chapter's bow hunts provide him with teachable spiritual moments.

"When we go hunting, the first thing we do is pray," Palmer said. "To hear my sons utter words of prayer is something incredible for a father, and that moment is made possible because of hunting. ... It's been amazing what God has accomplished through this chapter."

Both chapters have active memberships of 12 people, whose ages range from as young as 14 to as old as 65.

The Jackson chapter holds such events as the recent children's family day in Fruitland -- which drew in 35 shooters -- a wild game dinner and booths at outdoors shows in Southeast Missouri. Palmer said the chapter's planned adoption of Maintz Archery Range will allow the group to expand future ministry opportunities.

The St. Mary chapter yearly events include a 3-D shoot and a deer hunt scheduled for Nov. 6 to 9 on farmland in the area. Last year's competition drew 35 participants from such states as New York, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Tennessee. Proceeds raised from the tournament -- registration is still open -- are donated to a local cause.

St. Mary chapter chairman Mark Flieg said he doesn't want the chapter to become another hunting club. "We're here to make this a family environment and use this as a tool to reach others for Christ," Flieg said. "We know how fortunate we are to be able to spend time in nature and hunt deer, which is evidence God has a hand in all of our lives. And we're thankful that God has provided us with the gifts and talents that go along with bowhunting."

Even though the two chapters, which are part of the 42-chapter national organization, have expanded their membership base since their formation in 2004, Palmer feels the groups' best days are ahead.

"This is just the tip of the iceberg," Palmer said. "We have to stay focused on God for direction."

bblackwell@semissourian.com

388-3628

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