Robert Hitt Neill Column

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 23, 2009

Robert Hitt Neill

Duck hunters gather to speak of missions around the world

I wanted to tell you about a duck-hunting trip I got invited on last week, one of the most unusual hunting-type trips I’ve had the privilege of going on.

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It came toward the end of what had been a really bad week, with six funerals of family, Kairos friends, choir members and church members occurring Monday through Saturday, the latter giving one a chance of taking an early limit before attending.

The trip was further complicated by my breaking a tooth – one doesn’t expect to happen upon a number 6 shot in the chicken and dumplings at funeral visitation.

I opted for not exposing my oral nerve ends to the low-20s temperatures, but went ahead to the invitation I’d already accepted to tell some stories around the fireside.

The event was held at an off-the-beaten-path establishment called Mallard Manor in the mid-Delta, a palatial accommodation that would stun the casual traveler of country roads, much as the sudden appearance of a landed UFO. 

Huge flights of geese spiraled overhead, and as we had just consumed a 7-Day Goose Gumbo from Betsy’s Kitchen, the sight stirred my taste buds. Lo and behold, gumbo was to be the luncheon entrée, so I felt right at home immediately, though I only knew slightly one of the other two or three dozen hunters and attendees.

All of whom were from distant homeports, from Birmingham, Ala., to Dallas, Texas, and points between. Their one commonality which brought them to Mallard Manor was not so much their love of hunting, but their Christian Commitment to Missions.

Matter of fact, their weekend was called “Mallards on Missions.” I was there to share something about the Kairos International Prison Ministry, of which I have been Mississippi Chairman the past couple of years, but there were programs on missions in South and Central America, Africa, and other parts of the world, as well as, of course, the good old US of A.

The speaker before lunch unfolded an interesting concept for gaining the attention of men (most mission efforts attract largely women and children) through a Christian Veterinarian organization. Young Dr. Jason spoke knowledgeably about presenting Jesus while vaccinating goats, camels, and cattle in Kenya, Africa, and the planned expansion of such efforts in India and China. 

I was impressed enough to pass him the name of a Christian Veterinarian in Starkville who plays guitar while I lead the music in prison. When he saw the name, which some people mistake for an ocean gamefish, Jason mused, “Skip Jack…I know that name from somewhere…. Hey, I’m staying at his home in two weeks for a program at Mississippi State!”

He asked for info on Skip, explaining, “I’m a practical joker.”

This was so: I blame young Dr. Jason for checking me into the only room at Mallard Manor with a defective smoke detector, which went off every hour on the hour starting at midnight and chirping for ten minutes before quitting for 50 minutes. I had left my shotgun in the car, or else I’ve have cured it, about 2 a.m.

It was obvious that I was in the company of very Spiritually-aware Mission-minded financial Heavy-Hitters, who had gathered to share what God was doing in their lives – some of that very intimate down-to-earth matters that required as much vulnerability as one could expect to encounter on a Kairos weekend. Yet the goal did not seem to be fund-raising, but simply the sharing of opportunities for one to take part in Christ’s work around the world – or across the street.

The hunting was secondary with everyone there. 

The mainmost message was one which I have enunciated myownself time and again: “God has a Mission for every one of His children – what Mission are YOU personally involved in today?” 

It’s a line I’ve used in recruiting for Kairos, coaching Little League baseball teams, playing church softball, or simply shaking the bushes for new Choir members.

God has a Plan, and it includes you! He doesn’t have to use you to get His work done in this world, but you miss the Blessings, if you don’t answer His Call!