In 2010, Stephen Thomas of Tupelo had a family call to set up a deer hunt for a man named Jason Byrd of Petal. His brother and sister brought him to Booneville on one of the coldest days of the year. With snow on the ground, a brutal six degree temperature, and a wind chill that dipped below zero, Thomas had the opportunity to film and guide Byrd in harvesting his first buck.
Thomas edited the video and sent them a copy. Despite the harsh conditions, the event was important to Byrd. He had a brain tumor removed two weeks before the hunt and his appointment to begin chemo treatments was scheduled for two weeks later. Thomas said “our timetable proved to be a blessing!”
Byrd hunted with the group the following year in Wiggins and Chatom. The next Spring, the tumor came back, but Byrd was not able to win his battle with cancer.
At Byrd’s funeral, the family had his Hope Outdoors’ cap and a picture of him in his hunting clothes. Thomas said the family showed the video of his hunt at the funeral service, followed by the worship service.
“Over 30 people gave their lives to Christ,” Thomas said. “It was then that God confirmed with me that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. I am truly blessed to be working with such a wonderful, caring organization.”
In 2011, Thomas was named National Director. Hope Outdoors is a Christian ministry based in Tennessee that stages hunting and fishing events for less-fortunate children and adults. It partners with caring organizations and churches across the nation to facilitate hope through outdoor activities. Its outreach is directed to those men, women and children who may be ill or disabled, and in need of a little help and encouragement to see their outdoor passions fulfilled.
“I’ve been in the ministry for over 25 years and Hope Outdoors is another way I can share the love of Christ with people,” Thomas said. “Hope and faith can sometimes be compromised due to circumstances that come upon an individual. It’s through these circumstances we have an opportunity to share compassion with those less fortunate by using an avenue we truly enjoy—hunting and fishing! But helping someone to accomplish something they never thought they could do or harvesting something they’ve only dreamed about is not our goal. Hope Outdoors’ goal is to share where HOPE truly rests…in a growing relationship with Jesus Christ!”
As National Director, Thomas is trying to grow the organization so they can do more to benefit the kingdom of God.
“I’m excited what Josh Morgan is doing with his chapter in North Mississippi,” Thomas said. “Being from Tupelo, I finally found a group in this area that is ‘blowing and going’ to share the good news of Jesus Christ through the avenue hunting and fishing. I encourage anyone that wants to be involved or just thinking about it to come to Josh’s event and check it out. There are so many ways to be involved. Yes, it takes money from donations to make this event happen, but there are many other ways that even those who don’t even care about hunting can volunteer and help!”
The Webster County Hunt is set for Dec. 19-20. Housing and meals will be provided for hunters and volunteers at Dorroh Lake Baptist Assembly. Volunteers from Mt. Vernon Baptist Church and other churches are excited to be able to participate in the event, but more help is needed. To volunteer, contact Brandi at (662) 927-0498.
LaNell Adkins of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church, said she is most looking forward to the opportunity to give back to others in need.
“God has blessed our community with this extraordinary opportunity to reach out to those in need and I cannot wait to see the smiles and hear the laughter of everyone involved,” Adkins said.
Josh Morgan, North Mississippi Director for Hope Outdoors, said they have been preparing for this deer hunt for months.
“We’ve had numerous new people interested in helping especially in the Webster County area since we decided to hold our first ever Hope Outdoors hunt at Dorroh Lake,” Morgan said. “A good friend of mine named Randy Kellum, who came to know Christ through our ministry, and I were able to speak at Mt. Vernon Baptist Church this fall and the response from them has been overwhelming!”
Morgan said they are expecting to have 12-15 hunters of all ages for this first deer hunt.
“We try not to leave anyone out despite their age or level of disability,” Morgan said. “We will have children in wheelchairs as well as some who are very mobile who are cancer survivors or suffer from severe asthma. We will also have some adults hunting who have not been able to get out in the woods for years due to age, injury or debilitation.”
Morgan said anyone who would like to volunteer their time or services can stop by Dorroh Lake at noon Friday, or when available afterward. Numerous land owners have donated land for the weekend, but they can always use extra man power, Morgan said. Hunting supplies such as side-by-sides to get hunters in and out of the woods safely, would also be greatly appreciated.
“We want this to be a memorable weekend for all the hunters and their families,” Morgan said.
To learn more about Hope Outdoors or to see how to be part of this ministry, go to the website at http://www.hopeoutdoors.org or go to the Facebook page. For more information, call Josh Morgan at (662) 414-6183 or Stephen “Opie” Thomas at (662) 231-9552.
See this story in the December 17, 2014 edition of The Webster Progress Times at http://websterprogresstimes.com/2014/12/18/hope-outdoors-deer-hunt-this-weekend/
See this story in the December 17, 2014 edition of The Winston County Journal at http://winstoncountyjournal.com/hope-outdoors-deer-hunt-this-weekend/
See this story in the December 17, 2014 edition of The Choctaw Plaindealer at http://choctawplaindealer.com/2014/12/17/hope-outdoors-deer-hunt-this-weekend/