>> by Linda Morgan Correspondent

David Polk with the Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma speaks on “Prepping for the Hunt”—how to prepare for a duck hunt and how to prepare lives for uncertain future.

TALIHINA—Nestled on the western edge of the Winding Stair Mountains is a campground for restoration, healing and saving. Kiamichi Baptist Assembly was the site of the 2013 Men’s Retreat sponsored by the LeFlore Association.

More than 1,500 men and boys escaped the day–to–day worries of the world for a weekend journey featuring everything from a conceal and carry class to “Duck Dynasty” stars. Men from 52 churches in 33 towns and three states attended the two–day event.

Attendees could choose from several activities on Friday, including archery, skeet shooting and a conceal and carry class.

Sportsmen United for Him, sponsored by Okemah, Last Chance, managed the archery site. Their outdoor ministry is geared toward hunting, fishing and their passion for God. A practice area was set up for beginners to learn how to shoot. Men and boys of all ages tried their luck at 3D targets, including a bear, coyote, turkey, deer and wild hog.

“I came just to get away,” said Hunter Morton, a 7th grade student and member of Pocola, First. “My dad and I are here together, and it’s been great!”

Whether interested in competitive shooting or just having fun, skeet shooting was a popular venue. Sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife, shotguns and ammo were provided. For the new enthusiast, the Wildlife commission provided instructions.

More than 175 participated in a conceal and carry class to gain their permit to carry a firearm. After participating in a five–hour course led by Joe and Roger Hemphill, participants completed the written exam and the firearm qualifying section of the permit process.

“I’ve been intending to get my conceal and carry permit for several years,” said Dewayne Jeffreys from Wilburton, CenterPoint. “I am out in my pasture every day, and you never know what you are going to drive up on any more. This was a perfect opportunity to take the class.”

As the sun set, campers moved to the tabernacle. Branson entertainer and Pocola, Trinity Pastor Keith “Red Pickens” Allen opened the evening with comedy and music. Springhill, Cross Connection in Howe also provided praise and worship music.

Jimmy Houston, “America’s Favorite Fisherman,” is a huge crowd favorite at bass tournaments. With more than 120 personal appearances each year, Houston represents most of America’s top outdoors–related companies. A deacon at Keys, First Southern, Houston speaks at many churches around the country.

Hunter Morton, Pocola, First, takes aim at the Sportsmen United for Him archery venue.

“The main reason I speak at churches is to share what God is doing in my life,” Houston said. “I go because I want to see people get saved. Houston said  he was saved when he was 12 years old for one reason and one reason only—he didn’t want to go to hell.

Houston talked about going through trials and tribulations, just like everyone else. He spoke of times where God carried him, held his hand, things that no one should ever be able to get through. God always picked him up and led him through it.

As the storms from the night began to clear, members of the Baptist Disaster Relief Teams served breakfast. One of the huge tent venues had blown down during the night. but nothing was going to stop the momentum of the retreat.

As the gray clouds circled and light rain began to fall, men gathered to hear the guest speakers. Boys and men sat on benches in the rain to hear Don Baker, as he showed how to trap everything from a small wild critter to a bear, mountain lion or wild boar.

David Polk with the Baptist Foundation of Oklahoma presented “Prepping for the Hunt” on how to prepare for a duck hunt, as well as teaching how to better prepare their lives for an uncertain future.

Brad Clay, host of “Final Descent Outdoors,” a hunting and fishing adventure television show that airs on America’s Hunting and Fishing Network, presented his insights on hunting and fishing and living your life on target for God. He challenged men to “be strong and show yourself a man.” A Biblical man is never “done” in Christianity, he said.

“It’s been neat to see this many men who love the Lord come together where we can let down our guards, be vulnerable a little and share areas in which we struggle,” said Damon Mascoto, a member of Frink Church in McAlester. “It’s been a great place to go and provide strength to each other. I’ll be coming again and bringing friends next time.”

The night’s storm delayed the arrival of Saturday’s keynote speakers—Al and Jep Robertson of “Duck Dynasty.” The audience in the tabernacle were entertained by Red Pickens and Speechless, a group of young ladies from the Baptist Home for Girls in Madill. The girls signed I Can Only Imagine and performed more songs.

The clouds cleared, the Robertson plane landed, and they were rushed to the campgrounds. As Al was introduced, excitement filled the air. Al began by telling about his father, Phil, who was the quarterback at Louisiana Tech University in 1965, with Terry Bradshaw as his backup.

“When he was at Louisiana Tech,” Al said, “he got away from the way he was raised. He was a school teacher and coach in Junction City, Ark. His life took that turn away from God. There was one person that was true to God and to the family and brought this man around,” he explained. “You know her as Miss Kay, our mom. No matter where you’re from, there’s probably a good woman that’s keeping you straight and keeping your family straight. That’s the way mom was with us. She helped our family. She held everything together, and I thank God for her every day.”

Al shared that the Robertstons started their lives fishing. “There’s a reason four of the 12 disciples Jesus called were fisherman. That’s a faith–based business! That’s how we grew up. We made our money on the river to be able to fund our duck calls.”

The original workforce consisted of Alan, his brothers Willie, Jase, and later, Jep. Phil and Al started traveling the country and making videos selling the duck calls. Suddenly, people started saying, “Man, I love those bearded rednecks down there in Louisiana. You know, they bite the heads off ducks; they let their beards grow out; they don’t bathe; and they sit on the ground. I mean these guys are great!”

The Robertsons didn’t realize God was making a plan, because they were getting comfortable being in front of the camera. The Outdoor Channel approached the Robertsons about having a weekly television show—”Duck Dynasty.” They didn’t just want to see ducks. They wanted ducks and family.

“My dad said, ‘That will never work. People just want to see us kill something. They don’t care about family,’” Alan said. “But, it saved all of us. It started off slow, but it took off big.”

“You know,” Jep said, “We’re changing people’s lives. I hear people say, ‘I’m so thankful we can watch a show with my family, the kids. There’s no cussing, no drama, it’s just fun.’”

Each Duck Dynasty episode ends with the family gathered for dinner. Phil prays and thanks God for the family, food, and blessings.

“Think about that last scene around our table. It’s like the anchor of our home. Sitting around the table talking about the blessings of God, and what he’s doing in the lives of our family,” Al said. “We’re fortunate. We’re a bunch of bearded rednecks from Louisiana who have been called to do something for the Kingdom of Christ. What an honor.”

The final event of the retreat found Shawn Stovall from Wyandotte winning a Benelli shotgun.

Neil O’Donnell, LeFlore Association director of missions and organizer of the retreat, said, “We feel we hit a homerun with this event.”