Life in Montana is centered around enjoying the beautiful nature that the state has to offer. Residents spend their leisure time kayaking, hiking, camping and other outdoor activities. For Outdoorsmen Church, a church outside of Missoula, Montana, embracing that outdoors lifestyle has been key to reaching their community.
The name of the church signals to Montanans that this church was started with them in mind.
With a summer calendar full of camps designed to embrace this lifestyle, Outdoorsmen has been partnering with Go Now Missions for over 10 years to help make sure their ministries go off without a hitch. Go Now sends Texas college students around the world to serve on short and long-term mission trips.
Johanna Zipp, whose husband Peter is the pastor of Outdoorsmen, oversees the missionaries while they serve at the church. The couple has roots in Texas and loves hosting the Texan students with a passion for missions.
“It’s a huge opportunity for us to have the extra hands,” Zipp noted. “Being from Texas, we love having these Texan kids come up and experience what we have and see the need and help us serve the community.”
This year, one of those students was Caleb Bowman, a rising sophomore.
Bowman was first attracted to the position when he learned about the outdoor-centric nature of the church. An avid fisher and kayaker, he was excited to learn how to use those unique passions to share Christ with others.
“I remember thinking, those are things I really enjoy doing and would love to use to serve the Lord,” Bowman said.
One of his biggest responsibilities while in Montana was helping the church put on their day camp, one of their largest outreach events of the year. This year 146 kids signed up, many of whom were from families who did not attend the church.
In the morning the camp revolved around outdoor activities, including archery, learning about animals and making nature crafts. Bowman explained that throughout all of these activities, he and the other leaders made connections between what the kids were doing and the Scriptures.
“You have to sneak in Jesus a little bit into these kids’ lives,” Bowman said.
“When they come to the camp, that may not be what they’re looking for,” he noted, “but we incorporate it throughout the program so they can hear about Jesus. It’s so great when they can make those connections, [such as] ‘when I miss the target in archery, that’s what sin can look like.’ It’s awesome to see.”
There was also a devotional at the end of each day. This year the theme was responsibility, Bowman said.
While day camp was happening in Montana, First Baptist Church Brock, Texas, Bowman’s home church, was holding their Vacation Bible School. Each year, FBC Brock’s VBS takes up a special offering. Girls and boys compete against each other to see which group can raise the most money.
Bowman’s father, who serves as the pastor of FBC Brock, suggested they take up an offering for Outdoorsmen Church since he knew Bowman would be serving there.
When asked, Zipp immediately thought of Outdoorsmen’s playground, which had become dilapidated and had to be torn down earlier this year.
Safe place for kids
The playground was an essential part of Outdoorsmen’s ministry to families in their community. It was used almost daily during their after-school ministry, which Zipp explained was highly valued by many.
“It’s a safe place for kids to go when parents can’t watch them because of half days or things like that,” she explained.
The kids at FBC Brock got to work raising money for the kids at Outdoorsmen. The VBS was able to raise more than $1,000 for the playground.
“It’s been such a blessing for us to share our passion and this place where our hearts are at with people from our home state,” Zipp said.
For Bowman, the experience showed him that ministry takes all different shapes.
“The Lord taught me a lot about serving Him and worshipping Him and how that can look different in different places,” he said. “A lot of times we think ministry just looks like going up to people and asking if they know Jesus.
“But we’ve done a lot of support work and learning how we can serve people better,” he noted. “Things like mowing, leading archery and support can be worship and mission too.”
For more information about Go Now Mission, go to gonowmissions.org.
EDITOR’S NOTE — This story was written by Bonnie Shaw and originally published by Texas Baptists.