Buck and Lynn Heard of Moultrie, Ga., own a bird dog named Queen Mary worth more than $30,000.
The number of championships determines her value, and she has won several. She was named the Purina “Top Shooting Dog of the Year” in 2010; she was runner-up in a competition that sported the top 12 shooting dogs in the country in 2014.
Many years ago, a friend invited Buck to a field trial, which is run only in areas where there are thousands of acres of uninhabited tracts of land.
Today, Buck and Lynn have been to field trials across the U.S., and they once stayed on the road for 32 days attending these events.
Recognizing that their love for field trial running was taking them away from their church, the couple decided to ask each host of the field trials if they could invite people to a devotion 10 minutes before the breakaway – the time when the first dogs were let down to run each morning.
After doing this for a couple of years, Buck shared that he has more empathy for preachers.
“You never know who’s listening or what people get out of those devotions,” he said. “It’s hard to know if the devotionals mean anything to anybody.”
Last year, they were at a field trial in Lynn Haven, Fla., and they had to pack up early as Buck had a Saturday morning deacons’ meeting back at his church in Moultrie.
One of the men saw them packing up and stopped by to ask Buck if they were going to be at the party that night.
Buck said, “No, we’ve got some business to attend to and we will not be able to stay.”
The man Buck was speaking with was cut rough around the edges. Buck’s way of describing him was that “he drove a four on the floor with a fifth of Jack Daniels under the seat.”
When Buck told this man that they were not staying another day, he asked Buck, “Well, who’s going to do it?”
“Who’s going to do what?” Buck asked.
“Who’s going to do the devotion?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” said Buck, “but I don’t imagine you’ll miss it.”
“I haven’t missed one yet,” the man replied. “I don’t go to church.”
With this confession, Buck realized he had at least one in his congregation that was listening, so he said, “I don’t know who will do the devotion but I will make sure it gets done.”
Buck and Lynn had friends in the camp that they had called on before to read Scripture and to pray.
Buck told them about his conversation and asked them if they would do the devotion the next morning. While acknowledging they were not the best public speakers, they agreed to do their best.
The man Buck had spoken with was there the next morning, cup in hand, to hear the good news for the day – to hear God’s name invoked with praise and thanksgiving for another day in his outdoor sanctuary.
This weekend, many people will make their way to stained-glass sanctuaries to hear the Easter story. Many preachers will ask themselves, “I wonder who was listening?”
While all of these Easter Sunday sermons are important, they are not nearly as important as the ones that are given by people with no seminary degrees out in the highways and byways of life, where there are multitudes of people who will never darken the door of a church but who are open to knowing about God’s love.
This story reminded me of a similar question raised by the Apostle Paul in Romans 10:14: “But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them? And how is anyone going to tell them unless someone is sent to do it?”
Most Christians feel inadequate to be witnesses, forgetting that people are not looking for polish and slick presentations. People want to know our hearts.
They seek authenticity and genuineness, not a bunch of religious phoniness. People want to know what God means to us and how they can find God for themselves.
I suspect that this man came to hear Buck and Lynn’s devotional at the breakaway because he could sense the joy in their hearts, even though they are people who have lived through significant challenges.
However, if those of us who have been given God’s gift of grace don’t tell others how they can also receive such a gift, who is going to do it?
Michael Helms is pastor of First Baptist Church in Jefferson, Georgia.