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There's no shortage of sports enthusiasts in Bedford County and Quest Ministries was established a decade ago at Palestine Baptist Church to reach out to them.
The ministry continues to grow.
This past weekend Quest Ministries sponsored its annual Wild Game Dinner with close to 1,000 area hunting and fishing sportsmen in attendance. It's an event that grows every year.
"Our church family has just embraced it," said Rodney Dellis, about the Wild Game Dinner.
Dellis said the church had a pastor who came from Georgia and introduced the concept to the church. The first dinner drew some 126 participants. Though the pastor stayed just a year, the legacy of the dinner continues 10 years later.
"It's an event that every member of the church gets excited about every year," Dellis explained. That includes helping provide the food as well as inviting others to attend.
"We normally sell out within about a week or two period (of beginning to sell tickets) every year," Dellis added.
Palestine Baptist Church has paved the way for the dinner in this area. Several other churches now sponsor similar events and Dellis said they often call Palestine Baptist to glean information on how the event is put together.
"It seems to be that it's contagious," he said.
From that first event at the church, the Wild Game Dinner quickly outgrew the church's fellowship hall. For several years it was held at Huddleston Elementary and it moved back to the church in 2005 after it constructed its large Family Life Center.
"Our area is full of people who enjoy hunting, fishing and the outdoors," Dellis said of the success of the event. "We are in search of building relationships through a sportsmen's type ministry."
That's why Quest Ministries was first established, as an outreach to those enthusiasts in the Smith Mountain Lake area and surrounding communities.
During the event, the ministry provides the bread, vegetables, desserts and drinks; the sportsmen provide the wild game. Thousands of dollars in door prizes are given out during the event.
The Quest Ministries focus is "to turn our attention, as sports enthusiasts, to a more meaningful relationship with each other, and our Creator, as we pursue various sports, and enjoy His creation."
The Wild Game Dinner is the major attraction of Quest Ministries, but not its only event. Other events held include a golf tournament, children's fishing tournament and volleyball tournament.
At the dinner, Quest Ministries also sponsors a special speaker for the event. Past speakers have included Dave Dravecky, a former pitcher for the San Francisco Giants, Terry Chupp, a Bass professional, and Dave Rowe, a former player with the Oakland Raiders. This year's speaker was motivational speaker Ken Freeman of San Antonio, Texas.
Dellis said the event allows an individual to come out and not feel threatened or pressured. "They enjoy the evening because it's exactly what they enjoy (doing)," he said. "We see people's lives changed on that evening."
Ray Holt, a co-chairman with the ministry, said that the activities are made possible through local sponsors.
"It's a ministry that has grown substantially through the years," Holt said.
This year 12 different types of firearms were given as the top prizes at the Wild Game Dinner. Certificates were given to the winners to be redeemed at local sporting goods stores.
Ultimately, he said the goal is that those attending learn more about the gospel. "That's the bottom line," he said.
In addition to the drawings, the Wild Game Dinner also includes contests for the sportsmen. They can bring in their mounts in four categories ? fish, gun/deer, most unusual and bow/deer ? and votes are held by the participants at the event. Awards are given to those deemed best, including the Wall of Fame of winners from previous years competing against each other. A youth category was introduced this year.
Organizers state that the dinner, along with other events of Quest Ministries, take a lot of work, and a lot of money. "A big thanks goes out to our sponsors," said Dellis, noting that they raise up to $30,000 a year in sponsorship. "It takes that to put on these events," he said.
Sponsorships range in annual contributions of $100 to $249 (Bronze sponsorship) to $1,000 or more (Platinum sponsorship).
Quest Ministries events this year include, in addition to last weekend's Wild Game Dinner: a children's fishing tournament in May; a Fishers of Men dinner in June; a bow shoot in September; and an opening day, deer season lunch in November.
For more information on the ministry visit the Web site www.questministriespalestine.com. Palestine Baptist Church is located at 9244 SML Parkway, Huddleston.