The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Lifestyles

November 5, 2012

Webb City man’s ministry combines faith, patriotism with love of nature

JOPLIN, Mo. — Veterans Day is Nov. 11, but for Tron Peterson, every day is Veterans Day. The Wounded Warrior Deer Hunt, which begins Friday, is a prime example of what the Webb City man does to bring joy and outdoor recreational therapy to disabled veterans.

The hunting and fishing opportunities provided by Peterson Outdoors Ministries stems from a sense of patriotism and Christian love. In the midst of planning for the four-day deer hunt, Peterson announced a new venture that is going to expand his non-profit Christian outreach, which also extends to youths and other adults with disabilities or terminal illnesses.

The ministry’s board of directors has authorized fundraising for Lodge of Hope on a proposed 1,019-acre site on the Missouri-Kansas border.

“We want the Lodge of Hope to be a place where those who are burdened and weary, as the Bible talks about, can find rest,” said Peterson, who founded the ministry six years ago. “We want for it to be a place where military families and those with disabilities or terminal illnesses can find rest.”

Peterson said the handicapped accessible area will allow families to attend ministry events and stay in one place while the activities are occurring. In the past, people have had to stay in motels off of the ministry’s site, which is on a farm 3/4 mile west of the Nashville community. Nashville is about 20 miles north of Joplin off Highway 43.

In addition to lodging for families attending events, Lodge of Hope will have lodging for volunteers; a full-service industrial kitchen to feed a large number of guests; disabled-accessible rooms with full baths; a large dining area; a large meeting room for church services, banquets and retreats; and a play area with playground and game room.

The idea is to host not only Wounded Warrior events, but also retreats for military spouses, military chaplains, families with disabilities or terminal illness, children battling cancer and marriage and pastor retreats.

In addition to deer hunts, the ministry has held a variety of other hunting expeditions as well as fishing, archery and adaptive water ski events. But Peterson said he would like to expand on more family and community events.

Thoughts of helping others, particularly needy veterans, came early in life for Peterson. He grew up on a farm where he and his brothers learned to hunt and fish with expertise. It’s also where they learned the importance of Christian values and patriotism.

Though he’s not a veteran himself, Peterson said he comes from a family rich in military service.

“My grandfather served in World War I, and I had an uncle who served in World War II, as well as several cousins who fought in Vietnam,” he said. “I grew up with respect and admiration for our military.”

Peterson said it was at an early age that he came to believe that God had a plan and purpose for him. Wanting to make his life count for something, he started Peterson Outdoors Ministries. Hunting and fishing has been the right fit in ministering to Wounded Warriors.

“Many of our nation’s wounded warriors love to get outdoors and experience the peace and solitude that is found in nature,” he said. “The hunting and fishing is just a tool to give them a reason to come to our event. Once at our events, the hunt itself becomes secondary, as our whole focus is to minister to them and their families.”

Not only that, but many military hospitals and warrior transition units have recognized that being out in nature combined with a retreat-like setting has been a great form of therapy in the healing process, Peterson said.

Although the deer hunt is the biggest event of the year, there are a lot of other outdoor activities that fill the ministry’s calendar. There are hunts for wild hogs, ducks, turkeys, pheasants, quails, bears and moose, as well as a fishing retreat. There is also an adaptive water ski event with the help of Assistive Technology Outdoor Professionals for those with disabilities.

No matter what the event, Peterson said, everything is offered in a retreat-like setting, where the whole family can attend. In addition, expenses, such as food, lodging, transportation, travel and licenses, are paid for by the ministry.

A professional guide and cameraman, selected more on character than ability, are teamed with each hunter. The purpose for that, Peterson said, is of great importance.

“They become friends and form a support group with the soldiers that lasts not only through the hunt but for years to come,” he said. “They become a team. They also help in assisting the disabled hunters in and out of the blinds and helping carry equipment.”

Peterson’s wife, Misty, is in charge of ministry to the soldiers’ wives. Although the Peterson children are not yet old enough to actively get involved, they are developing an understanding of the sacrifices that the soldiers have made for America’s freedom and are making many new friends at the events, Peterson said.

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