Celebrating the Life of a Cheerful Giver:
By Ray and Karen Howell
What does it mean to be a “cheerful” giver?
The word translated “cheerful” is the Greek word “hilaros”, and means pretty much the same—cheerful, joyous. But it also has a sense of readiness. It means to be ready to act at a moment’s notice, to be prepared. It doesn’t mean to grudgingly respond to a need—it means be happy and full of joy knowing you can do something to make the world a better place.
We also need to remember where our “gifts” come from. James 1:17 reminds us, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights …” Every blessing we have, including our time, talents, and money, is from God.
God’s gifts are meant not only to bless us, but for us to use to bless others. “God has given each of you a gift from His great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.” (1 Peter 4:10). Your gifts are specific to you. God gave you those gifts to bring honor and glory to Him when you help others.
We noticed that many people involved with Kicking Bear were going beyond what was asked of them.
These are people who have a heart for helping others, not because they are expected to, but because they have the Spirit of God living in them. Greg “Sarge” Symons talked to Ray about doing something to recognize and give honor to these special people and that’s how the Cheerful Giver Award came about. (2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV)
So, our first Cheerful Giver Award went to Bob and Ruth Potter from Pepin, Wisconsin.
They allowed us to use their lodge to house our group of youth deer hunters and mentors. They supplied everything, even the cookies and candy. Our first year at Potter’s Swamp, we took the deer and butchered them in a very primitive way using “manpower” and wooden tables. The following year when we returned, Bob had purchased a couple stainless steel tables, hoists to lift the deer, and other items for butchering. This was incredibly humbling. He was always willing to give everything of himself and what he had to help others in need.
Bob Potter passed away Tuesday, June 2, 2020. This newsletter serves to honor his memory.
Potter’s Swamp was a magical place. I remember the Adventure Days we had there with all the kids we took off the streets; most of them had never shot a bow, thrown a tomahawk, or learned how to safely shoot a gun. There were so many fun games too – tug of war, gunny sack races, water balloons, and marshmallow fights. Later, in front of the bonfire, we let the kids know that no matter what their problems are, God has a purpose for them and it’s not the “garbage” on the streets. Many of the kids who didn’t have the opportunity to get involved with hunting and fishing were paired up with mentors and got to experience their first hunts. Only the good Lord knows how many kids had their lives changed through the generosity of the Potters. There were many life lessons learned by the youth and mentors alike, not to mention all the deer and turkeys that were harvested that provided food for their families.
We were able to get together with Bob and his family setting up tree stands and deer blinds, teaching kids how to shoot bows and arrows and to be accurate with their firearms for the upcoming WI special youth deer hunt. This was incredibly fun!
All the kids stayed in a huge cabin that the Potter family dedicated to KB kids to use for hunting. Some of the most incredible memories originated at Potter’s Swamp – one of them was an all-girls bow hunt. All the young ladies were extremely accurate with their bows and the excitement of the all-girl hunt was uplifting. The girls hunted but I think there was more laughter than hunting going on. My wife Karen said that while she and her mentee Micaela were in the blind, they were laughing and joking so much that the deer could probably hear them a mile away. One of the funniest things was that the morning hunts were completely shut down because the temperature would drop to freezing and none of the girls would get out of bed to go out into the cold!
On one of the hunts Sarge was mentoring a young man from Kicking Bear and he shared this memory about Bob Potter. “I can’t remember the boy’s name, but I was matched up with a young man for the youth hunt and all weekend he never saw a deer. Bob was disappointed for him, being that it was his first hunting experience and invited him to join his family for opening weekend of the regular gun season. I drove up there Friday night before the opener and dropped him off. Bob took that boy under wing and hunted with him all weekend. Finally, at last shooting light, he connected with a nice doe. When I picked him up the deer hadn’t even gotten stiff yet. I dropped him off at his home kind of late that night and the next night I delivered a couple bags of groceries and snacks along with the fresh venison that was already packaged. I thought the boy’s mom might never stop crying. She was a single parent and said how much all that meat would help them. Bob gave up his own weekend of hunting with his family to help fill that freezer!” Sarge said that any time he met with Bob, that Bob talked about his potatoes and said how his potatoes were the best in the world. Sarge never left emptied handed – Bob always sent him home with a sack full of potatoes!
Another impactful story that came out of the Potter’s Swamp hunt was a hunt with mentor JP Penzkover and his mentee, Jack Greenwood. The story that JP and Jack told about how Jack harvested his first deer is absolutely hilarious. The impact came a year later at the KB banquet when Captain Greenwood got up on the podium and told what it was like to be deployed, not knowing whether he would ever come home again or not, and what he felt when he received a picture of his son with the deer he harvested. He stood behind the podium in tears telling about what it was like to have a group of godly men mentoring and guiding his son while he was deployed.
Bob Potter worked in concrete construction. He was a “man’s man” who had a great love for his family and for others and had an incredible sense of humor! Bob would go out of his way to offer assistance in many forms. He was passionate about his beliefs and expected others to be open and honest with him. He was a lifeguard as a teenager and never stopped watching over others who had troubles. Bob was an avid hunter and was very engaged in helping youth and cheering for them during high school sports. The Potters did many wonderful things, including purchasing two K9 dogs to help the Dunn County Sheriff’s Department.
The Kicking Bear Ministry is blessed to have partners such as the Potters, who are equally yoked and are dedicated to impacting young lives for Jesus.
This spring has been an absolute blast with the focus being on discipleship. All the kids and mentors nationally were able to get out and take part in the youth turkey hunts. There were lots of stories, harvested food for their families, and lots of laughs!
I often wonder how many decisions for Christ are made in a deer stand or in a turkey blind.
We are looking forward to this summer; we’re out of the woods and on the water.
There is nothing like bowfishing. I don’t care what size “kid” you are—it’s nuts crazy fun!
We will keep you updated on all the Kicking Bear events going forward.