By Kevin Bonnar
To close out the month of January the Kicking Bear team headed to Topeka, Kansas for the Kansas Monster Buck Classic. Ray, Kevin, Darren Grefe and Mel Howe drove down from the frozen bluffs of Minnesota and Wisconsin to meet up with Tom Lee, Tom Walters, Landon Cunningham, Kevin Murphy, Terry Miller and Cliff Long from Medicine Lodge, Kansas. We were excited to have such a great group of volunteers and eager to be bringing Kicking Bear to a big public arena for KMBC!
Friday we got our camp all set up and really had a good time connecting our base camp crew with the Medicine Lodge guys. The work went really well and the laughs kept coming. By Friday night we had a booth set up in the main arena to meet folks and we had all our archery targets, tomahawk stations and even 9-square set up out in the rodeo arena, we were ready for some fun!
As the night went on we realized that this was going to be a little different from our usual camp set ups. Because there was this awesome outdoors show going on in the main arena and families were coming and going, we really had to stay flexible with our plans and how we did our Kicking Bear stuff. Normally we get that big group at the start of a camp and then spend a lot of time hanging out with them before we end camp with the big Gospel message and celebration. This was different. Families would come in and shoot with us, then maybe go walk around a bit, many would come back. It left us scratching our heads a little as we really weren’t able to capture that big group and move them through our planned activities. I mean as we turned the lights off Friday night I realized I hadn’t chucked a single marshmallow, the girls hadn’t beat the boys in tug of war, and what really had us rattled was that we didn’t have that big Gospel sharing moment. If we would have judged everything off our man made plans, it really looked like we were maybe failing here. But……with God, anything is possible!
As we gathered back at the hotel and began talking we realized God was up to something else with us in Topeka. We realized that without the very large group, we were actually able to connect on a more personal level with families. One particular family that caught us was the Rees family. Adam and Tina had brought their three littles in and it was awesome. I got to shoot bow with Darron and Cora and boy were they on fire for archery and tomahawks! As little three year old Cora stepped up and put that bow in her hands I could tell she was a little firecracker. She was so excited to shoot a bow for the first time ever!! We got her set up and she took aim at the javelina carefully, with a twinkle in here eye she released and whack, she made a perfect shot on target!!! Boy did we celebrate! It was so great to then have time to get to know the whole family. We got to see videos of the kiddos getting into the blind with their Dad last hunting season, heard about how Mom is actually the archer in the family, learned father Adam was a veteran and got him hooked up for our Kansas Veteran’s hunt, and we even heard about the miracle birth of the littlest Rees boy. For this small town guy, my time with the Rees family Friday night really filled my heart up!
So, as we all said our goodnights that night we realized that we just needed to be thankful for such a great night connecting with families. We were still a little puzzled about how we were gonna share the Gospel on Saturday, and my hands were a little twitchy from no marshmallows or tug rope….but we had smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts. We hit the pillow knowing God was doing something and were excited for the rest of the weekend.
Saturday we were more ready to swing families through the arena in a different was and we realized that the Gospel was going to be shared by our actions more than anything, so we prayed for opportunities to meet new families and show them the love of Jesus with our hands and feet and bows and arrows! God did not hold back. Another 100 plus kiddos came through that day in the arena and brother Mel could barely grab lunch as hundreds of other folks were stopping at the info booth inside to check out calendars, watch Kicking Bear videos on YouTube and hearing all about the ministry. One thing we noticed on Saturday was that a lot of families were coming back! We saw the Rees family again and little Cora fired off another couple dozen arrows this time going after the carp target!
Another return visitor on Saturday was a young man named Wyatt. There was something different about Wyatt, I noticed it Friday night and was so glad to see him come back Saturday. When we closed camp down on Saturday night we were all gathered round and by now we had realized that God wanted us to connect with people and families in Topeka on a deeper level. The Medicine Lodge camp is coming up the first weekend of June and many families said they were going to try and make that, we also had a lot of families hearing about Kicking Bear for the first time and lots of kiddos shooting a bow for the first time, so all in all, we were really excited about what God had done connecting folks. Tom Lee asked the group of us if anyone stuck out though, did we make any real good connections. We shared about many families, but I just felt the Holy Spirit bringing Wyatt back to my mind. I remembered him from Friday night. We were working hard to figure out if Wyatt would shoot right or left-handed and it wasn’t easy…..haha. We had him try a couple different things and even shoot from both sides, eventually we landed on shooting right-handed even though he does most other things lefty. But, there was just something about young Wyatt, he had a kindness and joy to him that really drew not only myself but a few of the other guys too. So, we decided we would like to give a bow away to Wyatt as he had shared with a couple of us his interest in bow hunting. Tom Lee checked the registration forms and reached out to Wyatt’s mom to let her know, and that is when things got really wild!
Wyatt’s mom Lacie was immediately brought to tears when Tom reached out. She shared that Wyatt had quite a story and that she just knew him being at Kicking Bear that weekend was no mistake. Wyatt had come to the event with his Grandpa on Friday night and then eagerly brought his Mom back on Saturday.
Lacie shared, “He was just so happy and kept talking about Kicking Bear and saying come on Mom, follow me, these are my people.”
We are so thankful he came back and we got to learn more about Wyatt’s story because it is an amazing one! You see Wyatt was bullied pretty severely back in 4th grade, it got so bad the family reached out to the school for help, tried all sorts of things to make it stop, but it just got worse. Wyatt shared with me that it really brought him to a scary low point in his life. Wyatt had a support network though and he even started going to church with his Dad during the summer between 4th and 5th grade. Somewhere in there Wyatt made a choice, he took a stand and decided he wasn’t going to let the bully beat him down anymore. Wyatt shared that his heart was that he wanted to stand up to end the bullying and he also wanted to make sure that if anyone else was being bullied that they knew he supported them too. Another beautiful thing Wyatt shared was that he really just wants peace for all, he said he would love to someday go to a basketball game and cheer for his former bully, he understands that bullying usually comes from hurt people and also that bullies sometimes need help too. What an awesome heart posture and message!
So, Wyatt with the help of his Mom Lacie started the non-profit You’ve Got a Friend. The mission was to end bullying and help people that needed help, because as Wyatt says, “nobody should be alone”. What an inspiration for us all! Wyatt’s organization really is the hands and feet of Jesus in Topeka, they help pay lunch balances, stock Blessing Boxes around the city, pack summer backpacks for kiddos, and are generally on the lookout to help anyone in need. I hope you visit their Facebook page linked above and join forces with them. They shared that they could use help filling the Amazon wish lists for supplies, are always accepting donations to help with resources, could use some more manpower in the Topeka area and generally would just love to add more people to You’ve Got a Friend so that the organization can do more good!
As Wyatt had told his mom on Saturday, “these are my people”…and I really feel like that was the message for our trip to Topeka. We found a whole bunch of “our people”! We were able to host a prayer breakfast Sunday morning before heading home. The Rees family came back to join us, as did Wyatt and his Mom, our friends from Big Bucks Plus, and many other folks too. As Ray shared the Testimony of Kicking Bear on Sunday we finally had that big group share of the Gospel and it was awesome! Hearing about how Ray was bullied as a kid and then knowing Wyatt was there hearing that, well, you can’t plan those things folks and they matter in the Kingdom of God. God is so awesome and we all felt so encouraged by the events of the weekend. We closed the morning with the call to all to know Jesus and to give their heart to the Lord!
Thank you so much to Tyler and his crew at the Kansas Monster Buck Classic for having us down. Thank you to the great Kicking Bear volunteers that traveled to this event. Thank you to all the awesome families we met, hope to see you all in Medicine Lodge in June! Most importantly thank you God, for reminding us that you always have a plan and that if we show up with a good heart, good attitude and a smile on our face……you will use that because we are all “your people”. 🙂
Check out the YouTube video of the Kansas Monster Buck Classic here: https://youtu.be/yj0ODew7LKY