By Jeff Helms
Joyful shrieks brightened a gloomy day this spring as 18 young anglers and 50 volunteers gathered at Spiller Farm in Dale County for Second Chance Ministries’ (SCM) Fishing Day.
“The common thing among these kids is most of them have at least one absent parent,” said Alabama Farmers Federation Area 8 Organization Director and SCM founder Boyd Deal. “Some are deceased; some aren’t involved in their child’s life. We’re trying to share a little love with these kids, show them God’s beautiful creation and let them catch some fish.”
Deal, who lost his father to cancer at age 10, was inspired to start the ministry following a hunting trip with a friend’s nephew, Bo Stewart.
“I took Bo hunting in 2017. He had lost his father, and I had lost my father,” Deal recalled. “At the time, I really didn’t think anything about it. But after being with him that afternoon, I got home and told my wife, ‘I don’t know what God is going to do with this, but he’s absolutely laid a heavy burden on my heart to do something with kids who have an absent parent.’”
A year later, SCM was formed with the help of Ariton Baptist Church. Besides Fishing Day, the group hosts an annual deer hunt. The kids also receive gifts from generous donors, such as matching Zebco fishing gear and tackle boxes filled with everything needed to reel in a platter-size bluegill or bass.
Though Deal and Bo’s first hunting trip was a bust, it founded a friendship built on shared experience and mutual love for the outdoors.
“When I first went hunting with him, I didn’t know Mr. Boyd that well,” said Bo, now 15. “But over the years, we’ve gotten really close. He goes to all my games. He’s a nice guy and kind of knows what I’m going through.”
Bo’s mom, Becky, said SCM has shown Bo and her daughters, Cate and Ann Presley, Christian love in action.
“I love that this shows men who love hunting and fishing and tying that in with their relationship with Christ and ability to serve — which is what God calls us to do,” she said.
Fishing Day volunteers included Henry County Farmers Federation Young Farmers; Dale County Farmers Federation President Chris Carroll and his family; Federation Agricultural Legislation Director Preston Roberts and his son, Sam; Ariton Baptist Church members; and people who shared their stories for a book Deal compiled, which helps fund the ministry.
“My Struggle, His Glory” captures testimonies about overcoming hardship — from death, disease and divorce to bankruptcy and brokenness. Deal felt called to publish the book in 2018. His goal was to collect 40 stories spanning 17 topics and 100,000 words.
“When God gives you a challenge, he will bless it, if it’s what he wants to happen,” Deal said. “I remember lying in bed truly in tears saying, ‘God, I know you told me to do this. I know I didn’t misunderstand,’ but I couldn’t get the last few stories. I said, ‘I’m going to give it back to you. If you want it to happen, you make it happen. If you don’t, I’m good with that. I just want you to know I’m going to be obedient and do what you asked me to do.’ The next day, we got three testimonies.”
The book includes contributions from Deal and wife Leah, as well as Federation members and staff, Alfa Insurance employees and other friends and acquaintances. Federation Graphic Designer Laura Unger illustrated the cover.
Becky said “My Struggle, His Glory” gave her and Cate, now 19, a chance to write about how their faith and relationship grew following the death of her husband, Chad, at age 41.
“Chad was huge outdoorsman,” she said. “He loved to hunt and fish and be on the land. This ministry offers the things he loved. Seeing Bo learn to love hunting and fishing through this has to please him so much.”
Deal credits God and those who’ve given their stories, money and time for the success of the book and SCM. He hopes others will start similar ministries and is eager to share what he’s learned.
“In the absence of my dad, I had good, Godly people who invested in my life,” he said. “Some of those were teachers, some were coaches, some were just family friends. That’s what I’m trying to do now — give back to people with that same need.”