PORT DEPOSIT — Todd Watson stood on a fishing platform at Marina Park on Saturday and referenced Matthew 4:19, in which Jesus, starting his ministry and gathering his disciples, tells brothers Simon Peter and Andrew beside the Sea of Galilee, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”
Watson, a Calvert resident, takes to heart the mission of leading those who are lost to Christ, he said.
But on this particular Saturday, he qualified with a chuckle, “Today, I’m also a fisherman of fish.”
Watson is one of approximately 100 people who turned out for the Free Family Fishing Expo hosted by the Christian Outdoor Ministry and the deacons of Pleasant View Baptist Church near Port Deposit. It was a four-hour-long fishing tournament in which those with the biggest catches of the day won prizes.
As were most in attendance, Watson is a PVBC member. He was fishing with his son, Chris Watson, 32, and his grandson, Nathan Watson, 6, also both of Calvert.
But some of those fishing in the tourney do not attend PVBC or any church regularly, for that matter, which means that one of the goals of the outdoor community outreach had been met.
“This is an opportunity to fellowship with each other and with people in the community who do not attend our church,” Watson said, adding that an outreach based on fishing is ideal because, “(Cecil County) is such a water-oriented community.”
Jim Backert, a Port Deposit resident who is a PVBC deacon, explained the goal of the no-pressure approach this way: “This is an outreach of love for the community and for the church. It’s not so much about proselytizing or having people join our church. Our effort is to bring the church to the people, instead of bringing the people to the church. We want to lead by example so they can see the love of Christ.”
Backert, however, noted that he would seize the moment and share God’s plan of salvation to anyone who asked or if a clear opportunity presented itself, commenting, “I would be remiss if I didn’t.”
As part of the fishing tourney fellowship, PVBC’s Outdoor Christian Ministry members and its deacons provided free hot dogs, potato chips and bottled water under a marina pavilion.
Rising Sun resident Jim Pennell and his sons — Chase, 14, and Cage, 10 — fished in the tournament, having received an invitation from a friend who attends PVBC. The Pennells attend a different church.
“They were very welcoming. They fed us and gave us literature about their church,” Pennell said, adding, “This is a good thing — any way you can get others under the church tent.”
Oxford, Pa., residents Sam Patterson and his son, Cameron, 14, also were among the anglers who don’t attend PVBC. Sam said his family doesn’t attend any church regularly at this time, but he and Cameron came out for the fishing tournament at the invitation of Sam’s brother, Donald Guinn, who is a PVBC member.
“It was great,” Sam said of the fishing tournament.
Great, indeed. In addition to the fellowship along the Susquehanna River on that sunny Saturday, Sam and Cameron, as it turns out, caught the biggest fish in their respective age categories.
Having reeled in a 24½-inch, 6-pound catfish, Cameron won in the youth division and received a fishing starter kit as his prize. Sam pulled in a 3½-pound catfish that was 17¾ inches long, earning him the top spot in the adult category and a bass fishing pole as his prize.
“It’s in our blood,” Sam joked, after he and his son showed off their catches and accepted their prizes.
Rising Sun residents Howard Kelly, who is a PVBC deacon, and his wife, Barbara, a PVBC member, told the Cecil Whig that they were pleased with the fishing tournament turnout. “People from our church have brought their friends and neighbors, people who don’t normally come to the church,” Barbara said.
She noted that PVBC has numerous community outreach events for youth and adults. The long list includes an annual Thanksgiving turkey (targets) shoot, a sportsmen’s club hunt in which a wild game banquet featuring prizes and guest speakers is held every other year; and weeklong camping trips in Pennsylvania for the youth.
As for Saturday’s community outreach fishing tourney, it was a first, according to Conowingo resident Jim Hornberger, the PVBC deacon who organized the event. Hornberger handed out information packets to guests Saturday. The packets included a CD entitled, “How to Find the Will of God,” and cards with information about PVBC, its ministries, and God’s gift of salvation.
“We will definitely do this again,” Hornberger said of the expo.