PENDLETON — It’s really not a fish tale: They headed home with a van full of some of the best trout in the river, along with many faith-filled, cherished moments.
A group of 10 fishermen from Fall Creek Christian Church in Pendleton returned recently from the crystal clear White River in Norfork, Arkansas, with enough fish to last for months after spending several days on the water.
The trip also offered the men a chance to rekindle their faith and share their belief about God outside of church walls, in a more relaxed atmosphere.
Matthew 4:19 in the Bible reads, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men,” and that’s sort of what the trip does, the church members said.
Mike Sizemore of Pendleton has made the trip several times with his father, Ivan Sizemore, 77, and son Sam Sizemore, 16.
“It’s a nice way to get away and relax with like-minded friends and family,” Sizemore said. “We catch a lot of fish and get to hang out with no interruptions.”
He likes being able to talk about fishing and share his faith in an all-male environment, something that doesn’t often happen when a man grows up and leaves high school and college, he said.
Sizemore enjoys taking his son and a friend or two on the annual trip. He likes being able to share the time with impressionable young men who get to be around good role models.
“In the real world, you want your sons to be around God-fearing, productive members of society,” Sizemore said. “Not only does my son get to hang out with his grandpa, but he also gets to be around other good men that, in society, we just don’t have enough of.”
The group stays in a house situated on a dock along the White River in Norfork, Arkansas. The spot is near the steam with a hydroelectric dam full of rainbows, browns, brooks and cutthroat trout, according to orvis.com/fishing.
Arkansas officials stock the river with trout, and people come from near and far to fish there, Sizemore said.
The Rev. Tom Wiles (whose columns appear in The Times-Post) has been leading the group on the trip for several years and ended up catching the biggest fish on the most recent adventure, church members said.
While they didn’t weigh it, it was a good size, and he came home with the honor.
The church officials pack the church van full of fishermen and make the journey, spend four days fishing and normally head back with a van full of fresh trout.
They fish in the mornings and afternoons, make dinner at night, then finish the evening with a devotional and a few stories about their time on the water.
Mike Neff of Pendleton has been attending Fall Creek Christian Church since 2013.
While he’s not an avid fisherman, he goes on the trip because he knows it’s a rare chance for men of faith to talk about God whenever they want.
“It’s just a great time of fellowship that we have with each other,” Neff said. “To be able to get away and enjoy God’s beauty and creation is so nice.”
Both men admit some of the greatest conversations about faith happen when people can relax and let a conversation flow naturally, which is different from a church atmosphere.
Being surrounded by Christian men for several days in a row is a rare thing, Neff said.
One of the other great things about the trip is even fishermen who may not be great at the sport are going to catch their fair share because the stream is so plentiful.
Still, the main idea of the trip is to bring church members closer to God, as the Bible passage states.
“As Christians and members of Fall Creek Christian Church, we know being fishers of men is definitely the most important type of fishing that is out there,” Neff said.