By Holly Jo Linzay, Regional Reporter
ZWOLLE — Mary Gore ﬁshes at the Toledo Bend Reservoir in Zwolle everyday, but she is not your typical angler.
“I would starve to death if I had to ﬁsh for my supper, even here on this great reservoir,” said Gore, lake missionary and director of the Toledo Bend Baptist Resort Ministry. Instead of trying to land a trophy largemouth bass for which the 185,000 acre body of water is famous, she casts for souls among the thousands of outdoor enthusiasts who visit each year.
For 26 years, Gore and her staff, augmented by hundreds of volunteers have been “ﬁshers of men” while sharing the Gospel at the numerous campgrounds, pavilions, boat landings and bait and tackle shops along the Louisiana shoreline.
“My gift is I can talk to people, and I can tell them about the greatest ﬁsherman who ever lived, Jesus Christ. I can tell them how Jesus loves them, and how he changed the world with a handful of ﬁshermen and that He still cares about ﬁshermen today.”
Memorial Day weekend, Gore and her volunteers were hard at work passing out hundreds of ﬂiers to invite campers and ﬁshermen to a Sunday morning worship service at four different campsites.
“Three people professed faith in Jesus Christ,” Gore said.
Last summer, 4 to 5 mission teams came to help, bringing about 30 volunteers a month to assist with outreach and ministry at two state parks and two Sabine River Authority parks, praying and ministering at four major campsites and dozens of smaller recreation areas, daily. The ministry also gave away more than 4,000 Bibles covered in camouﬂage or with other outdoor themes.
This summer, the resort ministry has a full calendar of events in addition to campground visits, Gore said, and she still is in need of volunteers:
— The “Fun in the Son Club” day camp for kids resembles an extended VBS with Bible lessons, music, snacks, crafts and recreation. The ministry will provide refreshments, but church mission teams will need to supply puppets, music, crafts and face-painting supplies, etc.
— A recreation trailer ministry will feature a bounce house, wet/dry slide and the crafting of balloon animals.
— Backyard Bible clubs will be conducted in the mornings at several campground sites and an outdoor movie night is planned for the resort area, along with outside activities for children.
Gore said she, her mission teams and staff must go where the people are, which is not necessarily conﬁned to the four walls of a church. Still, the ministry will help with area church revivals and a church VBS this summer.
“Jesus went out with the ﬁshermen; He preached on the seashore; He preached from a boat; He went to the marketplace; and, He preached up on the side of the mountain,” Gore said. “We are following Jesus’ example to reach people.”
Her ministry teams go to the marina, residential areas surrounding the lake and nearby housing projects.
“Sometimes my biggest challenge is ﬁnding the right people to go to the right place or ﬁnding the right group of volunteers at the right time. Sometimes we may only have a skeleton crew, but we don’t want to ever miss any opportunity to share Jesus,” Gore added.
Gore added that in the fall, the ministry sets up booths at several local festivals and fairs. The ministry sponsors ﬁshing tournaments and started a children’s ﬁshing derby as an outreach tool.
“Folks who will not enter a church building will often attend an outdoor event at the lake,” Gore said, “and that gives us an opportunity to share the Gospel of Jesus with them.
The resort ministry, which is supported by churches in the District 8 Baptist Associatioon (DeSoto, Natchitoches, North Sabine, Red River and Sabine), has made quite an impact on the surrounding community and the numerous people who ﬂock to Toledo Bend every day. It has even made an impact on the volunteers.
“Some make professions of faith, and we have had volunteers who have helped and then gone into full-time ministry. Some students have come here to start out in ministry, and realize God could really use them,” Gore said.
Whether it is a block party, a bass ﬁshing tournament, a local fair or special outdoor program, Gore, a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, is fully invested to “get the attention of the lost.” “My passion is to share the Lord with people,” she said, “whatever it takes.”