"I can see more people come to Jesus at a Friday night banquet than in a year at church."
-- Ralph Duren
Jefferson City, MO (PRWEB) October 25, 2012
Those bird calls coming from the church fellowship hall at a recent banquet may not be an indication that a turkey, goose, or pheasant is running loose in there. It’s more likely they are part of an evangelistic effort focused on wild game enthusiasts.
Ralph Duren is the voice behind those calls. He believes wild game banquets are an untapped resource for evangelism. And in a recent interview with The Pathway, the news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention, Duren described his special calling. Duren is a popular entertainer at wild game banquets, particularly those focused on reaching unchurched men with the gospel.
Guys wear their camouflage, eat wild game, are surrounded by hunting décor, and hear a salvation message to which many respond.
“I can see more people come to Jesus at a Friday night banquet than in a year at church,” he said. “It’s a way to reach lost people who would not ordinarily come to that church.”
Duren’s unusual ministry began when he was a child. His father took him trapping, handed him a bird call, and showed him how to use it. Duren quickly realized that he could call birds out of hiding. He was so enamored of the ability that he learned to make the calls with his own mouth and voice, not using an instrument.
A repertoire of 135 sounds
Over the years, Duren added to his repertoire and currently has mastered 135, many of which can be heard at his website, "Calls of the Wild."
But bird calling was not his main professional goal. Duren intended to become a veterinarian.
While in college, he was required to write a paper stating his life’s goals. His mother found the paper a few years ago. Duren wrote that he wanted to be the best veterinarian he could be, to introduce people to the outdoors, and to be the best witness he could be to point people to Jesus.
His hopes of becoming a veterinarian fell by the wayside when he learned that he would be required to go to school an extra couple of years. Instead, he chose to earn a degree in animal husbandry.
Shortly after graduation, he worked at the university, taking care of sheep. He knew people at the Conservation Department, and they recruited him to leave the sheep farm to work for them as a trapper.
Soon after, his bird calls earned him a public information specialist position. At that time, he could do 65 wildlife calls.
National television appearances
Duren’s new job took him everywhere in Missouri, doing educational programs for schools, organizations, and conferences, with his bird calls a major part of his presentations.
He appeared on several well-known television shows, including “The Tonight Show” with Jay Leno, CBS’s “This Morning” and “Late Night,” “Swan’s Place,” and others. He has also done some live shows with Dennis Swanberg since then.
He was a regular on the “Missouri Outdoors” TV show for 25 years and appeared on “Pepper and Friends” monthly for 26 years.
Duren gave his life to Christ when he was 9 in his Sunday School class at Selma Baptist Church.
In his youth and early adult years, he started singing in the choir and playing drums. He played in the Jefferson County Youth Choir which met at De Soto Baptist Church and traveled with the group as it performed in churches and shopping centers in Missouri, Illinois, and Iowa.
Today, he challenges men, in particular, to think about what they really love to do and turn it into a ministry.
“God gave them that love and that desire. God instilled the passion into them. They can minister to other people who have the same interest, whatever it is,” he said.
Although retired for seven years, Duren continues to share his humor and his bird-calling talent with groups of all ages and to use it as an opportunity to share the love of Jesus and of God’s creation.
He thinks everyone should step outside their door and listen to the symphony God has provided for us.
He said, “Even the rocks and trees cry out that Jesus Christ is Lord. Think what they are singing.”
The Pathway is the official news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention, an affiliation of nearly 2,000 Southern Baptist churches throughout the state. More information may be found at the MBC website.