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Physician's passion for fishing lures men into fishing and beginning lives of faith

By Derinda Moerer

A passion for fishing and a love for God prompted pediatrician Michael Frostad to launch Better Fishing Ministries, a unique fishing-guide service based in Pullman, Wash.  Michael teaches people not only how to catch fish but also how to catch truths that can change their lives.

Fishing ministry
Rich Schwabe and Michael Frostad haul in a sturgeon.

Better Fishing Ministries takes fishermen aboard a jet boat to discover hide-away fishing holes and scenery along the Snake, Salmon and Clearwater Rivers.

Through easy-going conversations surrounding some serious fishing, Michael and volunteers steer conversations to spiritual things. By the end of the day, after some camp cuisine, the men gather around a campfire for Bible studies and personal testimonies.

Christian men tell how God intervened in their lives and helped them overcome addictions or struggles in life. These discussions create a male-bonding camaraderie, Michael said.

“It’s a Christian outreach and fellowship,” Michael said. “Fishing is a tool we use for people to be exposed to the Gospel. The boat drivers and other staff are prepared to steer conversations toward spiritual matters.”

Tyler, a 15-year-old boy from the Kootenai County juvenile mentor program is an example of how the program works. His mentor was David Bruyette, associate pastor at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Pullman, Michael’s church.  David invited Tyler to join a church fishing retreat.

As he dropped his line in the water, he dropped his guard and listened to men talk about their faith. Before the boat bumped shore, he believed Jesus could help him make changes in his life.  While holding a fishing pole, he invited Christ into his life.  At night around the campfire, Tyler said, “I’m so happy I’ve been accepted into the family of Christ.”

Tyler was also impressed with the camouflage-covered Bible given to him with testimonies from fishermen and hunters scattered throughout it.

“It’s lifestyle evangelism.  It appeals to men’s inward desires to hunt and fish,” said David, who has taken two groups on fishing trips. “The men are doing what they enjoy, so it reaches them where they are.  They see creation and know God is real.”

The ministry idea began about four years ago when Michael and some Christian friends realized the special bond they had while they were fishing. They wanted to share that spiritual, male bonding with others, so they began to invite friends, especially friends who were searching for answers or having a tough time.

While teaching them the techniques of catching sturgeon, bass and steelhead, the men taught truths from the Bible that offered a life of peace and hope, something their friends were missing.

“Besides catching fish and sharing the Gospel, we want to share with other people that Christian men can have fun,” Michael said. “One young man said, ‘This is the first weekend I remember when I wasn’t drunk and this is the best weekend ever.’”

Similar testimonies escalated their excitement, and after three years of talking and planning, in 2005, Michael launched Better Fishing Ministries with his wife Lauren, who quit her job to be his partner. His friends are volunteer boat drivers, guides, cooks and conversationalists.

“The fishing ministry is a dream come true,” Michael said. “When I was younger I always wanted to be a fishing guide.  Now I can take people fishing and watch their faces light up as they see Hell’s Canyon for the first time or reel in the biggest fish of their lives.

“The cool part is I also see them experience the love of God in a new way. This kind of fishing has eternal significance.  Because of this I find great satisfaction with every day of fishing, regardless of whether the fish are biting.”

As a nonprofit organization, Better Fishing Ministries’ staff are volunteers who encourage people to develop a passion for fishing, the outdoors and Jesus Christ. They host Boy Scouts, men’s retreats, youth and women’s groups and other groups. The trips are on the Snake River in Hells Canyon, the Salmon River and the Clearwater River in Idaho.  Retreat costs include food, drinks, snacks and some fishing tackle.

Fishing was always Michael’s passion, so much so that in college his brother made him a tee-shirt that said “Going Fishing with Mike.”  His parents, Alvin and Deanna Frostad, knew how much Michael loved to fish, but they reminded him there was something more important in life.

“My dad taught me that God should be involved in all we do,” he said. “So I asked, ‘How do we use fishing and include God?’”

He struggled with this question through college and medical school, yet persevered and completed his medical training.

Michael moved back to Pullman to open his medical practice four years ago.  He soon realized his profession was the perfect job for bringing his fishing dream to fruition. His job with the Palouse Pediatrics Group in Pullman allows flexible hours.  Having his father, another pediatrician in the group, nearby is a asset when he needs extra time away.

As he became more involved with his patients and their parents, he discovered that many suffer not only from physical maladies but also from emotional and spiritual pains. Wanting to help people heal in all areas, he offers them a day on the river, a day to experience God’s creation. He’s forthright about telling people the fishing trip has a spiritual component, so they understand the purpose of the trip before they accept.

“It has opened doors for me to take parents fishing.  It’s encouraging to hear them talk,” he said.

Last summer was the first season for the ministry to be full-time.

Michael takes care of the boats and taught people how to fish. Lauren oversees the administrative tasks, plans the food and drives a boat for women’s groups.

She also makes sure people have other options if they are not catching fish, such as hikes through Hells Canyon, day trips to hidden water falls, cave explorations and glimpses of wildlife.

“Hell’s Canyon scenery in the spring looks like Hawaii,” Lauren said. “I love to see people’s faces as they see the awesome scenery. The magnificence of the canyon affects people. Animals come up to the water.”

Ken Meines, one of Michael’s first fishing partners, is a boat owner and drives for the ministry.  He told of a young man in Emmanuel Baptist Church’s youth group.  He brought his father, Rich Schwabe, to a father-son retreat.

When one boat broke down Rich, a mechanic, repaired it. Enjoying the weekend fellowship, connecting with men, he became a Christian. His commitment led him to join the team as a boat driver and mechanic as needed.

 “Fellowship is the best,” Ken said. “While guys are on the boat waiting for a fish, they start opening up and talking about things they wouldn’t normally talk about – spiritual things.”

Chris Boyan, a member of Emmanuel’s worship team and another fisherman who caught Michael’s vision, concurs.

“We just want to take people fishing and while there, we talk about God,” Chris said. “Our emphasis is on non-Christians—catching fish is a bonus. Mostly, I love catching fish for Christ.”

Several trips are offered in the summer and fall. There are summer bass-sturgeon overnight retreats or day trips on the Snake and Salmon rivers. September through November camping and fishing is along the Clearwater River near Lewiston.

Summer trips focus on youth, but include day trips or three-day weekend retreats for men’s and women’s groups.

For information, call 872-3055 or email better fishing@starband.net.

 

The Fig Tree - © February 2006