Sabbath Home casts for men and women
Norman Jameson, BR Editor
July 26, 2010

Sabbath Home casts for men and women

Sabbath Home casts for men and women
Norman Jameson, BR Editor
July 26, 2010

Mark Perko was searching for

a missing element in outreach ministry for Sabbath Home Baptist Church when he

was hooked by an idea that continues to reel in benefits.

A gregarious fisherman, Perko

was wetting a line from the Holden Beach pier when someone asked the typical

conversation opener, “Are you catching anything?”

“That clicked,” Perko says,

four years after formalizing an informal act in the fishing community —

building relationships by simply showing a natural, non-obtrusive interest.

Fishermen stand hours

shoulder to shoulder along the 700-foot pier in family oriented Holden Beach.

Perko realized that if

church members intentionally engaged those they fished with, and became regular

fixtures on the pier, they could create community and eventually win the

attention and maybe the hearts of their new friends.

And it is working.

BR photo by Norman Jameson

Some Sabbath Home members who faithfully build community on the Holden Beach fishing pier: from left, pastor Mark Perko, Tony DiFranco, Larry Johnson, Steve Holland, Gay Lawrence and Betty Johnson.

Perko, pastor for six years

at Sabbath Home, just across the bridge from the pier, can count 32 people who

have come into the church through the pier ministry.

Six have been saved in the

past two years and he points privately to several fishing quietly one summer

Friday as “future converts.”

“It’s relationship

evangelism,” Perko said. People who take the time to “get acquainted” find a

receptive audience among others who have been looking for a relationship

without even knowing it.

Gay Lawrence, who retired at

age 40 then fished 14 hours a day for 20 years, started coming to Sabbath Home

because the member ministers at the pier were so genuine, she said.

Gay holds the record for

largest flounder caught off the pier — a fish she actually caught twice. The

first time it broke her line and her husband Clay gave her his pole and said,

“Catch it again.”

When she pulled the 28-inch,

8-pound flounder from the water about 10 minutes later, her original purple

line protruded from its mouth.

Betty and Larry Johnson were

coming to the pier “about every day” and say starting conversations about

important personal issues is easy. Sharing hours in the sun, conversation

naturally turns to life issues and when it does, they offer a Christian


In season after season the

fishermen become community. The Johnsons have hosted a fish fry at their house

for 60 people from the pier.

A season ending event on the

pier draws 100 regulars who share their catch, their stories, and their lives.

Gil Bass owns and runs the

pier and the bait shop and restaurant attached at the beach end.

His father-in-law Lonnie

Small, once a vice president at Campbell University, built the pier.

It originally was 1,100 feet

before Hurricane Hugo blew off 700 feet. Bass could only afford to build it

back to 700 feet.

“I’m glad (Mark) is

out there,” Bass said. “Anytime you have a person like Mark out there the

attitude is different. He’s certainly made a difference.”

Perko has become a chaplain

of sorts to Bass’s employees, visiting them in the hospital even when they are

not members of Sabbath Home.

Perko pulls a wagon onto the

pier with his equipment and some signage that mentions Jesus and Sabbath Home.

His gear attracts many positive comments.

He painted a big selling

“gotcha plug” with the yellow, green, red, blue and white stripes of the

popular witnessing bracelets and designed a corresponding tract for people who

ask him about the unique colors on the lure. The tract’s magnetic question is,

“Who’s gotcha?”

Member and pier patron Tony

DiFranco was baptized through the pier ministry and now he is on the pier three

days a week. His seafarer’s beard, rugged features and hat made him the perfect

subject for the May 2010 cover of Our State magazine.

“I could never get Tony to

go door to door, but he is in his element out here,” Perko said. “He talks

easily to people and invites them to church.”

And that’s the point of the

pier ministry … doing what comes naturally among people with whom you share a

common interest and consciously turning the naturally arising conversation to

spiritual matters.

It all leads to

community that Perko calls “something like I’ve not seen in a long, long time.”