Angela Lu reports in World magazine:
John Smithbaker stands under the wide Wyoming sky teaching 7-year-old Brayden, a fatherless boy, how to swing a bat. He shows Brayden how to plant his feet. He switches the position of Brayden’s hands on the bat. Brayden swings and misses. Smithbaker readjusts him, again and again.
That’s what dads commonly do, but Brayden is living with his grandma and was without a father-figure in his life. That changed last December, when Smithbaker started meeting with him weekly through Fathers in the Field, an organization he founded that pairs mentor fathers with fatherless boys.
During their meetings Smithbaker teaches Brayden about their heavenly Father and prepares him for an antelope hunt at the end of the year. Brayden eats dinner at Smithbaker’s house and helps his mentor’s 12-year-old son with his paper route.
Brayden’s grandma says he now helps around the house and always reminds her to pray before meals.
As she was explaining that Brayden has “learned that it’s OK if his earthly dad left, his Heavenly dad …”—Brayden cut her off and finished the sentence: “He stays by my side all the time and never leaves me.” Father in the Field aims to help 7- to 17-year-old boys like Brayden by pairing them with mentor fathers from local churches. Mentor fathers need a pastor’s reference, community reference, and background check.
The program lasts three years. The pairs meet at least four times a month: Twice to attend church, once for community service to widows, and once for outdoor activities including hunting, fishing, camping, and fixing car motors. At the end of the year, mentor fathers bring their boys, called field buddies, on a three-day trip that culminates their training.
The major benefit, said Smithbaker, is the relationship that develops through these activities. By gaining a boy’s trust, he notes, mentor fathers can tell them about the love of their heavenly Father and the need to forgive their earthly abandoner.