BELLAMY, Mo. – Tron Peterson has worked in ministry before. But when a close friend came back from war and Peterson directly witnessed the effects of PTSD, he began dreaming up a way to help others in the same situation.
He began taking veterans and disabled children hunting and fishing as a way to offset their issues. Thus began Peterson Outdoor Ministries in Bellamy, a faith-based organization using recreational therapy to heal veterans, their families and those with disabilities.
All people need hope and purpose in their lives, Peterson tells The Heartlander, so he began envisioning a “Lodge of Hope.” Fundraising efforts toward the lodge began in 2012, and by 2014 Peterson found the perfect spot for his operation close to Sheldon, Missouri.
The $1.2 million, 7,000 square-foot lodge was purchased on a 212-acre plot of land with a 35-acre lake at the end of 2014. All money was raised by donation and fundraising efforts.
The Lodge of Hope has since been recognized as one of the top 10 faith-based nonprofit organizations in the United States by the Department of Defense.
Over 90% of the events hosted at the Lodge of Hope are for disabled veterans and their families, although Peterson occasionally hosts retreats for military chaplains and one-on-one fishing outings for kids with disabilities. The lodge also holds one event a year to honor first responders in a separate retreat.
Peterson said thousands of veterans from all over the U.S. have come through the program, and at least 20 of those veterans returned home to form similar organizations within their state.
Peterson notes that military families often face higher divorce and suicide rates than the average U.S. citizen.
“Combine that with multiple combat tours. These veterans have PTSD, and it affects the entire family,” Peterson said. “At our events, we bring the family. Not only is the veteran being ministered to, but we do special things for the wives like take them to the spa for the day, take them out to eat and minister to them. We do special activities for the kids, and we help the whole family heal.
“Spiritually, we’ve had a couple hundred who have renewed their commitment to Christ. We’ve had a lot who have found hope, healing and restoration in their marriages. We’ve seen tremendous success.”
All the organization’s programs for veterans are designed for the entire family and are free of charge to attendees, as the ministry covers costs for travel, food, lodging, hunting and fishing licenses. Peterson Outdoor Ministries also helps disabled veterans with financial expenses such as utilities.
Peterson Outdoor Ministries has plans to keep upgrading its lodging facility as it continues to receive donations. The Lodge of Hope recently installed a donated elevator, and is currently building a fellowship memorial pavilion next to the lodge that was also donated.
Peterson Outdoor Ministries needs only $135,000 to reach its goal of becoming debt free, allowing much more wiggle room for the future.
“It’s extremely exciting,” Peterson said. “This is years in the making and it didn’t happen overnight. A lot of prayer went into it, a lot of sacrifices.”
Peterson Outdoor Ministries will be hosting a monster truck show in Aurora Sept. 10-11, complete with eight monster trucks, a maze, booths, games and rides. Driver of the “Earthquake” monster truck will also attempt a record-breaking pyramid car crush for the Guinness Book of World Records. To read more about the event, visit the website here.