It all starts with a young coal miner named John Kuhnert. He had a young family at home, and not a lot of resources to put food on the table to feed the young growing family. John and his brothers discovered that they could get quite a lot of meat by going fishing in the rivers and large creeks in Southern Illinois. They used a technique called “hogging” or “noodling”, (depending on where you live) which involves using your hands to get a large catfish out of a sunken log during spawning season. Some of these can be over 40 pounds!
One day, many years ago, John took his friend Mr Quillman out hogging on one of the local rivers, and John invited him to Sunday School. Mr Quillman replied “I’m not one for church, but I have an 8 year old son, he can go with you.” So John came and picked up that 8 year old at the dirt floor shack where they lived, bought the boy a pair of shoes out of his own pocket, and they went to church. Over the course of time, that boy met Jesus.
Great story, but it doesn’t end there.
In 2012, I was at a camp in Denver, Colorado sponsored by Dare2Share Ministries with a few students from Rockville, and students and youth leaders from all over the country. At breakfast, I met a pastor from Arkansas who everyone in his group called Pastor Quill. We had a conversation about where we were from and grew up. I mentioned I was from southern Illinois, he asked the town, and I told him Pinckneyville, and he said he knew the area well. He said “your last name is Lacy and you are from Pinckneyville, that means you are most likely kin to some Kuhnerts, and probably John” I was floored. He proceeded to tell me the story above that I just told you, and he continued:
That 8 year old was my dad. He met Jesus, was called to the ministry and served as a pastor for over forty years. My brother and I have both been in ministry almost 20 years each. That invite changed our family tree. I knew this, as I knew the reputation of his family locally back home and several of them had been on the wrong side of the law.
And in case you’re wondering, John was my Grandmother’s brother. That generation’s influence produced at least one pastor, several church lay leaders and Sunday School Teachers in my own family.
One invite, followed up with living the Great Commission can impact people beyond what you could ever believe.
It was never about just a fish.