Ministering to ministers: Retired homebuilder Gary Thrash is ‘that kind of friend’ to pastors


SUMNER, Ga. – Gary Thrash knows the burdens pastors carry as they minister to the sick and hurting, cry alongside grieving families, and deal with the sometimes unrealistic expectations of church members, all while trying to make ends meet at home on meager salaries.

That’s why the south Georgia deacon feels compelled to minister to the state’s ministers.

Thrash brought more than two dozen pastors to Millennia Farms in the rural community of Sumner on Monday for a day in the outdoors, hunting quail behind some of the nation’s best birddogs on land managed specifically for that purpose.

“I remember times in my life when I don’t know how I would have made it without a friend to come alongside me,” said the 75-year-old Thrash, a retired homebuilder who manages Millennia Farms. “I want to be that kind of friend to these pastors. If a day out here in the country will make their lives more comfortable, will help them to relax, it’s the least I can do.”

For the pastors, it was the gentleman’s equivalent to a lady’s day at the spa. It was rest and relaxation, a time to temporarily lay aside the worries and responsibilities that come with life in ministry.

At midday, when time came for the pastors lay down their shotguns and picked up their forks, Thrash had prepared a low-country boil heavy on crawdads and shrimp. When they were full, some of the pastors returned to the fields for more hunting. Others went to Millennia’s lake to reel in some bass.

Thrash, who was baptized as a 9-year-old and grew up in a Christian home, said he's simply carrying on family tradition of being kind and generous to pastors.

“As a little boy, this was impressed upon me,” he said. “When we were canning vegetables, we shared them with the pastor,” he said. “When we were making cane syrup, the preacher got enough to last him a year. When we killed hogs, the preacher got sausage and porkchops. I was taught it’s a privilege and an honor to take care of preachers, and I truly believe that.”

Thrash’s own pastor, Troy Dykes at Bethel Baptist Church in nearby Omega, said no preacher could have a better supporter.

“He’s a partner in ministry but also a true friend at the same time,” said Dykes, who was among the pastors hunting on Monday. “There’s no doubt he always has your back. He’s generous and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to make pastors feel loved and appreciated.”

Shotgun-toting pastors began arriving early Monday morning for their day afield at Millennia Farms, which isn’t open to public hunting. It's a private getaway where Florida businessmen Jim and Gradon Willard entertain family, friends and business associates. The place is strikingly beautiful with its mixture of pine forests and rolling grasslands.

It’s easy to see why pastors quickly accept Thrash’s invitation to come here for R&R.

“I can’t say all the stress is gone when they leave here, but I can say they have had a pleasant experience out in the sunshine and the fresh air,” Thrash said.

Lauren Sullens, president of the Georgia Baptist Woman’s Missionary Union, said ministries like Thrash’s are valuable in many ways.

“As a pastor’s wife, I can tell you it is really important for pastors to leave the office and really be in a place where they truly are not in touch with anybody,” she said. “A physical activity in God’s creation is absolutely one of the best gifts they can receive.”

Thrash considers providing pastors with a day outdoors as his way of helping to share the gospel by rejuvenating the men who preach it.

“God didn’t give me the ability to preach or teach,” Thrash said. “I don’t speak well, but I know how to lift other people up. And, in my mind, if I can do that, then I have a part in winning people to the Lord.”


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