On the Hunt: Embracing—and Breaking—Tradition in the Name of Christ

For most of his life, one of missionary Rich McLane’s passions has been hunting. His wife Lori enjoys playing the trumpet. When they became missionary church planters in Poland years ago, who would have guessed these passions would converge to reach more than 120,000 hunters throughout the country?

In Poland, hunting is serious business, and it attracts the society’s elite—engineers, professors, lawyers, parliamentarians, and the like. With traditions that date back to medieval times, Polish hunting is a status sport that requires formal training, membership to a club, and significant financial resources. One might imagine that ministering to hunters would be a challenge due to how unapproachable the hunting culture can seem, the approvals required to have a hunting weapon, and taking the tests to become a hunter. But Rich and Lori have found it to be a divinely-inspired challenge, one that miraculously merges the passions God placed within them in childhood.

It makes sense that Rich wanted to join the hunting community for recreation and ministry. However, one hunting tradition in Poland is “signaling,” or using a trumpet to communicate messages to hunters scattered throughout the game lands. It was through Lori’s trumpet playing (Rich has since learned to play too!) that the McLanes first found acceptance within the Polish Hunting Association. And they became the first Americans to adopt traditional signaling, becoming signalists for hunts all around Poland. Lori has even written her own signals that she is invited to perform at traditional group hunts around the country. Through their involvement with signaling and with their credentials as ministers, doors also have opened for the McLanes to begin chaplaincy ministries in some of the hunting clubs.

But as the McLanes found out, the biggest challenge is another tradition—that “to be Polish is to be Catholic.” Though many Poles are only culturally Catholic (meaning they identify as Catholic because of tradition only), they are still afraid to leave the Catholic Church. Even if they are curious about another kind of church, their interest is simultaneously quashed by the fear of losing their salvation if they leave Catholicism.

That hasn’t stopped God from moving, though.

The McLanes are invited to many of Poland’s hunting clubs to play their traditional signaling music. This has opened doors for them to pray for the hunters before and after hunts and to share God’s word with them. And the doors just keep opening! A hunting club in Wiaczemin, Poland, has asked the McLanes to plant a church inside their club, so hunters who come on the weekend can have a church service. The McLanes’ vision is to see a Pentecostal church service in every one of the 2500 clubs throughout the country. They are also working on getting a special “Hunting Bible,” a New Testament with a hunting-related cover—already accepted by two Catholic bishops and a cardinal—into the hands of every hunter in Poland.

For Rich and Lori McLane, a hunting license and a trumpet are not just requirements for pursuing their hobbies—they have become the basis of a powerful ministry in Central Europe. By embracing hunting and signaling traditions, they are communicating Christ to the thousands of hunters throughout Poland.