Fairbanks, Alaska. Three a.m. on a cool spring morning in the parsonage of Salacha Baptist Church, near Fairbanks. Pastor Richard Faught is awakened from a sound sleep by the ringing of his phone.
The cellular caller is an Alaskan state trooper. "Moose hit three miles south of the town of North Pole on Richardson Highway. Come and get it, preacher." Faught calls a layman from his congregation. "Moose down on Richardson. Go sit on it till we get a wrecker out there." He repeats the trooper's directions.
The layman calls a friend. They drive to the location where a 1600-pound bull moose has been hit by a pickup truck. The driver is telling the trooper the accident wasn't his fault. "That big booger ran right in front of me. Just look what he's done to my truck." Another pickup pulls to a stop. Two men jump out and trot over to the trooper. "Can we have a shoulder?"
The trooper points to the moose sitters. "Sorry, but the Baptists beat you here. They're sending out a wrecker. They'll use it in their Road Kill Ministry to feed the hungry." Fifteen minutes later a wrecker arrives and pulls the dead moose aboard. A second wrecker rolls in to tow the smashed pickup to a garage. The trooper hollers at a couple of new arrivals. "Alright, folks. Show's over. The moose is on its way to the Baptist storehouse."
The moose sitters follow the wrecker back to Fairbanks. More Baptist volunteers arrive. They drape the dead moose over an old swing set, where they clean it out and hang up the hunks in the crisp early morning air. The temperature will rise to sixty degrees by afternoon. The moose's body temperature is so high that they'll keep it out in the open for a couple of days to cool off. The slabs of meat are then packed away in a big locker with other moose steaks. Come winter and the meat will be distributed to needy families in Fairbanks and out in the bush where the temperature routinely sinks to 40 below in winter.
Dave Baldwin, a bearded bear of a man, is director of missions for Tanana Valley Baptist Association, which sprawls over an area larger than many states in the "lower 48." Located 48 miles south of Fairbanks, Salacha Church, with 48 members, is one of 14 churches in the Association, which also includes five missions and three preaching posts.
Richard Faught and Manuel DeLeon, pastor of Hispanic Mission Bautista Hispana in Fairbanks, direct the Road Kill Ministry for the Association. "The Road Kill Ministry," says DOM Dave Baldwin, "is a big part of our Food Bank Program which helps up to 3,000 people every year. If they don't get a moose slab from the food bank, many people will go through a meatless winter."
"Hundreds of moose are hit every year on the highways of Alaska. Moose are a protected species, and if you hit one, you'd better be able to convince the police that it wasn't your fault. The big payoff comes in witnessing to those we help. Many come to our churches and accept Christ."