Retreat in the Woods
TV personality sets CrossHeirs Center in former hunting club
Matt Mosler isn’t an ordinary preacher. As a matter of fact, he probably wouldn’t call himself a preacher.
Listen to him for only a short time, though, and it’s evident his heart lies in the ministry. The same short conversation will reveal he wears a lot of hats. A preacher’s hat might as well be one of them.
The charismatic, always grinning, Mosler is best known as local newscaster in Little Rock, Ark., where he co-hosts KARK Channel 4’s early-morning show. Wearing that hat, he carries a persona more suited to the talking heads on television: Clean-cut, pressed suit wrapped around a toothy grin and down-home charm.
“I think people often have that perception, yeah, but I think they have the perception of a lot of people on TV because you’re wearing coats and ties and you have the toothy grin,’’ Mosler said. “But I grew up in northern California outside of Reno up in the Sierra Mountains. Everybody around me was loggers. It was those guys that had those big burly caterpillar mustaches, you know and their hands were nothing but calluses, I mean those are the people I grew up around.
“Now, I look like a little boy and I sound like a little girl. That’s still kind of my stock.”
Until you take him outdoors and all that just goes away. The suit is replaced with jeans and a cowboy hat, and the news desk makes way for a stack of firewood that needs cutting and splitting.
“I love it (outdoors), he said, “to get away, get the tie off, to come on out here and cut wood and mow grass and build things. This is where I love to be.”
It helps that Mosler has combined all his loves into one project, the CrossHeirs Retreat Center on the banks of Bayou Meto near Stuttgart. There the polished newscaster looks more like a redneck, sounds more like a preacher.
Matt Mosler has long served as emcee of the World’s Championship Duck Calling Contest in Stuttgart, Ark. (Courtesy Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce)
CrossHeirs Retreat Center, a 14,000-square-foot former duck club sporting 16 rooms and three stories, is part of Mosler’s Beautiful Feet Ministry intended to “inspire, encourage and motivate believers to all that God created them to be.” Its name comes from the Biblical verse in Romans 10:15, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news.”
Mosler’s center has created a lot of beautiful feet in the years to come, by combing the love of outdoors around deer and duck hunting with a message. Yet he struggles with defining the retreat center. Like his life, the center appears to be available for a lot of things. In less than a year, it’s been the site of women’s retreats, men’s and youth retreats, even a 50-year wedding celebration.
“We are not a hunting club, this is a Christian-based getaway,’’ Mosler said, “It’s a place for thinking, prayer, you know put away the electronic devices. The fact that it’s right in the middle of world-renowned duck hunting just makes it better.”
Even though Mosler has been a part of the electronic industry for decades, he’s had a vision for a getaway like this for years.
“I was hunting with some guys about eight years ago and we just had a great time, sitting in the lodge, talking and laughing,’’ Mosler said. “I mean these were a good bunch of Christian guys and we just had a great time and we started thinking this is really what we need to do to reach out to people and get guys in an environment where they’re comfortable where we can fellowship and talk and mentor and that sort of thing. So we started our CrossHeirs Outdoor Ministry.”
Their first getaway was located right on the highway from Little Rock to Stuttgart. That was followed by a moldy, mice-infested cabin, followed by a house trailer and eventually culminating into the 14,000-square-foot lodge formerly operated under the title Pintail Peninsula. In that former life, the lodge was dubbed by the Wall Street Journal as “The Taj Mahal of Duck Hunting.”
Make no mistake about it, deer and duck hunting is at the core of this retreat. It’s surrounded by some of the best hunting in the country. And Mosler and others can and do take part in hunts. They even have organized dove shoots and have built a reservoir for fishing. Hunting has been one consistent bind that Mosler has woven through his CrossHeirs Outdoor Ministry. The name practically says it all.
The hunting and fishing, though, is really secondary.
Matt Mosler and his family, wife Camille, son Travis and daughters Maddi and Becca. (Courtesy Stuttgart Chamber of Commerce)
“The reason we have this is we want to help people fulfill their ministry and we wanted to provide a place where churches and ministries can come,’’ Mosler said. “The very first thing we did was in December and there was a group of six couples. They had an idea for a ministry but they didn’t know what that looked like.
“They just needed a place to get away where they could get away from children and solemn and city and whatever, and work it out, and so they came here on a Friday. They moved the furniture in this little semi-circle around the television. They turned the television to a power point. They put up a white board. They had their notebooks in front of them. And for three days they sat, prayed, talked, wrote, fought, and by the end of the retreat a ministry had been born.
“That’s the whole reason why we do this. We get so busy with so much stuff, all this periphery, we never slow down long enough to hear. Prayer is not just ‘thank you God’ for the food. It’s not just talking to God. It’s having the opportunity to listen to him.
“And when you get in a place like this where the wind is blowing, birds are chirping, deer are walking, you get out in creation, you can hear. And for me as much as I enjoyed television over the years I don’t really belong in television.
“I’m not your typical TV guy. I think about the people that come out here, the lives that get changed, the ministries that get born, and that excites me. This is what I would like to do for the rest of my life. You know, having a place like this where people can come and get away and get in touch with that little stirring within their heart that you can’t get to with all the noise everywhere else, to have a place where they can get in touch with that, that’s exciting to me.”
Editor’s Note: Since his interview, Mosler, after 28 years in radio and television, left the 2:50 a.m. alarms behind to serve on the pastoral staff at North Little Rock’s New Life Church.