'Top Shot' winner aims for higher goals
Sixteen contestants are chosen out of thousands to "shoot it out" for the title of "Top Shot." Each season's top honor is given to a marksman -- or markswoman -- who can meet physically demanding, almost impossible, challenges with accuracy and endurance.
The prize: $100,000 and the title of "Top Shot."
The contestants included a national revolver champion, two Homeland Security agents, a former Navy SEAL, two cops, a nurse and several firearms instructors. Two of the competitors were self-taught, including Ellermann.
"I was told by a friend that I should put my name in to the History Channel for Top Shot," Ellermann said. "[I] thought it sounded fun. I didn't think I'd hear back from them though.
"I just sent an e-mail with my picture and said, 'Hey, I work at a Christian kids' camp, I'm a foster parent, love God, love kids. Oh, yeah, and I like to shoot, and I'm pretty good at it too.'"
He was called the next day from among 20,000 who had applied.
"I know I was chosen as the 'token' Christian guy," Ellermann told a crowd at Southcliff Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, in November. "But I think it was God's favor."
During the Top Shot show, Ellermann endured snide comments about his faith from other contestants -- comments like "Aren't you supposed to be at your Christian camp teaching kids how to read the Bible?"
Yes, he does that too. Ellerman is the director of Camp His Way in the piney woods of East Texas.
Setting aside the responsibilities of his job and leaving a pregnant wife and two children, Ellermann trekked to the competition.
"It was tough," he said. "I had to be away from my family for a total of six weeks. But I knew that God had a plan in it; I mean, how else would any of this have happened?
"I was in an environment that I wasn't used to, being surrounded by some pretty rough and tough characters," he recounted, "but I wasn't given this gift by the Lord to show up and judge or condemn those around me.... I was there to be Jesus to all who surrounded me, and show love and acceptance."
Ellermann said the experience gave him opportunities to be a quiet yet widely heard witness for Jesus Christ.
The first week he was there, for example, "one of the 'coolest' guys on the set came up to me and said, 'Hey, Dustin, I've been watching you and how you react to things.'
"'Uh-oh,' I thought to myself. But then he went on to say, 'You're one of the coolest Christians I know.'"
"I must've been doing what I should be doing with these guys," Ellermann said.
Despite the drama between the competitors, Ellermann said he was just there for fun. He was considered the odd man out with no training or professional title, but Ellermann wasn't trusting in his credentials to get him through. He was trusting in God.
Southcliff's pastor, Carroll Marr, said he invited Ellermann to speak at the church because "I wanted our people, those who know Christ, to walk away with an understanding that God can and will use them to accomplish His purposes. Even our hobbies can be tools in God's hand."
Ellermann's appearance also was used as an evangelism tool to attract those who would not have been receptive to his message otherwise.
"The first person I met Sunday morning," Marr said, "was a man with his son who had heard about the event through a handout at a local gun shop. His son was a fan of the show ... and loved Dustin." The father and son sat on the front row and were engaged through the entire service, though they were not churchgoers, Marr said.
This article originally appeared in the Southern Baptist Texan (texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. Emily Crutcher is a correspondent for the Texan. To read about Dustin Ellermann's ministry, visit camphisway.com.