David Edmondson said he’s comfortable juggling his jobs of leading a church in Flowery Branch and operating a deer processing plant in Lula.
Edmondson, 45, says he owes his business know-how to teachings gleaned from Genesis to Revelation.
The business and the church are intertwined, with the business sustaining the church’s ministries, thereby taking the load off his growing Covenant Connections congregation in Flowery Branch, he said.
“Anytime you want to reach out in the community with food pantries, or clothing drive, anything, things can get so taxing on the people,” Edmondson said. “And the times you want to do it is Christmas, Thanksgiving and stuff like that. Well, that’s the times that your people are spending their money on their families.”
The Thanksgiving holiday season was a busy time at the processing plant. A constant flow of traffic paraded along Athens Street as hunters pulled up in their trucks to unload their game. They dropped their carcasses off, put in an order of how they wanted their prize processed and drove off with ticket in hand.
Edmondson said the church — through its DE Ministries — bought the Lula facility, along with its name, North Georgia Processing, in February.
Joel Flores, a Brooklyn, N.Y.- bred Puerto Rican who also is a member of Covenant Connections, is one of the managers there. Flores said business was so brisk for Thanksgiving that he had 30 carcasses on the ground at one time.
Gary Hutton, who Edmondson calls his expert cutter, trains and teaches the ins and outs of trimming deer meat to a half dozen other workers.
The process can get messy. Carcasses are dropped off and skinned on site. They are gutted, hosed down and hung on a rack, where they are lined inside a cooler to bleed down completely. Once quartered, the carcasses are brought in to be processed to customers’ specifications by Hutton and his team. They vacuum-seal ground meat, prepare sausages, cube steaks and carefully trim tenderloin.
“This is why deer meat is not sold in supermarkets,” Hutton said, pointing to a 7-inch piece of tenderloin weighing less than 3 pounds. “That much would cost you $50 in the supermarket. It’s too expensive.”
The business provides for the church’s local food pantry ministry and a dozen or so foreign missions.
An avid deer hunter himself, Edmondson said the pantry recently handed out more than 100 pounds of deer meat.
The business was purchased following the nondenominational church’s success with a not-for-profit day care, Kids of Covenant, which is also owned by DE Ministries.
Chuck Crotzer, who is a member of the congregation and operates a processing plant in Murrayville called Southers Deer Cooler, told Edmondson the plant in Lula was up for sale.
Running a business was nothing new for Edmondson. The day he got married at 21 to his sweetheart, Stephanie, Edmondson enrolled in Spirit Vision Bible College in Gainesville.
“Just getting married, I started my own business,” Edmondson said. “I did ceramic, tile and marble installation.”
When the business grew and got too busy, Edmondson sold it to his partners and went full time into the ministry. He and his wife started a church in Dahlonega in 1999.
In 2010, the couple founded Covenant Connections, which will celebrate its seventh anniversary next month.
“I tell my people all the time that in essence God is a businessman,” Edmondson said. “If you look at the Bible, you always see business transactions. For instance, ‘redemption’ is a business term.
“If you go to a pawn shop and you pawn something, they are going to give you a redeemer’s ticket, a redemption ticket. You need that ticket to make your purchase back. That’s what Christ did. The Bible says we’ve been redeemed by the blood of the lamb.”