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ABOUT US: Welcome to Cowboys of the Cross: your resource for Christian cowboys. Cowboys of the Cross has been providing cowboy church for the rodeo and cowboy community for more than 15 years. The website is your source for stories of faith and encouragement as well as devotions and news and information affecting cowboys of faith. Cowboys of the Cross leads cowboy church at rodeos and bull ridings in both Ontario, Canada and across the north and southeastern United States.   MORE ABOUT US HERE

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Down the Road

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By Scott Hilgendorff/Cowboys of the Cross

When Kris Furr made Jesus the Lord of his life last month, he had no idea God would throw a challenge and learning opportunity at him just hours later.

It made it very clear that God was working in his life.

Kris, a bull fighter from Statesville, NC, was trying to sell his camper on Craig's list when he got a call from a guy who asked if Kris would consider trading the camper for the guy's van. It would have been at a $3,000 to $4,000 loss between the difference in the value of the van versus the camper but Kris was stuck—he had just made Jesus his lord and savior hours earlier and now he was being asked to help a family.

The man had explained to Kris that he and his wife had recently become homeless and were living in that van and a tent and he wanted to trade. The camper would give them a chance to have better accommodation, especially for their two kids that they were trying to home school.

But, $3,000 is a lot of money to give up when you're trying to make your living as a bull fighter, full time, traveling the roads to work events across the country for very little pay. In order to be the best at it and be one of the few to make it to the professional level and the pay scale that goes with it, you have to sacrifice a lot.

But, $3,000. Would God really be asking Kris to give the equivalent of that much money to total strangers? Was this a test from God?

Those are the questions he had for me when we talked about the situation.

The short answer, of course, was that God could very well be asking that of Kris.

“I always knew who God was but until today, I had never given my life to Him,” said Kris as we talked about his whole experience that day, leading up to the phone call.

Now he was afraid to make the wrong decision about the camper. We talked about the difference between feeling guilty or feeling the Holy Spirit's conviction, what the Bible teaches about giving sacrificially, what it can mean to follow Christ beyond that moment of salvation, being a good steward of the resources God gives you and how to know when God is answering prayer about what to do.

We also talked about how emotions can manipulate us and can be used by others to do the same—that he had to be careful.

In prayerfully seeking wisdom from God, Kris realized that a starting point would be to at least meet with the man who called and look into the story more.

When he did, praise God, Kris determined the story was a scam but also learned straight from scripture that he was willing to be obedient to God, even when it was difficult and it meant sacrifice.

And praise God, Kris and I are working out a study plan to dig deeper into God's word since being in church often is difficult for Kris as he's on the road so much.


Center Gate Story

         Sometimes we often loose sight of what our testimony is. For me, it wasn’t just being saved but everything God has brought me through and the grace He has extended to me.          When I was seven or eight, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Savior. As a kid a grew up in church and at the age of 15 I announced my call to preach. Shortly after, my mother and father divorced and my family was torn apart.

          We all quit goin to church. I didn't go to church much of my high school years. After I graduated, I went on to college where had started going to parties. Before I knew it that was what my life became about.

            In 2009 God had changed my life for good, He blessed me with a beautiful baby boy. That made me think about the kind of example and role model that I was gonna be for my son. So I started going back to church and living for God, I started preaching and doing what God would have me do because that's what I wanted me son to grow up to do; doing what God would have him do. But a year and a half after he was born, his mom  and I split up and she stopped letting me see him.

          I got mad at God and blamed Him,  as she kept my son away from me for two years. I didn't get to talk to him or even know how he was doing. She had moved and changed her phone number and I  had no way to contact her to even ask about my son.

Well here I am six years later with the most amazing family anyone could ask for. I have a beautiful wife and two very beautiful daughters now, and on the verge of getting full custody of my son. I'm going back to church and I'm stronger and closer than I have ever been. Preaching His word and living for him. God showed me that things happen for a reason. My brother is kinda going threw the same thing as I had already been through and I can now be there to him through it.

I can't thank God enough for all he has done for me most of all saving me from a place called hell by sacrificing His one and only son to die for me. Just wanna say thanks to Scott Hilgendorff for doing what he does through Cowboys of the Cross, and helping lead me back to the right path.

Josh Ray, West Mansfield, Ohio


The annual report, God did some big things

 Thanks for being a part of the adventure in 2016.

 Now a team of four on the road and three more that write for the website, the most significant event of 2016 was seeing first James Douma join the team, a saddle bronc rider I met at a Christian rodeo school I was involved with last year. James started to teach and host fellowship with his wife Jenn in Ontario with Rawhide Rodeo where Cowboys of the Cross got its start.

 James began this summer and was joined in the fall by Alan Burt and Dusty Whidden. Alan used to bull ride out of Michigan and Dusty is a bareback bronc rider who travels across the US, largely with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

 Alan is currently teaching Saturday nights at a weekly bull riding series in VanWert, Ohio, where the ministry has received official recognition as part of the event thanks to the producer, Denny Kreischer. Dusty teaches randomly at rodeos he attends and James will be starting again in May or June, when the Ontario season begins again.

 The summer saw us praying for a police officer who is still recovering in hospital after being ambushed in Louisiana for being a cop. His cousin is a rodeo cowboy who reached out for prayer. That opportunity lead us to start Cowboys for Cops, a social media campaign focused on getting the cowboys to engage with the police they encounter at fairs and when getting speeding tickets (it happens often). While I would have loved to have seen it reach across the country, it was amazing  to see several cowboys take part in this simply because they had seen others doing it online. My biggest goal was to get the cowboys to actually pray for the officers and this is asking a lot of a large group of guys who mostly are uncomfortable with praying in public. It was heart-filling to see that a few of them took that step and really did pray with the officers. I heard from a few police officers who have found it encouraging and we will continue to do this into the new year. This led to a new series of messages on prayer while I spent six weeks in Ohio in August/September during fair season.

 One highlight was getting to lead service at Gateway Cowboy Church in North Carolina. I'm still pretty nervous teaching/preaching in front of a formal church body and this was the most comfortable I had ever felt so far.

 For the 9th year in a row, I got to lead the hour-long service at the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association National Finals as well as the two, short locker-room services before each performance. The three sermons focused on following God, learning how to hear His calling and learning about the obstacles that sometimes keep us from following Him.

 Cowboy church was led in Ohio, Michigan, Tennessee (where I still continue to attend National Cowboy Association rodeo events as well) and Kentucky this year. I was in a few less states than normal but with an increase in the number of rodeos and bull ridings in Ohio, I spent two runs there at the beginning and end of the summer where we also did a couple Bible studies and cookouts.

 Some significant relationships were built in Ohio that led to several one-on-one appointments with some of the cowboys who reached out with questions from understanding the faith to life situations. I also made a hospital visit and led a small study with a producer and his wife after he suffered a seizure at the end of his event and is struggling with having to leave the industry because the events may be contributing to the medical condition. A bull rider who I met with in Ohio attributes some of that time and being at cowboy church at the events, to helping him get on track and find the motivation to start leading a Bible study at his home with some of the cowboys and friends in his area.

 I don't have an easy way to quantify this but there was more than the typical number of people reaching out with prayer requests or to talk, particularly in the last half of the year and that trend has already moved into this year with two people reaching out this week already, seeking Biblical advice for personal challenges.

 While getting content seen can be a challenge, we are still networked to more than 10,000 people on social media and have some access to the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association facebook page which is networked to more than 13,000 people. I've concentrated on Facebook but in 2017, will return to Twitter and other platforms to try to boost visits to the website again.

 The website is back to the average of about 425 users a month. I'm still very happy with that number but we have got it has high as 700 and 800 when SEBRA allowed us to have a free commercial on its finals broadcast on a small horse-related cable network. The broadcast ran several times and we saw a boost in traffic. The site is still updated twice a month and promoted each time updates are done.

 In 2017, I'm going to try to network with others who get good social media attention to try to get them to help promote the site.

 Discipleship remains the focus of the ministry with being able to attend rodeos and bull ridings to lead cowboy church as the main way I'm able to connect and build relationships with the cowboys and bull riders. It appears 2017 will see some extra time spent in Ohio again. With the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association allowing me to serve as its chaplain, the organization has seen many of the events it sanctions located in Ohio the past few years, an unusual state to see such a boon in the sport.

 With changes again church leadership last year, I now report primarily to administrator Laura Estes who also oversees Jr. Youth Ministry with her husband Johnny at LifeSong Family Church. While I'm an employee of the church, they have graciously allowed me to maintain the relationships with the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association and National Cowboy Association and minister within those organizations as an outreach of LifeSong Family Church. While the Onsite Pastors and staff minister to the church body in Lewisburg and lead outreach programs in the community like their successful food ministry, LifeSong allows me to be the church to the cowboy community as their Pastor to Cowboys which means traveling to the events where they are. While onsite staff lead church on Sundays, I lead simplified church services on any given day of the week at rodeos and bull ridings in several different states.


By Scott Hilgendorff/Cowboys of the Cross

Let's give Ty Pozzobon's family huge credit for being willing to use the "S" word and prayers of encouragement as they face all the challenges that come from seeking understanding in a loss like this.

There's such an unfounded stigma to saying the word suicide and being able to talk about it, but the thing is, talking about it is HOW more people get access to help. If we're not afraid to talk openly about depression and our struggles, it can help others to be open as well and can help us to point each other to the support that can help us get through it before it spirals so deep that a person doesn't see any other way out.

Will every life be saved? Nope, even solid Christians shock their communities by taking their own lives when we think by being a Christian, we've got the strength of Christ to get through.

While we know it should be enough, sometimes it isn't and some lose the struggle. But if more of us understand suicide, the warning signs and how to encourage and walk through a struggle with someone, the more people will make it through.That's why, despite most guys being freaked out by it, a few years back at one of the Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association Finals instead of cowboy church, I brought in a team of people to teach us suicide prevention. At the time, many of our members had been dealing with the loss of two bull riders over the course of the previous year/months. The stigma (I'm not going to that, there's nothing wrong with me) kept a lot of guys out. At the same time, there's five or six of us with at least some training in what to look for and how to reach out.

That being said, our hope really is in Christ. Eternal security is found in a saving faith in Jesus who gives us hope that despite how painful and broken this world is, a perfect painless one awaits us for eternity if we make Jesus the Lord of our lives. But in the meantime, as Christians, we're all each other's brothers and sisters. I'm here to walk alongside whatever you're going through and I know many others who will too. If you're struggling, don't struggle alone and don't be ashamed, prideful, embarrassed or whatever else it is to keep you from asking for help.

It really is okay to talk about this stuff. If anyone connected with Ty's family can share these thoughts with them, please do if you think it will encourage them. It is so important that they are willing to share what has happened openly. It cuts down the speculation and gossip and allows the long process of healing to begin. Please, keep them and their friends lifted up in prayer.

Be encouraged that Ty’s loss has opened up conversation about suicide, pray for his family