UNIONVILLE – 103 students gathered at the Putnam County Fairgrounds to develop or improve their skills at rodeo and horsemanship. Along with that, the teens had a good shot at hearing the gospel and catching some intense Christian discipleship as well. Twice a day the students and leaders gathered in an auction arena at the fairgrounds for a chapel service with cowboy preacher Bobbie Pope of Forney, Texas. On the second day of the camp, June 14, Pope spoke about ranching, farming, being a rodeo cowboy and giving God your best using the example of Shammah, a lentil farmer who defended against the Philistines in II Samuel 23.
Later that day the students, fortified by a lunch of walking tacos and iced tea, got into their rodeo skill classes. Choosing from an array of subjects like: trick riding, team roping, breakaway roping, bronco riding, bull riding, goat tying, barrel racing, trick roping and basic horsemanship, they all learned a few things whether new to horses or experienced riders.
Sarah Sevitts, who coordinated the camp along with her husband Jeremy, said the students don’t have to know anything about horses to attend. They will start with basic horsemanship and progress as they return to camp learning a new skill each year. Those who are experienced will gain some skills to help them if they compete in high school rodeo events. And the Chariton Hills Fellowship of Christian Cowboys, the camp’s sponsor, will help them develop Christian character along the way.
Omaha Baptist Church and Hartford Baptist Church, both in the Unionville area, provide several leaders for the camp along with other evangelical churches in northern Missouri. Two summer missionaries, Jessica Thompson and Jennifer Rivera, from Missouri Baptist Convention/Thousand Hills Baptist Association were cabin leaders, sleeping with their crew of young cowgirls in the exhibition halls of the fairgrounds.
“We had two girls in our group that did not identify themselves as Christians and one of them has been asking some questions about faith,” said Thompson.
Kevin Collins, pastor of Omaha Baptist Church, said they have been participating since the camp’s inception in 2006. Noting he didn’t grow up as a cowboy, but it’s a lifestyle he enjoys now as a rancher, funeral director and bivocational pastor.
“Cowboy Lee” Homoki, 75, traveled from Grand Rapids, Mich., to teach a class in trick roping. “God and cowboys do the same thing. God rounds up the strays and so do the cowboys. God draws us to Himself with a rope of love,” Homoki said as he taught a class of boys and girls how to spin a lariat rope and do tricks like stepping in and out of the ring of spinning rope.
Donkey-mounted security patrol Neil Schaath, made sure the camp was secure and checked in visitors to the fairgrounds. “I’m careful what I get involved in. What drove me to it (the camp) was not the rodeo but the primary goal is to share Christ’s salvation and His finished work on the cross,” said Schaath, who runs a western style Victory Lane Grace Bible Camp near Livonia, east of Unionville.
The Chariton Hills chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Cowboys welcomes budding rodeo cowboys and cowgirls and those who want to experience it and learn more to participate in the camp in future years. Their website is: www.charitonhillsrbc.com.