UNIONVILLE – ‘Did you pack pool shoes with your swim clothes?” (yes). “Do you get your ball glove?” (yes Mom). “How about your horse? Did you pack a horse?” (huh?)
It’s a rite of summer – kids packing their stuff for summer camp. But in a north Missouri summer camp you could pack a horse with you and it wouldn’t be out of place. Actually they will supply you with a horse to use if you don’t have your own horse at the annual Rodeo Bible Camp in Unionville.
Held every summer for 9 years now, this Christian camp aims to do two things: teach rodeo and horsemanship skills as well as share the gospel with kids. It is sponsored by the Chariton Hills Fellowship of Christian Cowboys which draws members from Putnam, Schuyler and Adair Counties.
This summer 79 youth, ages 10-17 attended the four-day camp at the Putnam County Fairgrounds. 4-H exhibition buildings were turned into boys and girls dormitories and the livestock expo arena became a chapel. 60 staffers and volunteers watched over the young cowboys and cowgirls.
Every day started with chores as the youth took care of the horses and livestock in the barns. Cowboy meals were served at the fairground snack shack and eaten in the open air shelter. Then it was on to event instruction in one of eight rodeo skill tracks. These included: horsemanship, bull riding, team roping, trick riding, trick roping, breakaway roping, goat tying and barrel racing. Each youth picks a track and stays with it for the week.
At the end of the week a rodeo was held in the fairgrounds pavilion and the youth showed off their new and improved skills for parents and the community.
A knowledge of horses and rodeo is not required to attend Rodeo Bible camp. Sara Sivets, camp director, said “God is changing lives in this camp. We have a lot of new kids this year. We are finding there are a lot of kids that want to learn how to ride a horse.” She added, “But we also introduce them to Jesus.” Sivets said she has competed in rodeo events since she was 8 years old. Her specialty is trick riding.
At the basic horsemanship skill track, boys and girls were learning to saddle their horses, mount up and take the reins to guide the horse in a slow walk around the ring.
More advanced tracks had young cowboys riding bucking bulls, roping calves and trick riding. Girls were barrel racing, trick riding and roping goats. Both learned how to twirl ropes and do fancy tricks.
The Chariton Hills Fellowship of Christian Cowboys is a part of a national fellowship. Area rodeo enthusiasts, ranchers and those interested in horses participate in events year round. Some of the Baptist churches in northern Missouri are heavily involved, including Omaha Baptist Church and Hartford Baptist Church, both in the Unionville area. Other denominations, such as the Christian churches are also represented.
Kevin Collins, pastor of Omaha Baptist was horseback, roping bulls as a Pathway reporter asked him how it was going. “No major complaints. There are a couple of snotty, rank bulls we don’t much care for” he replied with a twinkle in his eye.
Chapel speaker, Travis Long, a rodeo clown and bullfighter from Topeka, Kansas, spoke to the youth twice a day (Rodeo) “is a family sport,” he said. “The family all comes to the rodeo and there’s something for all ages. Our job is to keep families together and point people to God. It’s a safe place to learn some rodeo and be introduced to God.”
Jason Rouse, one of the team leaders with the young boys stood by the horse arena with his chaps, boots and cowboy hat and said “The cowboy lifestyle is all about being free. Cowboys are independent. Sometimes that keeps a cowboy away from the cross. But we’re here to help them find the freedom that comes by living in Christ.”
“There are so many people that think cowboy lifestyle is about beer, dipping Skoal and chasing women, but we’re here to show them when you follow Jesus you ‘ride for the brand.” He elaborated that “when a cowboy works for a rancher, he is true to the cattle company and when doing a job on a man’s ranch, you look out for his interest.” That interest, Rouse said, for a Christian, is the Kingdom of God.
For more information about the Rodeo Bible Camp, Sara Sivets invited Pathway readers to investigate their website at www.charitonhillsrbc.com.