Cattlemen for Christ: spreading more than just faith
by Molly Johnson
Fence Post Intern
It’s not your average Sunday at the rodeo fairgrounds, but the occurrence of these events are definitely becoming more noticeable ” Cowboy Church Services.
For the past couple of years, Cattlemen for Christ (CFC), a non-denominational organization, has been making its mark in Colorado. Whether the volunteers of CFC were serving traveling cowboys at the Greeley Independence Stampede or encouraging Weld County families to gather on Sunday mornings for worship at the County Fair, their message of faith has been spreading like a wildfire across Colorado.
That’s not all that has been spreading though … over 20 years ago, Clair Orr established CFC in Colorado with the desire of making a positive difference in the agricultural community by providing a network of support, love, encouragement, prayer and other resources that assist in accomplishing God’s work. A non-profit organization, CFC is staffed by volunteers who have a burden in their heart for the people of the land.
The first service, which was held in Greeley at the Cattlemen’s Convention a little less than 20 years ago, had fewer than 10 people in attendance. Since then, CFC has become a tradition at the Greeley Independence Stampede and at other events around Colorado. This year, over 1,200 people were in attendance for the Cowboy Church Service at the Stampede.
Each year, traveling cowboys visit the Stampede and attend the church service. As they return home, they realize the opportunity to invite others to a service like this to share in a bond of fellowship is something worth investing a little time in. Across the country, CFC organizations have been popping up to spread the “Good News” of Jesus … particularly to agricultural communities.
“What’s exciting to me is to see the Lord raising up men and women to continue this into other areas, that’s a blessing for me,” said Orr, founder and past president of CFC, about the “spread” of CFC into other states.
At this year’s Stampede, the Cowboy Church Service drew a diverse crowd. People from different walks of life gathered in the grandstands for a worship service that transformed the dirt-filled arena into a sanctuary of music, laughter, tears, prayers, love, hope and faith.
The service opened with a welcome and prayer from Orr. “We’re fortunate to have the freedom to gather in the grandstands, praise your name and call this a church,” said Orr.
Orr reiterated that “We’re here to honor God and country.” After Sept. 11 last year, patriotism is on the rise and Americans are standing their ground. Orr read a passage from “Great moments with Mr. Lincoln,” where he emphasized the fact that liberty must become the political religion of the nation where we all agree that liberty is the best part of being American.
Following a reading called, “I am the flag,” the large crowd stood proudly and gallantly pledged to the nation’s oldest trademark ” the red, white and blue.
For Orr, the Cowboy Church Service is the highlight of his time at the Stampede. “It’s heartfelt, the people come because they really want to be here, it’s really uplifting that this may be the eternal salvation for those who haven’t heard the gospel,” said Orr.
The worship service also included inspirational music by a group called “Last Minute Groove” from Fort Collins. After the group left the trailer a’rockin’, someone from the audience screamed out, “They can come back any time!”
Jerry Schimmel gave his testimony by telling how he got from “Point A” in his life to “Point B,” meaning, how he was transformed from a non-believer into a strong Christian.
Thirteen years ago, on June 19, 1989, Jerry survived a fatal plane crash that killed 112 people out of 296 on board the plane. He wasn’t supposed to be on that plane, but as a standby passenger on a business trip, Jerry and his boss reserved the last two seats on a full airplane.
The airplane’s right main engine exploded and was non-functional, forcing the plane to make an emergency landing in Sioux City, Iowa. Jerry managed to escape the burning wreckage of the aircraft, but moments later, he re-entered the plane to rescue a crying infant.
Jerry said he never really thought of himself as a “hero,” and that he never really thought surviving a plane wreck could be so traumatizing.
“For a 10-month period after the crash, there was a downward spiral in my life that I couldn’t stop,” Jerry said. “For the first time in the 30 years of my life, I had been knocked down and couldn’t pick myself back up.”
Jerry was suffering from shock, depression, survivor’s guilt and anger. Prior to the crash, Jerry said he had no spiritual foundation. After months of anxiety, depression and a broken marriage, he decided he couldn’t handle the hopelessness anymore. He sat in his bedroom, head in hands and offered up a prayer, “God, please give me something to hold onto.” Jerry took his first step in becoming a Christian that day, and is still going strong for the Lord. “God was all I needed,” he said.
Following Jerry’s testimony, the crowd greeted each other, rubbed shoulders with neighbors and met new friends. They filed out of the stadium with a breath of fresh air in their lungs and a message of hope in their hearts.
The service brought a spiritual atmosphere to the community, and paraded the independence of our country in a whole new light.
“It’s what life is really about,” said Jason Kraft, Colorado Cattlemen for Christ president. “Rodeo doesn’t last past death, this is eternal.”
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