I grew up in a deep rooted Roman Catholic family. We attended church once or twice a week, I went to a catholic school and faith was a large part of my upbringing. I had always believed in God, but looking back, that wasn’t where my real relationship with Jesus started.
The small farming town I grew up in was a Christian community with seven churches and a population of about 1,000 people at the time. As I grew into my teenage years, I began to venture further away from home and church became more of a formality on holidays with my family.
The band I was playing in at the time started gaining local popularity and along with the girls and partying, it became the forefront of my focus. I’d pray every night just as I always had, but that too became simply a routine motion. Nighttime prayer also faded out as the years progressed. If anyone asked, I’d say, “yeah, yeah I’m a Christian.” But truthfully by that point it was just something I was in the habit of saying.
It was in my later teenage years that I first met my wife, Julie, with whom I eventually began the long journey of seeking out a relationship with Christ. We both wanted that real relationship with Jesus, but where did we start? How much were we willing to sacrifice and persist? The road back to Christ was a bumpy one for us both and I’ll admit that my wheels fell off more than once. Each life stage that we transitioned into brought about its own challenges and temptations.
It wasn’t until after college that the road began to smooth out and we could finally start to see a clearer picture. Julie is a barrel racer and her love for horses brought us to a horse ranch where we started spending our time and working. Here is where I met a very good friend of mine who is a deep rooted Christian Cowboy from California. Aside from being a top notch ranch hand and performance horse trainer, he is also a Bronc rider, and thus sparked my interest and love for rodeo. We’d spent some long work days talking scripture and faith and rodeo.
My attention was drawn to bull riding and he convinced me to go to the states and attend Sankeys rodeo school, and am I ever glad I did. Mr. Lyle Sankey is a devout Christian and he bases his life and business with Christ at the very centrer of it all. We spent a lot of time in prayer… before meals, behind the chutes before rides, after rides and we closed each school day with a cowboy church service led by him and the Bronc coach who was also a minister. I believe it was by grace that I ended up there because this is where everything FINALLY started to click for me.
I was given a copy of “The Way for Cowboys” pocket sized Bible there which I immediately dove into with devotion. Reading and re-reading every passage. Sticky notes and highlighter marks now litter the pages of that Bible which I still carry in my rodeo gear bag. I remember calling home from the school, excitedly proclaiming my epiphany to Julie.
Unaware, at the time, of Cowboys of the Cross, I told her that we needed to find a way to bring God and rodeo together back home in Ontario. A few short weeks after my return home to Ontario is when I became connected with James Douma. I had seen through mutual friends on Facebook that James, along with his wife, Jen, were taking on the responsibility of leading cowboy church at the Rawhide rodeos and my wife and I were so excited to see this and to become a part of the Cowboys of the Cross family.
Being surrounded by people who challenge you as a Christian is a wonderful thing. Constantly challenging yourself as a follower of Christ is necessary. Now instead of temptations and darkness lurking around each bend in the road, Jesus is there instead, holding out his hand and guiding me through the unknown of the future.
Prayer transformed from a meaningless habit into a meaningful conversation with my best friend, My Lord. In may of 2017 Julie and I were Blessed with the birth of our daughter which brought our marriage and personal lives closer to God. To raise our daughter (and God willing – future children) with a Christ centered upbringing is now our motivation for furthering our lives and relationships as Christians.
Jesus is alive and present, and it is my hope that anyone reading this challenges themselves, their friends and family to further their relationship with Jesus, because indeed, through Christ all things are possible.
God’s Best, Dean LeBlanc
“But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” 1 Peter 3:15-16
I grew up in a rural Christian home in Pennsylvania. My parents raised myself and my siblings to know Christ as our savior. I accepted Christ as my personal savior at the ripe old age of nine. Boy was it easy to be a Christian as a little boy. As I grew up I did not grow in my faith with Christ as I should have.
When I entered High School and became “independent” when I received my driver’s license, wrestling and football quickly became more important than going to church and having a relationship with Christ. I was more worried about my relationships here on earth. That is when I became dormant in my faith. Even though I had accepted Christ years prior, you would have never known it then. After High School I entered into the rodeo scene. I had always wanted to ride bulls and now that I was 18 no one could stop me. So I went to the local practice pen and got on one and I was hooked.
The next few years to follow were a spiritual rollercoaster for me. I continued to ride bulls and improve my bull riding skills but I also found myself praying for Gods protection and blessing when I was about to get on a bull. After the ride I’d curse if I fell off or if I covered I gave myself the glory. Bull riding led me to a practice pen at River Valley Ranch which is a Christian summer camp. Quite frankly at first I was just there to get on free bulls. But riding there that spring I began to realize that there was such a thing as a Christian cowboy. You didn’t have to have that rough tough cursing image that I fell into. These Christian cowboys were the real deal and when they prayed before a ride they meant it. And if they fell off or rode, you never heard them curse and they gave God the glory no matter the out come. I started to see that they had something that I didn’t. I began talking about Christ again with them and renewed my faith. That summer I worked for River Valley Ranch as a wrangler for their junior horsemanship camp. I rode bulls and colts all summer long and really attempted to grow in my relationship with Christ.
After River Valley Ranch I heard about this Disciple Training School (DTS) that catered to cowboys. It was a branch of Youth with a Mission which I had heard about in church. This branch was called Cowboys with a Mission (CWAM) and it was located in a little town called Meeteetse in Wyoming. A chance to go west and satisfy this hunger that was lit in me learning more about God, I was definitely in.
That September I was loaded up and heading to Wyoming. Little did I know what God had in store for me in Wyoming. At the CWAM base I spent eight weeks learning of God. All His aspects, who He is and what He expects of me. All in the meantime I got to ride bulls, train colts, go to rodeos and put on Cowboy Churches. Boy was I on fire for Christ. I could be the Christian man God wanted me to be and be the cowboy as well. After the eight weeks in DTS, my team and I traveled to Tanzania Africa for an eight week outreach.
In Tanzania is where I experienced God in a way I never thought possible. There I was thousands of miles from home in the middle of the African bush. My restroom was a hole in the ground with mud walls around it and my shower was a five gallon bucket. I really had to rely on God to provide. I thought that we were just going to Africa to help them learn about better ways to farm and raise cattle and speak to them about my Savior. What I thought and what God had planned were two totally different things. To make a long story short, God revealed himself and used our team for the glory of his kingdom. There were people set free, instant healings, and over 50 people were saved and received Christ as their Savior. I could write forever on how God worked in my life in those short ,eight weeks. But I can tell you that I was on fire for Christ. When I returned to the states I went around speaking at youth groups, churches, banquets and to anyone who would listen. I thought I was finally right with Christ and no one could take me away from Him.
Well, I got back to the norm of life but eventually I let that hunger be depleted from me. I had a job now, a house, and bills ect. Normal life right. I started to blame God for things that were happening in my life. I was no longer riding bulls, riding colts or cowboying. I chose to let it all fade away again. Even knowing what I had experienced in Africa and Wyoming. Again I became dormant. If I wanted something, I did it myself. I didn’t need God to help me with anything. I began making bad choices thinking they were best for me. Eventually I decided to move from Pennsylvania back to Wyoming to where I was the happiest. I thought the move would fix everything. I’d be happy with me again.
Things started out great in Wyoming. I got a job in law enforcement, bought some land and built a house. I started going to church with my friends from CWAM. I started raising bucking bulls with my neighbor who was a PBR stock contractor. I had the best bloodlines I could buy. Playboy, Skat Kat, Cowtown to name a few. I was traveling to PBRs with my neighbor learning the industry and making contacts. Man, life was good for a time. Everything I was doing was working out. I was moving up in my career in law enforcement, raising bucking stock; I thought I had it all. I made all this happen. Yea, I went to church on Sundays, praised God for what I had but the rest of the week I was all about me. But the funny thing was, the whole time I felt God nudging me to come back to him. The cowboy pride would then kick in
and I’d push God further away. I didn’t need him; I built my life and worked hard for what I had. Well, eventually God started breaking me down. The loss of the second income in my household started it all. First thing to go was my bucking stock that I worked so hard to get and was so proud of. Second was my career in law enforcement and then came my house that I built from the ground up. All gone. Everything I worked for and took pride in was gone. I was broken, ashamed, humiliated, you name it I probably felt it. This once prideful cowboy was reduced to what he thought was nothing. Hummmm, that’s where God wanted me to be. An empty shell that he could mold into what he intended me to be in the first place. My life verse has always been Jeremiah 29:11. For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord; plans to prosper you and not to harm you; plans to give you hope and a future. Yea, do you think I could see that while I was in the situation? Nope, not at all, but I did know that I had a choice to make. I could keep running from the little nudges from God or I could fully submit to him. I chose the latter. It didn’t take long for God to start working once I swallowed my pride and gave him all the anger, bitterness, fear and every other emotion.
Doors started to open up, things started to come together and make sense. The love and grace I felt from my Savior was overwhelming. It all started when a friend of mine asked me to go to the arena where they kept their horses. I got to meet the owner of the ranch and started hanging around the arena. This whole time mind you, I was just feeling God telling me he’s got me. I immersed myself in scripture again and started to hang around my friends from CWAM.
God finally led me to the job that he had for me. Turns out my boss is a true cowboy who loves the Lord and is a pastor. Everyday work was like going to church. God was really speaking to my heart and guiding me. I wasn’t making my own decisions but allowing God to guide me in them.
Eventually I asked the lady who owns the arena if I could hold worship services there. She obliged. I couldn’t believe it. I had tried to this in years past on my own and failed. We now have services there every month. I am blessed with the opportunity to train colts there and share my faith and how God rescued me and transformed me to anyone there. We are holding clinics and soon to come, reining; cutting, roping, barrel races and horsemanship clinics there all to glorify our savior. The doors are still opening up. Now I can finally see the true meaning of my life verse. Gods plans, not my own. He has blessed me with a ministry that is called Krossed K Ministries. The people that God has placed in front of me are simply amazing. If God can use me and my past for his glory, he will and can use anyone. I was ashamed of my past decisions but God has used them to make me into the man I am today. I will make more mistakes in my life that I know, but I also know that I have made the decision to seek Gods heart and do his will.
There will be many trials ahead; many valleys to walk through, but God will eventually get us up to the mountain top. If you have made it this far reading my testimony, I thank you for allowing me to share it with you. It is hard for me to describe in words how God has changed me and my rollercoaster spiritual life. Words are escaping me writing this. But this is my testimony in a nut shell. May God speak to you and bless you as he has blessed me. There is no better place than in
I guess I had always been a Christian, at least since I was three or four. There were times I wondered and thought maybe I wasn’t but it all came back to that time I had on our living room couch asking Jesus to be the Lord of my life.
As far as really living and knowing what that meant or even trying to have a close relationship with God went I guess I just didn’t and didn’t care to until a bit later on in life. I was about 15 when the hard times started coming in and I had nowhere to turn except God. He seemed like an easy way out anyway….I would get into trouble, run to God, give it all to Him, He would pull me out and I would go back to trouble again.
It seemed to stay that way until I couldn’t take stabbing Him in the back one more time and I gave up and told God that it didn’t matter what He wanted me to do I was His and I was willing to do anything to make sure I stayed where He wanted me to.
That was the day I heard about the Bible school that was going on in my home town, and it changed me forever! I found God to be more than the one I ran to in trouble and more than the one scolding me for the stupid stuff I had done. He was my best friend and the one I ran to for love when I couldn’t find it anywhere else, the one I ran to when I was in trouble because He loves me and wants the best for me and I want to please Him more than anything in the world. The one I go to for forgiveness because it doesn’t matter how bad I mess up or how bad my life may seem or how stupid I am at times or what bull-
I was raised in a Christian home and I invited Jesus to be Lord of my life at an early age. It’s been the best foundation for living life to the fullest potential of what God has purposed.
I guess I was around 17 when I had a revelation of how I could be “good” and still not know God like He wanted and provided the way for. It was a pivotal time in my life as I made a complete commitment to seek after God with all I was.
I wish I could say it was all roses after that and I never swerved from that focus. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions and I found out my own strength is not enough.
There were times it was easier to coast along than dig in and work at my relationship with God. But one doesn’t stay in the same place during such times; you are either moving ahead or falling back.
One of the scriptures that has always meant a lot to me is Psalm 37:4, which says, “Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” I began to experience firsthand how amazing that promise is. As I delighted myself in the
Lord, I found some desires changing and others shifting focus. God has been so faithful; He has fulfilled so many of my dreams as I’ve chased after Him because He’s the one who gave them to me in the first place.
Consistently, God has pushed back the boundaries of my comfort zones in every area of life. I can accomplish so much more when His strength is working through me – and then He gets the credit!
I continue to learn how much God wants relationship with me and the amazing things He can do through me when I let Him. He continues to pour out more blessing than there is room to receive.
Crispin Gentry – Palmer, Alaska: From angry teen to Marine then bull rider to husband and man of God
My testimony isn’t one of radical conversion and transformation as far as I was never addicted to drugs or alcohol, was never a fugitive or felon, wasn’t a brawler or bully and I didn’t have a “come to Jesus moment” on the jailhouse floor or drawing my last ragged breaths on a deserted back road. I did, however, have to make some pretty radical changes within myself to truly accept Christ and let Him work in my life as He wants to.
As a child, I grew up in the Mormon Church and after my parents split when I was 5 years old, I continued to attend the same with my dad on the weeks he had me. He wanted to me to get baptized when I turned 8 as most Mormons believe, but my mom was adamantly against it. It wasn’t so much that she didn’t want me baptized into a church or even the Mormon church, she just wanted to me to be older to have a better understanding and to be able to see things a little better. Being eight and looking up at my dad the way most little boys do, I didn’t see things that way and that became probably the first in a large pile of stuff that stacked up between my mom and me.
Over the next few years into high school, my mom and I grew farther and farther apart until I fairly openly admitted to most anyone that I hated her. Somewhere in that time I had started letting my mouth run off and was cussing left and right. I had no regard for anything she said or tried to tell me. Almost daily was a knock down drag out cussing match between us and with each passing day it was getting worse. At one point she tried corporal punishment and slapped me in the face and without a care I returned with a hard, closed fist. Until now, only a couple people within our family knew of that incident, and of course the officers that took me in to juvy that night. I had no remorse, I didn’t care and in fact, I almost let loose again after she woke up and started yelling again. I always had an uncommon amount of self-
Now if I was at anyone else’s home, I was very polite, never had a cross word come out of my mouth and was the model of what parents would like their teenagers to be. Most of my girlfriends’ parents thought so much of me, that even if their daughter was grounded for something, they would still let her go out with me as long as I was the one who asked. Many of my other friends’ parents would ask their own children why they weren’t acting more like me or would tell my mom what a wonderful kid I was if they bumped into each other in town. It wasn’t that I was that cold to everyone or all the time, it was only my mom. Counseling was tried a couple times to no avail. It just made me resent her more for making me go.
Things didn’t start to turn around until the summer after my junior year of high school. I was 16 years old and had a summer job commercial fishing on a small boat in Halibut Cove, Alaska, several hours south of my hometown of Palmer. We were back at the house most every night and towards the end of that summer, the skipper’s wife hosted a book club meeting. In attendance were a couple teenaged girls who had come down with their parents to go sightseeing and both of them were on fire for God. It was toward the end of fishing season and I stayed in touch with one of them until I got back home and Andrea and I started dating. Every free minute I had I spent with her, including church. I would drive the hour from my house to hers every Sunday, Wednesday and any other time I could slip away.
The very first week I went, Pastor Jerry Prevo had a guest speaker named Freddy Gage in town. Andrea had been working on me from the minute we met to get saved, but I didn’t have any idea what she was talking about. Freddy laid it all out for me. I realized that I had known about God for most of my life, but I had never actually known him. It’s like the difference between being able to spout off every fact and stat on your favorite pro athlete, and being able to call him up and go out for a burger. My soul lit up on fire and I started walking the walk and talking the talk, but I still had that stronghold at home to break.
I was already going to church all the time, but I was still a baby Christian. Andrea and I split up but remained friends. After I graduated in 2001, I worked that summer in Halibut Cove again, and also in the small town of Ninilchik doing odd jobs from cannery work to pouring concrete. Skipper’s wife even mentioned while I was fishing that she had noticed a remarkable change in me. I still wasn’t cussing, I was trying to walk the straight and narrow, but I hadn’t fed myself spiritual food to mature from a baby Christian. I still had that stronghold at home.
After that summer I went to Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego, California. After basic and combat training, I was off to North Carolina for the rest of my time in the Marine Corps. I learned my trade, I started riding bulls, I deployed to Iraq, I made new friends and I still didn’t try to continue growing past spiritual infancy. I knew God and I knew that accepting Christ meant that I was saved and I was going to heaven, but that was about it. Sure, I was in and out of church for a while, but it was more an act of going through the motions than really seeking who and what I should have been.
Eventually, my lack of zeal and the existence of that stronghold began to open up huge hanger doors for the devil to let himself back in. I won’t say I was ever backslidden, because I believe that once you are saved, you are God’s and that’s it. I pretty well stopped for a while, though. I didn’t stop believing, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say there were some doubts. I stopped doing what I knew I was supposed to. I stopped trying to seek Him anywhere. Heck, I even stopped going through the motions for the most part. I started cussing again. I got married and part way through my second deployment, I got divorced. We both believed in God, but we had never put Him at the center of our marriage.
When I came back from deployment, it was even worse. I sought to satisfy the pleasures of the flesh as much as I could. I lusted after women. I became addicted to pornography. I justified it with the world’s thought of “she hurt me and I don’t care anymore.” Even through all of that, I could still hear the Holy Spirit telling me what to do from time to time. He never left me. His voice was incredibly faint and I usually ignored it, but it was ALWAYS there.
Through this time I had been trying to take my bull riding to higher level while I was still on active duty. I began riding in SEBRA (Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association) shows and getting on the best bulls I could find and reasonably get to. It was through bull riding that I met a few men that I always admired and looked up to. Men like Travis Finley and Devon Long. Men that you probably haven’t heard of, but were excellent examples of men living for Christ. Deep down, there had always been something in me that was pushing me to be more like them.
Finally about a year after that, into 2006 now, I met a woman who was the first to challenge me. She laid it flat out for me and told me I wasn’t “getting in her pants” unless there was a ring on the ring finger of her left hand. The first time we talked on the phone she asked me if I was a Christian. Even since I was saved, through everything I had done, I always professed to be a Christian and that was as far as it ever went. Except that time. She asked me who Christ was to me. Well that caught me off guard because I was expecting the conversation to go somewhere else. I’d never talked to anyone so blunt. I kind of stammered out that He was my personal Lord and savior. Well, it was the right answer and we dated a few months, got engaged, dated a few more months and got married in the summer of 2007. My wife’s zeal for God was similar to that of Andrea, my high school girlfriend who led me to Christ in the first place. She was the kick in the seat that started leading me back towards what being a Christian really meant.
With Mary Ruth’s encouragement we started doing Bible studies and praying together daily. We always kept God at the very center of not only our marriage, but everything and anything we did. We found a church that taught all of the Bible and not just parts of it. Slowly, strongholds in my life started being broken down. Not all of them were easy and some took considerable time for my flesh man to let go of, but praise God that His grace was so much more than enough for any and all of it. I learned the importance of renewing your mind DAILY, not just once in a while. I learned that God didn’t want groveling servants, he wants loving children who just want to enjoy His presence and provision. I learned that being a Christian wasn’t going to church and reading the Bible; it is truly a complete life changing experience that encompasses all aspects on every day. I also learned the very real power of the words I had used in the past and the different ones I had stated using. Mary Ruth was always careful to encourage me to fill the man’s role as the head of a household, once again challenging me. I finally knew what I was supposed to do and didn’t ignore it. I had a presence in my life that had changed so much in such a short time.
Since then, our marriage has had interstate smooth spots and mountain road rough spots, but with God always guiding and at the center we have come through 100% unscathed every time. Every single stronghold that was in existence in my life has been completely decimated. That one from way back when that kept popping up? Gone. My mom and I have a totally changed relationship. Now, some might say that anyone can do that and it doesn’t take Christ, but I’m here to tell you that while there are plenty of marriages that seem to succeed without God in them, none are as fulfilling as that the ones that do. And while there may be plenty of people who have made life changes and seem to be better people and have broken addictions, the ones who accept Christ are the only ones who are completely restored and whole from the inside out. You’ll hear addicts say that they’ll struggle every day for the rest of their lives with their addictions. God takes all of that away so you don’t have to struggle. Kind of like handing off a baton, you give it to Him and it’s gone. You don’t have any possession of it anymore and there’s just plain no contact.
Knowing and loving God has completely removed any fear and doubt I have had in my life. I can honestly say I am completely fearless in absolutely any situation I’m confronted with. That’s not to say I’m reckless, I just know that I’ve got someone so much bigger than any problem this world can possibly throw at me, and He’s in my corner and everything in this universe that is not from Him cowers and runs away as fast as it can. World gives me problem, I give God problem, problem disappears.
My faith isn’t where it would be if I had been doing what I was supposed to all along, but even still it is growing in very mighty way. I love waking up each day and looking forward to finding the ways my God has blessed me. Now, lastly, you know that really happy feeling that starts from the inside and comes all the way out and just fills your whole body and you say “there’s nothing that can ruin my day”? And then those days where it seems like you woke up on the wrong side of the bed and nothing goes right and you’re just having a bad day? Do you have any idea what it’s like to have literally every single day for years be the really happy kind without a single bad day anywhere in the mix? Praise God, I do!