Christian Bull Righter and pastor Stephen Bruner and his wife Tori Bruner from Indiantown, Florida
Well it all started back in 2007 when I stumbled across Gethsemane Ranch by “happenstance” or what I call a divine appointment.
They were looking for a bullfighter to help protect the kids at the bull riding, and I was on my way to pursue a professional rodeo career in just that event. The only problem was that I was leaving God behind and headed out to glorify my own name. So, being that this church just “happened” to be only a mile down the road from the camper I was living in, I headed on over (without God) to get some practice.
Long story short, that’s when I really met Him again…
I met Jesus first when I was very young, from the years of private Christian school to always being at the Baptist church, but I had walked away from Him during my adolescent years and without really understanding, I was really mad at God about the things He allowed during my childhood. I had heard all the truths about how much He loved me, but it all wasn’t adding up in the environment I was in.
There was a lot of drug and alcohol abuse by both my parents, which led to many forms of child abuse and neglect. From there I set out to disguise the hurting little boy inside me who wanted to feel “real” love and approval. All the way through high school and college I looked to the world for approval; never to find it until my rodeo career and God sent me to that place called Gethsemane Ranch. That’s when I met Him again. That’s when God, through His faithfulness, and the loving and caring people at that church, reminded me how much He loved me and that He had a purpose for me!
I was challenged by God to be a real man and not just a boy. I could not live in the past anymore or identify myself by my circumstances and the lies the devil had told me for so many years. It was time to grow up spiritually!! So I pushed hard into God’s word to get the truth! I needed to hear God tell me how special I was and how much He loved me!
I heard him louder than ever.
I made a commitment to never walk away from Him again or put anything before Him. He has brought me through so much; from broken relationships, broken necks, stage 3 cancer, unforgiveness toward my earthly father (the biggest challenge) and so much more! He has never left me or forsaken me. He has completely restored my physical body and is constantly restoring my spirit! He has given me so much back and a lot of my family. Most importantly, He has blessed me with a wife who has been the greatest “help mate” ever! He is constantly teaching me how to love her like Christ loved the church!
We are so blessed to get to serve as ministers of the Gospel and travel around the country sharing that there is hope in Jesus Christ no matter what! We are sure grateful to be a part of God’s business and all the kids’ lives God has allowed us to be a part of! No matter who you are or where you come from, God is dying to love on you and use you!! HE LOVES YOU A LOT!
I grew up with a Catholic background. We went to church every Sunday but we didn’t have to work and I never really got too much from it. I went through many of the catechisms and ceremonies that are traditional in the Catholic church and never really understood much of the meaning of any of them.
At the age of 15, I met a young lady whose father was a Baptist minister. They started witnessing to me, questioning me about what the Catholic Church believed and why we believed it. I had always believed in God, believed in Jesus and that he died for the sins of the world, but I never really made that promise my own.
My wife and I were married in January of 2000 and by the end of 2005/beginning of 2006 we had three children. Our youngest was born in October of 2005. In May of 2005, we both realized that we had never truly made a profession of salvation by grace through faith. But we had both been in a church all of our lives and had a head knowledge; we just never had obtained a heart knowledge. The first Wednesday in May, 2006 my wife received Christ as her personal savior.
All the time, the Holy Spirit was calling me to be saved and I didn’t know it. I was in torment because I didn’t have peace about my faith. The following Friday night I bowed my head and heart and asked Jesus Christ to be my Lord and personal Savior and thank him for being that for me.
I did not repeat any specific type of prayer but accepted him and believe in him the best way that I knew how at the time, and he saved me!
In the fall of 2017 God started dealing with me about being a preacher or just going to Bible college. I argued with him and said that it was just something that I wanted to do and not what he wanted me to do. By the time the January, 2018 came around, I could not get away from the call to preach, and announced my call publicly at a big event at our church in March, 2018. I’m now currently enrolled in Bible college at my church and preaching from time to time and have never looked back nor regretted any decision I have ever made for the Lord Jesus Christ.
(Jerry is a whip maker from North Carolina)
I found a link to a video of us team roping the other day at Cowtown (the oldest weekly rodeo in the United States in New Jersey) and it made me think a lot about this rodeo. I first showed up there as a 21-year-old bull rider, 21 years ago. My traveling partner, Craig, and I were getting ready, and next to us was a small tent outside of the entry office.
The lady there had some cowboy Bibles on the table with Lane Frost on the cover. Craig and her were talking on and on about Lane, who was one of Craig’s heroes, and she new Lane’s folks. Well I didn’t understand it at the time but she was telling Craig about Lane’s testimony. She then asked Craig if he was saved!? He said, “Yes, when I was 13.” I was just sitting off in the near distance listening. She then asked him, “Is your buddy over there saved?” He said I don’t know even though I had been raised in the church, went to a Christian school and my grandpa was a pastor.
Well I just sat there and thought, I don’t know!?!
Then she proceeded to bark at Craig, “What do you mean you don’t know? You guys travel all over the country riding bulls, and you don’t know If he’s saved?” Then she looked over at me and asked me if I was and I told her I didn’t know. She asked if I wanted to be, and I thought, “Why don’t I know?” and I told her I wanted to be. She read to us some out of Romans, Chapter 9 and then I recited what’s known as the sinner’s prayer with her and asked Jesus into my heart.
I was on fire from the star and I remember being in the bar that night that used to be there right next to the rodeo, I was telling people about Jesus. I remember the whole trip home whenever I wasn’t driving I was reading that Bible she gave me. I was definitely changed.
As an Ohio cowboy, I was just thinking though why I still go to this rodeo, it’s darn sure not because it’s so close to home or the amount of money. I think I’m actually drawn to it because it’s where I met Jesus my Lord and Savior. Suzie Grahm still has that little tent out back of the entry office, and she’s still standing back there telling the truth and offering salvation through Jesus!
May 1, 2016 was the life changing day, having a six-year-old boy, a one-year-old baby girl and a beautiful wife and a string of horses that we finally got to perfection.
I was big into ranch rodeo, riding broncs and team roping along with a wife who barrel races and kids in youth rodeos, all while having a full time job working for CoServ as a lineman. Life was good, we had some rodeos planned out for the month and we were excited and prepared.
My son and I jumped on the four wheeler after getting back form a jackpot team roping to feed, we were headed back to the house and that is all we remember. I woke up in the hospital not being able to move anything. Knowing the shape I was in made me worried what shape my son was in. He had a concussion and a small laceration on his face and was released form the hospital that night.
I broke my neck in three places my C2, C5 and C6 with a C4 spinal cord injury, I was paralyzed from the shoulders down. Dr. Aryan with Axis Brain & Back Institute did surgery that night and gave me a two per cent chance to move again. The thought of never being able to hold my kids and my wife again was devastating.
I was in ICU for a week and was taken to rehab in Dallas were a began to fight for recovery. Four months later, I believe thanks to the power of prayer, I walked out with nothing but a cane, a walking miracle. The power of prayer is amazing. Through the process, I accepted Jesus as my lord and savior as my son as well. Before I broke my neck, life was good. Now, life is great because I now have God in my life. If you have Jesus in your heart and in your life, good things will happen. I am back to riding my horse and roping some and even though my rodeo career is over, my life with my family isn’t
I was born in a strong Christian based home was in church every Wednesday and Sunday. After many years of following Christ, I started to steer away from Him when I let worldly things and people trap me and bring me down.
I was in a dark place for awhile and was heading down a path that would surely end me in a place where many people wouldn’t want their worst enemyies to be. But I’ve always had a strong family and support from them. When I got back into rodeo and started riding bucking horses about five years ago, I started seeing the drive and passion it gave back to me and I knew it was His way of telling me it’s time to come back to me and follow Him.
I quit a lot of negative things in my life and slowly cut out a lot of people and started getting back to who I once was.
We all know the devil attacks in weird ways but the soldier in me told me to fight back with the only real weapon we have. And since I’ve regained Him in my life and let Him guide me instead of me following others, my life has been a non-stop finals experience. If I never win the world or even make the finals, that’s alright with me because as long as I make an impact on people’s lives along the way I know my God will take care of me and my family.
My advice to new followers is not to be afraid to fail and don’t be scared when the devil attacks or when you see great changes in your life. It’s because God has a plan for everything and and He will take care of us because we are His sheep and He is the Shepard. He will never let us wander too far from Him and will always welcome us back with open and loving arms. Romans 10 9-10 says, “don’t be ashamed of the gospel of Christ.” This is something we all should realize and feel. Don’t be scared or ashamed of what He has done for us and continues to do for us. Glory be to God. And all God’s people says:
God is good!!
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