Your Christian Cowboy Resource

By Scott Hilgendorff/Cowboys of the Cross

In the bull riding and rodeo community, it seems like we're always dealing with grief.

I think it's because we actually are.

As dangerous as these sports are, that isn't the reason for it but rather because of how large a group of people there are in the sports and how interconnected we all are.

We all lose people from time to time in our normal circle of family and friends but with the size and still closeness of the rodeo and bull riding industry, the simple math means we're going to lose more than the average person. There aren't many other sports or interests with as big or tight-knit circle as rodeo and bull riding.

When we lose a cowboy or cowgirl, chances are if we don't know the person directly, we know several others who do.

And because we're a community of like-minded people, we share in their grief.

This week, the day the PBR buried one friend in Kent Cox, the Ontario Rodeo Association/Rawhide Rodeo Company lost another in a farm accident that took the life of Ben Samplonius. This loss is especially rough on the Ontario cowboys and cowgirls because of how exceptionally close they all are. In Ontario, it differs from some associations by how the events are held. Instead of driving to a performance at night and leaving again when it's over, like many rodeo and bull riding events, in Ontario, the rodeo is mostly Saturday and Sunday afternoon with a dance Saturday night. Because of that, many spend the entire weekend together and it gives everyone a chance to become a real family; a huge family.

At the same time of these two losses, another cowboy is grieving the loss of his dad and those are just the situations I happen to be aware of at the moment. We can be confident there are more.

We lose cowboys to everything from carbon monixide poisoning in campers to suicide, car wrecks to natural causes and illness like cancer. It's seldom from an accident in the arena, though we face those situations too. It's just because there's so many of us, we're going to face more loss.

These losses can, and usually are, a time we get to see one of the strengths of being such a close community. These are times when people are grieving that we have an even bigger support network of friends we can turn to and a time when we can lean on each other.

For the Christians in the community, it becomes especially important that we're there for each other. It can be one of the biggest opportunities to show the love of Christ to others by being there to serve whether it be offering an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on or, if we're close enough to those facing a loss, to be there to lend a helping hand doing chores, running errands or whatever those grieving might need.

But, it also becomes a time when we should be reminded of just how fragile life is, how we don't know when our final day is and how important it is to not just show Jesus to others but to be sure they know the gospel: our separation from God because of sin that is in any of our lives, the birth and death of Christ to take the burden of our sins, his resurrection and ascension to Heaven, and our need to believe and understand who he is, what he did for us and our confession of sin to him as we embrace him as our Lord and Savior.

Too often, when we lose someone, our natural instincts take over to remember the person fondly and positively and suddenly, we have found ourselves rewriting the Gospel as we decide and proclaim to everyone that the one we lost was a good person and is now looking down on us from Heaven.

In many cases, that may be the truth, but in others, if we're honest with ourselves and each other, we don't even know what the person actually believed no matter how many times we stood together for cowboy church or how many crosses we wore around our necks and on our rigging bags. This is not to make any statement about what those we recently lost did or didn't believe, but for us to look at the bigger picture that there are many around us right now that we simply don't know what they believe.

The most important thing we could ever do for our friends is share the gospel with them (tell them about Jesus). And when we know what they believe, if we lose someone, we can take comfort in knowing they've gone to our real home in Heaven and we can comfort others, not just with good memories but with the hope we have in Jesus.

Our grief reminds us how close we are


ABOUT US: Welcome to Cowboys of the Cross: your resource for Christian cowboys. Cowboys of the Cross is the new home for Riding for Christ Ministries, providing cowboy church and outreach to the rodeo and cowboy community for more than 10 years. The new web site is your source for stories of faith and encouragement as well as devotions and news and information affecting cowboys of faith. Cowboys of the Cross also serves to minister to rodeo cowboys and bull riders by traveling to rodeos, bull ridings and equine events across Canada and the United States. Learn more about us here:   MORE ABOUT US HERE

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Botts-Watson Photography