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Cowboys of the Cross: The Mission
CURRENT COMMUNITY STORIES
London Team Takes Part in Will Graham Celebration – Part I
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URGENT APPEAL
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Recognizing that the majority of the thousands of cowboys in North America claim Christianity as their faith, Cowboys of the Cross is first and foremost a rodeo, bull riding and cowboy ministry. We are entirely funding by individual financial donations and our main purpose is to lead cowboy church at events while fostering discipleship relationships.

Cowboys of the Cross is headed by Scott Hilgendorff , who grew up around London, Ontario and answered God's call to leave a 14-year career in journalism to pursue ministry full time. Scott is living proof that God can and will use anyone for his purposes if we choose to listen and be obedient and willing to make what may feel like sacrifices at the time.

There are literally thousands of cowboys across North America and most identify with the Christian faith. Because of that, most rodeo cowboys and bull riders will attend cowboy church, a short service with a Bible-based message and prayer before the start of a rodeo or bull riding. While cowboy church is possibly the part of this rodeo ministry that stands out the most, being at rodeos, bull ridings and equine events are what helps us to build relationships with the cowboys that allow for the opportunity to disciple them and help them grow in their faith. It is through the focus on personal relationships that we have been given some amazing glimpses into how God has used this ministry to support and impact many of the cowboys we encounter.

To stay accessible, Scott maintains a strong social media presence while working directly with rodeo and bull riding associations as well as event producers to ensure his availability to the cowboys is known.

In addition to a focus on discipleship, as a ministry Cowboys of the Cross distributes Cowboy Bibles (small new testaments designed to be kept in gear bags and glove boxes with cowboy-themed covers to make them less uncomfortable to be picked up and carried around).

Other efforts include:
*Hospital visits for injured riders
*Travel to make one-on-one visits or to lead Bible studies
*Crisis calls, both received and checking in when we know a cowboy is struggling or facing a challenge
*Cowboy church sermons made available electronically to more than 4,000 cowboys and rodeo/bull riding fans
*Sharing the ministry with churches to raise support but also, through Scott’s own call into ministry, to teach congregations that God can use the least of us to accomplish seemingly impossible tasks.

In 2013 the Christian Life in London Online team will be learning more about Cowboys of the Cross and plan to bring you stories about this unique ministry.

For more information on The Cowboys of the Cross, visit their website at www.cowboysofthecross.com. Who knew what would happen on that mountain Eighteen years ago (give or take a year), I had no idea what God set in motion on my first-ever trip to Tennessee on my first-ever vacation as an 'adult'. Working for starvation wages at a community newspaper in Kincardine, Ontario, I had to scrimp and save for two years before I could take my first vacation. And that had to be somewhere within a day's worth of gas (it was about 50 cents a litre and 90 Cents a gallon then) with camping and I was determined to get to see some mountains. I'd had a chance to go to Aspen, Colorado as a kid and while I knew the Smokey Mountains would be very different, I also knew that Dolly Parton was from there and I'd always heard about the quaintness of them from her music and interviews. This was about a year before we would be wired for dial-up internet at our office and there was little I could do to research the trip or prepare myself for what I now call the Second Coming of Dolly, who, along with gazillions of other developers, had turned Pigeon Forge and the surrounding area into a roided-out version of Niagara Falls. I had no idea what I was driving into and was horrified when I got there on the Rod Run weekend (hundreds of tricked out, neon-lighted cars driving a multi-mile strip of even more harshly neon-lighted attractions). I got there at dark and couldn't see the mountains. The next day, I found myself driving through the Smokey Mountain National Park looking for something that more correctly represented what Dolly spoke about in the mountains. I found it on the other side of the park where, about a day later, I also found God. I grew up in a typical Ontario protestant church, well until I was about nine or 10 and my parents either were bored with church themselves or gave up trying to drag me to service. In Sunday school, I remember the felt-board stories and what a great guy Jesus was. I knew some songs about him and some cool Bible stories, but I never heard anything about salvation through Jesus. When I truly understood what death was, my only 'hope' was that Heaven was for good people and I assumed that I was good. I'd stolen a ball from a neighbor when I was five, fought a ton with the neighbor kid and once called my grandma a 'hag', something I'd picked up from a character in a Popeye cartoon, for favoring my cousin over me but overall, hadn't killed anyone so I figured I was good to go. By high school, I'd had a few encounters with some believers from the charismatic side of the faith and my mom, after my parents' divorce, dated a guy for awhile from a 'church' that was actually classed as a cult though he was not participating in it at the time. My dad had started going back to church and even teaching Sunday school, determined that I should be confirmed as a member of the church. The denomination was the United Church of Canada and, like many Ontario denominations, doesn't teach anything about salvation through Jesus. In fact, in the late 90s, they were already looking to ordain gay ministers and have since gender-neutralized the Bible. If you're an American friend reading this, you have to remember that Canada has led the way in the political correctness movement to the point that we have a family that is trying to raise a child without gender. No one is allowed to know if it is a boy or a girl, so that the child is free to choose whatever kind of role 'it' would like. By the time I was finished university on a very multi-cultural campus nestled between Toronto's gay district and red light district, I'd been exposed to so many different beliefs and religions that I pretty much wasn't sure there was a God or anything. So on a quiet evening away from all the tourist traffic on top of a mountain ridge, I found myself looking out over the mountains. Down below was a single farm where I could hear a rooster crowing and beyond that farm, nothing but mountains and wilderness and I found myself realizing that God was the real deal. Romans 1:20 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: God was real, but now, which religion or even denomination was right? But before I could figure that out, God set something else in motion. The next day, I found myself at the Tennessee Valley Fair in Knoxville where I went to my first-ever rodeo to take some photos. There, I met Mike and Jennifer Stalans, the producers of Spur N S rodeo who hospitably gave me open access to take photos and eventually introduced me to a bull rider who was involved in the ministry that I would eventually take over full time. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I just wanted to take some photos. I didn't know it would lead me to becoming a rodeo photographer in Ontario, learning to ride saddle bronc (poorly) or becoming friends with a bull rider that I would follow into ministry, eventually leading cowboy church at rodeos and bull ridings. A revelation on a mountain and the hospitality of a rodeo producer would set in motion a chain of events that would lead to my salvation and the formation of Cowboys of the Cross. Over the next two years after that first trip, I continued traveling to Tennessee but at work, began exploring the Christian faith. I'd be given the chance to interview people selling all their belongings to move to Africa on a mission, thoroughly convinced these people were nuts but wanting to understand more—never once thinking that within 10 years or so, I'd be doing the same thing as my faith formed and I became one of those same born again Christians I thought were whacko. Probably the biggest discovery in my investigation into Christianity that really made me believe was the same thing atheists and non-believers try to use to say the Bible is wrong. For example, the Gospel accounts show different numbers of people at the tomb after Jesus' crucifixion. As a journalist, I'd be far more skeptical if the four Gospels presented facts exactly the same. That, to me, would mean they sat down and got their 'stories' straight as they were attempting to convince people that a made-up story was real. If you cover just a few trials in court, you notice that the witnesses all give different accounts of the event under question. There are many similar details of course, but exactly who was at the scene and even time of day can vary significantly as people do their best to recall. It's these seemingly contradictory details in Scripture that prove to me the Gospels were written from memory and from the heart, not as a way to ensure people believed something false. In all of this, I became a born again believer and as my faith grew, my role in ministry expanded to the point where the work of ministry was becoming a full time job while still trying to juggle a career that now saw me as both the editor and sales manager of a newspaper. Something had to give and if I truly believed Scripture, how could I put my own career before God's work? I was now officially a whacko Christian selling my belongings in order to live as cheaply as possible with a shoestring budget on the road leading cowboy church in Ontario and the United States. By the time I was full time in ministry, my friend and ministry partner had retired from the sport and there had been a void where no one was leading cowboy church in East Tennessee and the surrounding area. A new group had come on board taking on that area and I found myself working with the larger Southern Extreme Bull Riding Association based out of North Carolina. Working with the association intensified the ministry opportunities and it has been non-stop ever since. But six years into full time ministry, that other group of cowboy preachers had moved on to Oklahoma. Just a few weeks ago, I was able to officially move into the United States on a work visa, the timing of which allowed me to head straight for Knoxville to lead cowboy church once again for Mike and Jennifer Stalans and a new generation of cowboys at the Tennessee Valley Fair where it all began, 18 years ago. All I wanted to do was see some mountains. Www.cowboysofthecross.com