JOPLIN, Mo. —
Vacation Bible school gets under way in full force at Joplin area churches next month, but one congregation offers an alternative. How about Horsemanship and Bible camp?
It’s just what you would expect from Risen Ranch Cowboy Church, which prides itself on non-traditional services in a non-traditional setting.
You won’t find this camp on any church grounds, but at the Neosho fairgrounds, which fits right in with the horsemanship theme and the cowboy setting of the church’s location at the Joplin Stockyards.
The event, formerly known as Rodeo Bible Camp, will be held June 13-16 for children 8 through 17 years old.
It’s not necessary to have a horse or possess horsemanship skills to attend. Non-riders are welcome, along with those who do ride horses, but the latter are required to bring their own mounts, said church pastor Steve Stafford. Stafford started the camp in 2008 not long after opening the church, an outreach of First Baptist Church of Diamond.
“It is our chance to work with these kids on horsemanship, but more than that, it is our chance to use horses to bring them together and share the gospel,” said Stafford. “The Top 10 list that we want to do here is one through 10, share the gospel, with No. 11 being learn something about horses.”
Last year’s camp was canceled due to the interruption by the Joplin tornado. Ron Crow, who was scheduled to handle part of the preaching at last year’s camp, and who will also be doing so next month, was called on to help out with the tornado devastation. Crow, pastor of Diamond First Baptist, is the disaster relief coordinator for the Spring River Baptist Association.
Unlike the usual vacation Bible school, participants will camp out three of the four days at the fairgrounds. Check-in will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. on opening day, and campers will setup their sleeping areas and those bringing horses will be assigned stalls.
The evening schedule is the same for the first three days: supper at 5:30 p.m., chapel at 7 p.m., small group discussion at 8:30 p.m. and lights out at 10 p.m.
Breakfast will be held at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday and Friday. Those participating in the horsemanship portion of camp will go to the arena at 9 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. each day to participate in roping, barrels and poles, goat tying and other similar rodeo events. Those not involved in horsemanship will remain in camp for other planned activities. Lunch and a time for devotions will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. both days.
Following a 7 a.m. breakfast on the final day, a horse show with campers’ families invited will be held at 9:30 a.m., and campers will have lunch with their families at noon. The camp concludes at 1 p.m. with a family worship time, including baptisms.
Although the camp features a rodeo arena, it is a lot more than just a rodeo environment.
Sabrina Rice, 16, of Webb City, will be attending the camp as a non-rider and team leader, even though she borrowed a horse to participate in the three previous camps.
Rice, who will be a junior at Webb City High School next year, said that the horsemanship is important but not the most important thing.
“A lot of the kids who come to camp are ones who have different struggles at home,” she said. “It is really neat that you can sit down and talk to them about Christ. They don’t get a lot of opportunities to do this otherwise.”
Rice, who hopes to be a special education teacher one day, emphasized that those who volunteer their time at the camp are “very caring” people who are willing to spend a lot of one-on-one time to talk about horsemanship and the spiritual aspects of life.
Camp participation has increased from 17 the first year to 68 in 2010, with an estimated enrollment around 100 in 2011 before the tornado forced cancellation.
The deadline to register is June 10, with registration forms available on the church website, www.risenranchcowboy church.com. Cost is $50 per child. More information may be obtained by calling Rhonda Galardo at 417-673-5423.
Address correspondence to Rich Brown, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.