|Paul and Linda Scholtz minister at rodeos like this one in Minot, N.D.|
"These cowboys need Jesus just like anyone else," says Paul at the fairgrounds in Minot, N.D., where he, Linda and their son, Paul Robert, have come to work and minister.
Each year the Scholtzes travel thousands of miles to pro rodeos around the country to share Christ. They also conduct camps where horsemanship, trick riding and building a strong relationship with Christ are taught to aspiring cowboys.
"The trick-riding schools have opened so many doors for us," says Linda, who is a professional trick rider. "And the best part is that I get to nail them with the gospel."
Paul says, "Weve found that these cowboys respond to a direct approach. But, nothing we say is going to have value unless it is based on the Word of God."
Jeb Brown, a 25-year-old cowboy from Texas, agrees.
"The more Christians out here helps the others stay focused and makes them stronger," he says. "You really have to stay in the Word. If you dont, this world will drain you."
It is Sunday morning. The smell of dung and fresh dirt hangs in the air as more than 70 worshipers fill sections 16 and 18 of the Minot arena. Paul and Linda lead those gathered in worship. Most everyone wears a broad-brimmed hat, boots and jeans.
Twenty years ago, Bob Bruhaug, a local rancher who once struggled with alcoholism, heard there was going to be cowboy church at the rodeo. His interest was piqued, and he attended.
"Paul accepted me as I was," he says. "I keep their missionary picture card on my bathroom mirror and pray for them every morning."
Cowboys dont embrace formalities, says Paul, so he tries to keep things simple. His sermons are laced with illustrations about cowboys and horses. When he needs to counsel someone, he usually does it while working the rodeo. Breaking through the rough and tough veneer of the cowboy takes time and persistence, but the Scholtzes have seen hundreds come to know Christ over their 22 years of ministry at rodeos.
"They really dont seek out spiritual help when they get hurt or are in need," says Paul. "But, when they find Christ, they begin to see there is strength and humility in weakness."
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