This morning, (Wednesday 1/11/17) we dropped our Rodeo team off at the airport after a great week of work. Here are some of the highlights and low-lights.
Out of the 9 of us on the team, 8 had significant delays to deal with. The worst was with Lew Sterrett and Clint Bailey. They were supposed to arrive Thursday night (1/5/17) but their flight was cancelled. The next flight got them to Guatemala Friday morning but their luggage didn't make it! Since we all had to be in Agua Blanca Friday afternoon, there was no time to wait for the luggage, so we went straight from the airport to the Rodeo. Lew had a headset in his luggage that we could have used for his presentations, but we had to go! And thankfully as you will read, we made do. Just having Lew and Clint with us was a huge bonus for us. They might not have smelled too good on the plane going home, but they were used in a great way!
(editor´s note: Thankfully, on Monday Clint, Lew, and Marty had no issues in getting home, and all their luggage was at the airport in Guatemala City for their return home. This morning the remaining six were delayed 7 hours in Guatemala City! But they have all informed me that they had such a good experience. I don´t believe they needed a plane to fly home!
Bottom line: Every guy on the team was incredibly flexible and skilled at each of their roles on the team this past week. It may take me several updates to share a few of their stories, so hang on to your hat!
PLAY. Agua Blanca Rodeo
Our mission before the rodeo began was to connect with hundreds of people would be in the stands with nothing to do . Their arena seats about 2500. But somehow they can cram closer to 3500 in that space! When we reached the arena, we realized that we had a big problem. There was no wild horse for Lew to do his presentation. Somehow, our Guatemalan friends in Agua Blanca didn't understand what he really needed. They dutifully brought 3 horses to the event that were already saddled and broke! What to do? That´s when our team got to work adjusting to the new reality.
When we were asked to enter the arena as a team, I would guess that the stands were about half full. After Cesar and I introduced each one, Marty Langhofer played a toe tapping harmonica number and then we sang Amazing Grace. Then we invited children and women to come down from the stands to try their hand at roping a plastic steer-head. Those who roped the steer could win a prize. The kids loved it. The women were very tentative, but the ice was broken and people seemed at ease with us being there.
When we got done with that, leaders of the event pulled our team together to recognize for Cesar and our team thanking us for our participation. All the while the stands kept filling up.
STORY. Sam Anderson Steps Up
What were we going to do for the horse presentation? Well, Sam has done a lot of Civil War reenactments and had brought a rebel uniform. So instead of Lew doing a wild horse demonstration and message, Sam got on one of the horses made available to us and told a Civil War story while on horseback. I walked around the arena with him to translate phrase by phrase. The story was about a sharp shooter that had shot an enemy soldier only to find out when he rolled him over that he was his only son. Sam used that to talk about how God gave his only Son for us. Cesar wrapped it all up and it all seemed to work pretty well.
After that, we introduced Lew and invited people to come the next night for his wild horse presentation. By this point, the stands were close to full and our time was up. So we got off center stage as the bull riders were introduced in a loud, raucous style that would match the hype of any NBA team announcing their starting 5 players.
Connection to the Bull Riders
After the bull rider introductions, Clint began hitting it off with the bull riders back behind the chutes. As a 6 year veteran of the PBR, Clint has retired from that to do horse training near Tyler, Texas. Because Lew had asked him to come and help back him up on his horse presentations, Clint never dreamed that he would be doing anything but working with horses on this trip. Once a couple of them learned of his background though, others came up to meet him. Several were believers who wanted to stay in touch. Cesar noticed the connection and invited all the bull riders and the rodeo staging team to come the next day for a lunch and a talk.
While talking with the guys, Clint told me how impressed he was at the skill level of the riders and of the quality of the bulls. When I translated that message to several of them standing around after their rides, you could just see them light up with Clint´s affirmation.
Play.Story.Eat. with Bull Riders
Saturday at lunch, we met the bull riders at the arena to eat and introduce them to what we do. First, we had them try their hand at roping the steer head. Cesar had about half a dozen prizes for them to win. They quickly relaxed and started teasing and razzing each other as they took turns. After all the prizes were won, we gathered into a circle and Cesar set the stage for Clint to give his testimony. We were kind of mean to him though. Clint wanted to use notes and we asked him to put them away and just speak from his heart. Clint talked about how he made a decision to follow Jesus at a very young age, but that as a teenager he got to hanging around a bad crowd that was getting him into drugs and alcohol. But then bull riding became his salvation. Once he got serious about it, he started studying some of the great bull riders and noticed that several were dedicated Christians. That made him curious.
Thanks to a couple of fellow bull riders, they pulled him into studying the Bible and he started trying to be more intentional in living out his faith. The image that Clint gave that stuck with the bull riders was his advice to keep your eyes on the neck of the bull and not look away and lose your concentration. In the same way, we are to keep our eyes on Jesus and no matter what kind of bad ride we might be on, Jesus will lead us to do His will in the way that will not only help us bounce back after a rough ride, but use us to point others to Him. Clint felt like he had his eyes focused on the world for way too long, but was now seeking to serve Jesus and keep his focus on following Him.
Bull Riders Respond
Cesar followed with an invitation for them to respond to what they heard. I believe it is safe to say that every single one of the bull riders and the staging team responded in some way to the invitation. Using the testimony tear-off tool, 19 indicated that they had prayed to receive Christ for the first time. 15 more of them marked their cards indicating that they were interested in being a part of a Christian Rancher Group as they travel together. The coordinator for the riders promised that he would help them continue.
As we ate together, the connections with one another just solidified. Interestingly enough, while most of the bull riders are from Guatemala, 4 of the guys come from Brazil, one came from Honduras, one from El Salvador, a few from Mexico, and one from Cuba! For each of them, they begged us to stay in touch and help them do something like this in their countries!
Lew Sterrett has a Ride we will never forget
Fortunately, on Saturday morning a horse was located that was perfect for Lew´s presentation. After Lew got to check it out at a friend´s ranch, we all got excited about Saturday night. I need to get my bags packed for me and Cesar to go to Honduras tomorrow, so I will pause at this point and bring you the rest of that story next time.
Thanks for your Prayers!
By the way, your prayers for a unified and effective team was certainly felt by all of us. And on behalf of all of us, thanks for praying!
More to come! Love yáll!
PS...Thanks for your notes about the new format. We love hearing from you.