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Cowboy church leads people – and horses – forward


PATTON – Whether you’re horse or human, life can be a struggle. And horse or human, it takes a lot of trust to stay on the right path. 

Pat Patterson, a circuit-riding preacher, attempted to make the connection between trust and salvation to an 8-year-old wild mustang named Corazon, and to those humans who came to the Lamplighter Cowboy Church near Patton April 5-6, to see Patterson work with the horse and to connect with their Savior the way the horse began to connect with the people who will guide him in his life.

Ron Tinsley of Fredericktown bought the horse five years ago as a result of a roundup in Nevada from the Bureau of Land Management. Corazon – so named for the heart-shaped spot on his forehead – had been herded into a holding pen with other wild horses waiting for the buyer who bought them. Somehow, Corazon got left behind and was available to Tinsley for $25. 

An animal who once enjoyed freedom of the range suddenly found himself first in a holding pen, then loaded up and relocated to Tinsley’s home in Fredericktown. He wasn’t going to trust anyone.

Tinsley said he was the same way at one time – penned in by self-destructive behavior trying to escape through locked gates of a corral of destruction instead of going through an open gate that was offered to him that would change his life if he would accept the opportunity.

Man and horse needed to learn how to make the right choices in life. In the corral or in church, the same principle applies.

“In church if you want someone to follow you, you don’t want to drive them to the water hole, but say follow me, lets get a drink,” Tinsley said. “If they want to be in good company they will follow. If you try to make somebody do something, well, you can lead a horse to water… .”

In the corral, Corazon looks at Patterson as he approaches him. The horse is shaggy and mud-covered, but he has known human kindness during his five years with Tinsley, who has fed him, talked to him, but has done little else – waiting for the right occasion to teach the horse how to trust. 

Corazon is wary, but curious.

“If you give a horse an opportunity to come to you, you will have a friend for life,” Tinsley said. It just takes motivation. Same with people. 

Patterson talked to the audience as he connected with Corazon. To reach a person who needs salvation, he said, you present your best side to that person. Within minutes of working with Corazon, presenting his “good” side to him, Patterson was able to stand by the horse and stroke his shoulder. It’s a first step toward being able eventually to put a saddle on him and ride him, to help the horse find what life holds for him as a follower of someone he can trust. The horse learns to make a choice.

“It can relate to someone who is fighting anger, or is deeply wounded by a bad childhood, or fighting alcoholism,” Patterson said. “It takes him out of his world and into a better world. How many of us are wounded by someone and hanging on to that hurt? “

Patterson said when he walks into a corral with a horse he always asks, “Lord, give me the words. And He always does. It’s amazing how he does it.”

Tinsley compared reaching the horse to baptism. He said baptism doesn’t mean that everything is going to be rosy and good afterward; it means “you will struggle the rest of your days, but it will be a joyful struggle. Nothing can stop you.”

Once the horse is aware of the changes in his life, Tinsley said, and that those changes are consistent, there’s no stopping the horse. “It’s a change of the heart,” he said.

Lamplighter Cowboy Church is connected to the Southern Baptist Convention. It is located in Patton across the junction of Highways 72 and 51 behind the Bank of Missouri. Services are 10 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. each Sunday and 6:30 p.m. each Thursday. (Reprinted courtesy of The Banner Press.)