When Paul and Linda Scholtz saddled up for marriage with a horse, $16 and a pickup truck 37 years ago, little did they know their journey would be one of biblical proportions lasting decades.
"We initially didn't see this as a ministry," the bride recounted about her newlywed year, according to an ASSIST News Service report. "But God uses the things that we love."
But their evangelism trail around the rodeo circuit had many obstacles to overcome, as they found that professional cowboys were frequently lassoed in by the temptations of alcohol and prostitutes, explained John W. Kennedy of the Pentecostal Evangel. Their decades-long ministry to cowboys had just begun.
"We saw an incredible need for Jesus among young people who had gifted athletic abilities, yet were overcome by sin," Paul Scholtz revealed to Pentecostal.
Saddling up for Jesus
While in the stirrups, the couple's talent didn't go unnoticed, as Paul's expertise riding saddle broncs gained wide recognition and Linda reached the National Finals Rodeo twice as a trick rider for the Professional Rodeo Cowboy Association.
But the road to acclaim wasn't all glitz and glory.
"Paul worked a physically demanding schedule -- up at 4 a.m. daily sorting horses, bulls, calves and steers; then feeding 500 bales of hay; sorting cattle in the pit area; untying cattle for bulldogging and roping contests -- all while conducting prayer meetings between performances," Kennedy explained. "When Paul couldn't gain access to the arena, he preached from the back of a cattle truck. Meanwhile, during cowboy church, Linda held Cowkid Sunday school and puppet shows for children."
As more and more aspired to gain the joy that the Scholtzes exuded, which transcended anything that could be attained through the rodeo, a new era of their ministry began to unfold.
"Attendance at prayer meetings grew, and many contestants figured out that they needed something beyond competition to provide lasting satisfaction," Kennedy shared. "Over the years, the Scholtzes, through preaching and other ministry efforts, have helped transform rodeo into a family sport."
Reaching kids across the country, the tireless couple has taken their show on the road, racking up more than 80,000 miles a year from their base camp in Boone, Colorado. But to travel that distance, the dynamic duo put aside their reins for a steering wheel as they cruised their "Speed the Light" pick-up truck -- provided by the Assemblies of God Mission -- from coast to coast.
Still galloping with mile-high faith
Today, rounding up more junior and senior high youth into the Kingdom with the love of God, the rodeo duo integrates both Bible and rodeo training, tying faith and the cowboy arts together with calf roping, as well as bull, bareback and saddle bronc riding. On an annual basis, the Scholtzes try to hold around 10 four-day rodeo Bible camps that incorporate the aforementioned events and more. At his camps, you can see the rugged cowboy missionary praying and giving altar calls to young cowboy and cowgirl apprentices (see photo above.).
"Although their days as active rodeo event participants are long past, the Scholtzes still can handle horses quite well, even though Paul, who walks with a limp, has had complications from hip surgeries," Kennedy asserts. "Paul, who has been a Royal Rangers commander since 1992, also does several Royal Rangers rodeos each year, [while] the still-youthful-looking Linda conducts around a dozen trick riding camps annually."
Seeing the great influence of their ministry, the Body of Christ has rallied behind the couple to help expand their Colorado ministry.
"Assemblies of God churches in the Rocky Mountain District raised funds to transform the missionaries' base into a working rodeo and Bible camp," Kennedy added. "The facility, dedicated in September, features a rodeo arena with bucking chutes, holding pens and grandstands."
With the ministry-enhancing donations, the seasoned cowboy and cowgirl have been able travel less and conserve their resources, but Paul is still reported to never leave home without his cowboy hat and boots -- not to mention his burly voice and image resembling heroes from Westerns of the past.
And he uses his gravitating talent, appearance and personality not for his own glory, but for God's, asserting that Christians must meet people where they are or they'll never be reached.
"We can't wait for cowboys to throw their hats and boots away and walk into church, because they're not going to do that," Paul insists. "God demands that we engage the culture."
Michael Haverluck is a freelance journalist based in the northwest United States.
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