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Saddling up with the Lord: Jackson sale barn hosts monthly Cowboy Church service

JACKSON -- As a young girl, Judy Wiedemeier wanted to grow up to be a cowboy. Today, she still is much enamored of the cowboy way of life.By day, Wiedemeier works in the front office of a chiropractic office, but in her free time she leads the Mi...

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A trio provides music for Cowboy Church at the Jackson Livestock arena. (Submitted photo)

JACKSON - As a young girl, Judy Wiedemeier wanted to grow up to be a cowboy. Today, she still is much enamored of the cowboy way of life.
By day, Wiedemeier works in the front office of a chiropractic office, but in her free time she leads the Minn-Iowa Chapter of Cowboys for Christ.
“I am interested in horses, and I always loved the cowboy lifestyle,” she explained during a telephone interview from Buffalo Center, Iowa, where she lives. “I always had that desire to be involved with that cowboy lifestyle. When I was 28 years old, I became a born-again Christian, and God has just moved me in this direction to have a ministry to the cowboy culture.”
Founded in 1970, Cowboys For Christ is a ministry that reaches out to the livestock industry worldwide. Members or attendees of CFC events don’t have to be in the livestock industry or a cowboy or cowgirl, but the organization does tend to draw people who like that sort of lifestyle. It isn’t meant to take the place of a church, but instead works with churches.
Wiedemeier first connected with a CFC chapter that meets in Greene, Iowa, in the southern part of the state, but traveling that far for meetings and other events got to be tiresome.
“They suggested maybe I would want to start a group up in our area,” she said. “Very honestly, I thought about that idea very hard for a long time and started praying about it. God said it was time to do it, so we had our first meeting two years ago last February, and we had quite a bit of interest in our group, so we decided to open up a chapter here. Buffalo Center is in very north central Iowa, and the majority of our members are probably from Minnesota.”
Besides publishing The Christian Ranchman - a 16-page cowboy Christian newspaper filled with testimonies, articles and letters from cowboy aficionados with a circulation of almost 14,000 - one of the primary functions of Cowboys for Christ is hosting Cowboy Church events. For the Minn-Iowa chapter, that Cowboy Church takes place the first Sunday of every month at the Jackson Livestock Exchange, 328 E. Ashley St.
“We had a desire to do an outreach, and Jackson has a Sunday sale,” Wiedemeier explained. “One of the issues I had as a sale-goer was that I always had to choose between church and going to the Sunday sale. I thought, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat if we could do a Cowboy Church that went with that sale?’ So we contacted the owners of the sale barn, and they felt OK about hosting that, using the facility before the sale. They welcomed us in, and we’ve been appreciative of their willingness to work with us.”
Jackson’s Cowboy Church started in the spring of 2014. The service begins at 8 a.m. on the first Sunday.
While she occasionally gets waylaid by other outreach events in the region, Wiedemeier tries to make as many of the Jackson Cowboy Church services as she can.
“We have three regular cowboy preachers who come in, so we do a three-month rotation so each of our preachers is there four times a year,” she said. “It’s a very relaxed atmosphere - very much come-as-you-are. People think you have to come in cowboy boots, hats, but that’s not necessary. It’s taking the gospel to people where they are as opposed to having to walk into a church building.”
Each of the preachers brings his own flavor to the Cowboy Church.
“The different styles are really good,” Wiedemeier said. “The lay preacher we have is very laidback; Gary is more high-energy; and Curtis is very down-to-earth. They will usually include something to do with horses, farming, cattle - try to relate to the people who will be there at the sale, and connect to real life, what people really live. You get a lot more of this down-to-earth talking.”
Gary Froiland, who comes from Stewartville, provides both the message and music for the services, playing his guitar, banjo, and even the saw. 
“We’ve also had some guest speakers in, and our regular preachers are really on fire for the Lord,” added Wiedemeier. “And we’ve had some really wonderful attendees, and we’re open to people sharing testimony. We’ve had some people who have shared really neat stories about how God works in their lives.”
A lot of the same people show up - probably averaging 20 to 30 people each month, Wiedemeier estimated - but new attendees are always welcome. Attendance goes down a bit in the cold weather months, she added, but picks up in the spring.
“We’ve had folks come from clear down in southern Iowa, and we’ve had people come from up by Bemidji,” she said. “So we get a pretty wide group, but the good thing is that the Gospel is being preached and people are finding out about Jesus - that’s the goal.
“We’ve got some regular folks who attend a church service in the Jackson area, and on that Sunday they come to Cowboy Church, too. It’s just a different atmosphere.”
Wiedemeier enjoys working with Cowboys for Christ and will continue to lead the area group for as long as she feels called to do so.
“I’m the one who has the bug in her bonnet,” she said. “God hasn’t risen another person to take over the position at this point. He’s got me in this position for how long He wants, as long as He can be glorified and honored in what I’m doing.
“The thing about Cowboys for Christ is that it’s an established group - since the 1970s - and the whole desire is just to bring lost people to their savior. That’s the nuts and bolts of the ministry, and that’s why I like it so much, just to bring people closer to the Lord.”
A horse certainly isn’t required to come to Cowboy Church. Al that is needed is a desire to hear the Gospel message preached there.
“We have a God who loves us where we are,” Wiedemeier stressed. “It’s nice to be able to go where people are and give them that message.”
For more information on Cowboys for Christ, visit cowboysforchrist.net. The Minn-Iowa Chapter has a Facebook page: facebook.com/minniowacowboysforchrist.

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Music is a big part of the Cowboy Church service the first Sunday of every month at the Jackson Livestock Exchange. (Submitted photo)

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