Crystianna, Isabella & Mario Valencia
Cowboys with a Mission - A Horse Connection
When I was five I sat on a horse for the first time at my great grandparents ranch. After that all I wanted was to ride, train, and be with horses. This dream seemed impossible; my family moved often, we didn’t own any land of our own, and we didn’t have the financial means to buy a horse, let alone pay for boarding or lessons. But nonetheless, despite the impossibilities, I clung to my dream. It wasn’t until I was 17 that my dream finally was realized and it was only through the Lord that it happened.
Blessing after blessing He poured out on me. At the time I didn’t realize the magnitude of what the Lord was doing in my life and how He was going to use it for His kingdom. After I graduated High School I went to college, following the path the world said was important. My horse couldn’t follow me to college and so I would go home on the weekends as often as possible and split my time between seeing my family and riding my horse. I made a few friends at school who had horses and would let me ride some too. But in my heart I yearned for something more. I yearned to be a horsewoman. And truth be told I yearned to serve the Lord, though I was still in denial of that. I had grown up as a PK (church lingo for pastors kid) and by the time I was “on my own '' so to speak I didn’t want much to do with full time ministry of any sort. I never walked away from the Lord, but I wanted to live life the way I wanted to. At the time I thought that to be successful I needed to go to college. So for two miserable semesters I stuck it out.
In the meantime my best friend was off doing a Discipleship Training School at a YWAM (Youth with a Mission) campus in central Spain. She was growing in the Lord and finding her purpose through Him. We would talk on the phone and I could hear the contentment and joy in her voice. And looking at my own life and how miserable I felt, I was more than a little envious. The Lord used this though, and through a series of events, including a solo trip to Spain and a loose horse in my home town–that's a story for another time, I finally gave in, I decided I was done trying to live life how I wanted to, I was ready to hear from the Lord and give whatever He wanted me to do a try.
And now here I am four years later, serving the Lord in full time missions, with a wonderful husband and a beautiful baby girl. The icing on the cake? I get to use horses as an integral part of my ministry. At the ministry that I am a part of (called Cowboys with a Mission–we are a YWAM campus that specifically seeks to reach rural and agricultural people) we teach a horsemanship class as a part of our Discipleship Training School. The style of horsemanship we follow is called Natural Horsemanship. It is all about building a foundation of trust and working with the horse and their natural instincts instead of trying to “force” the horse to do what you want. This style of horsemanship also lends itself quite nicely to being used as a tool to share the gospel—something my husband and I seek to do whenever we can.
One of the tools of our trade is a round pen. It is in the round pen where foundations of trust, communication and connection are built. Horses learn from the release of pressure. When the wrong thing is made hard and the right thing is made easy, the horse naturally tries to find what the right thing is and they are rewarded. This builds trust and when we ask them to do something that is scary or difficult, the horse knows that we will reward them for trusting us.
Horsemanship is a partnership not a dictatorship. But at the end of the day the horse respects me and my authority CV. Do you see where I am going with this? Can you see the parallels to our walk with the Lord? Even just going back to my story I shared in the beginning, when I was doing my own thing my own way, life was miserable. I was working way harder to find contentment (and failing to do so I might add) than I needed to. But then I turned into the Lord and asked Him how He wanted me to do things. When I pressed in and started following His steps, it became easier to find joy and contentment. Life didn’t become easier per se, the Lord has still asked me to do really hard things, but I am following Him so I know I can trust the way before me.
One of my favorite moments that comes when working with a new horse is when they finally decide that they trust and respect me as their leader. I ask the horse to walk up to me and one hesitant step at a time the horse comes into me. Next comes my favorite part. I turn my back to the horse and take a step or two forward. And if I have done my job right and the horse is ready to trust me they take a step forward. And then I turn right and take a few more steps and the horse follows. Then I go left; they follow, then back; they go back. Soon that horse will follow me across bridges and obstacles; whatever, wherever I ask the horse will follow. And every time I do this with a horse, the Lord speaks to my heart and asks if I will follow Him the same way. Just like I do not force the horse to follow, and correction comes when the horse chooses not to do what I ask, our walk with the Lord is much the same.
I could go on and on about the connections between working with horses and our walk with the Lord (just ask my husband—he is forced to listen whenever I have new revelation). To this day however, this is the one that is the most simple and yet most profound to me. It is the one the Lord keeps bringing me back to. Will I be like the horse? Will I follow wherever He leads?