Blazing a trail for the good news
By Carol Pipes
away in the mountains of Central Idaho lies the town of Salmon. Three hours
from the nearest Wal-Mart, the area surrounding Salmon boasts more cows than
to Mike Palmer, pastor of Salmon Valley Baptist Church, close to 93 percent of
the people in the county don’t have a relationship with Christ.
I have a
real love for the outdoors, the people and the culture,” says Mike, a native
Georgian. “This is home, it’s what we love, it’s what God has put in our
and a half years ago, Mike and the members of his church saw a need to start a
new work for the ranchers who lived 20-30 miles outside of
the Lemhi River Valley could drive to Salmon for church, but the fact is, they
don’t,” says Mike. “We’re mandated by Christ to go. So, so we decided to go and
not wait on folks to come.”
was birthed the Lemhi River Cowboy Church. A church contextualizing the message
of Christ to the people who live along the Upper Lemhi River. Mike and Jim
Ballard, director of missions for the Eastern Idaho Southern Baptist
Association, knew they’d need to plant a church that fit the people they were
trying to reach.
culture’s a very independent culture, very much ‘I can do it myself, I can make
my own way,’” says Mike. “There may not be a realization of needing God
the greatest hurdles to leading a cowboy to Christ is overcoming that
independent, I can do it myself spirit.
grew up ranching in Colorado knew it would take a special man to lead these
rugged pioneers. In Jim’s mind, Mike was the perfect fit. “You don’t have to be
a cowboy to pastor a cowboy church,” says Jim. That was good news to Mike,
who’s never ranched a day in his life.
and ranchers stand strong on their integrity—your word’s your bond. And that
still stands out here in the West,” says Jim. “They know Mike is a man of his
word, he’s someone they can trust.”
ranching is a 24/7 job, the church meets on Sunday nights when a cowboy’s
chores are done. And the atmosphere is casual. Jeans and boots are the norm.
And you’re more likely to see cowboy hats than ties. It’s like a large family
doesn’t matter how you’re dressed, if you just got done feeding, even if you’re
muddy,” says Mike. “God’s not worried about your suit or your
River Church is already looking toward the future of building an indoor riding
arena, a place big enough to rope, barrel race and have church. “We want to
build a building for the community that they will want to use,” says Mike.
“This is how we’re going to reach the community.”
“We have the greatest opportunity of anywhere on earth to take the gospel of
Jesus to people who don’t know Him.” OM
is editor of On Mission.
Home on the Range – The movies might make it look
romantic, but in today's world, life as a cowboy really means 16-hour work days
and 7-day work weeks. See how one North American missionary is sharing Jesus in
creative ways with modern-day John Waynes. Download
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