COLUMBIA — Jim Smith is a soul wrangler. Smith, a Boone County resident, is president of the Show Me the Way chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Cowboys.
The group conducted a service at the Boone County Fair Sunday morning. Providing spiritual guidance to people in rural areas is the group's mission, Smith said, but that doesn't require anyone to be a cowboy.
“Being a Christian is an action,” said John Gray of Centralia, the group's vice president.
The group's members act on their faith by providing nondenominational Christian services to their peers at county fairs and other gatherings and holding monthly meetings at Grandview Baptist Church in Centralia. Founded in 1973, the Fellowship of Christian Cowboys has dozens of chapters across the U.S., according to the group's website.
Being a Christian cowboy influences more than how Smith treats other people. He is also more aware of his role as caregiver to his animals.
“I’m not an avid environmentalist. But I think I’ve always practiced it, without knowing the word," Smith said. "My dad always told me, if you take care of the land, it’ll take care of you.”
Smith hails from a long line of Boone County residents. He once found a letter from 1819 addressed to his ancestor Steven Strode in the State Historical Society's museum. His family’s donation helped found MU, he said.
The relationship between a cowboy and his horse is a lot like the relationship between a person and God, Gray said. The horse must trust the rider, just as a person must trust God, he said.
The group's members know the rural life, and a person should serve the Lord in something they are familiar with, said Kristie Gray, John’s wife.
John Gray graduated from MU with a degree in agricultural systems management. The Grays have a small farm in southwest Audrain County.
The Fellowship of Christian Cowboys also organizes Rodeo Bible Camps, which teach young people riding and roping skills and are meant to help them grow spiritually.