COWBOY-UP MINISTRY NOW MEETING AT HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY FAIRGROUNDS A Non-Denominational Mix of Horse Training and Biblical Readings
By Jim Frankowiak
Skipper Calder has moved his Cowboy-Up Ministry, helping people start over with their life and God, to the Hillsborough County Fairground just in time to celebrate his 7th year of service to God. Previously the ministry had been located at “The Farm” owned by Mike and Denise Homes on Lithia Pinecrest Road near Highway 39. That was after a multi-year stint on an 1800-acre Hardee County ranch owned by Mike and Betsy Damboise and family. Calder founded his ministry in Hardee County in 2006 as “New Beginnings Ministries of Hardee Inc,” while feeling “God wanted me to take the two things I love, horses and God and put them together.” Calder was raised in Hardee County on the Hass Ranch near the Charlie Creek swamp. “I grew up in a rodeo family,” said Calder. “My dad, the late Jim Calder, moved to Florida from Montana in 1950 where he won many titles. I did not grow up wanting to be a cowboy, I was born one. “After winning seven saddles and several buckles, I went through a divorce, losing the desire to rodeo,” he said. “I started working with colts and learning to give them a good foundation. All the time becoming more involved in church and ministry with a new wife and a new life.” Calder was ordained in 2003 by Randy Johnson of Reality Ranch Ministries, a non-denominational ministry preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. “I believe God called me to teach both horses and people to endure the storms of life through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit. “I never went to school to be a preacher. I am a cowboy,” said Calder. “I have day worked for years, helping ranchers work their cattle. I have rodeoed, built fencing, planted grass, worked in orange groves, and drove all kinds of equipment, including 18-wheelers. I am a common cowboy that loves God and wants to share that love with others.” Cowboy-Up services take place out of doors or under a barn. There is no singing, no offering plate passed and casual dress in a relaxed atmosphere. Calder said it’s “a safe place, no politics. Just a group of people with the same vision, Spread the Good News and the Power to live it. Or in other words, lead people to the saving grace of Jesus and teaching the power of the Holy Spirit available to every believer.” Horses are used every Sunday as a visual word-picture and applying scripture to how God is training us.
Services begin with coffee, donuts and other beverages served from 10:30 – 11 a.m. when horse training and the delivery of the Lord’s message begins. Services end at 12:30. The Cowboy-Up Ministry includes a ministry for children called “The Yearlings.” “Several of our volunteers help with the children’s program, providing a message and activities for children ages four to 12,” said Calder. “The children also get papers to work on and color during church when they don’t go to a class of their own. Children attending must be accompanied by a responsible adult. We are not equipped to handle children who are dropped off by their parents. We find most children love watching the horse being trained. We keep the truth simple, not watered down, just simple to understand. The mature Christians are encouraged to minister with their individual gifts working as a team to accomplish our vision.” “We want to bring people to wholeness in Jesus Christ, teaching love, acceptance and forgiveness. Teaching people to be Jesus’s hands, feet and voice in this world. This is God’s church not ours. I pray God readies us for the growth he provides,” said Calder. One of the ways the ministry accomplishes this is through a Wednesday night bible study in a private home. “No other ministry supports us financially or directs us,” noted Calder. “We function under the leadership of Christ. We are not in competition with other churches. We want the unchurched to feel welcome in a place that will not judge them. As they grow in the Lord they may find a different church which may better fit their needs and that is great. We are not trying to grow a church, we are growing a Kingdom.” The theme verse for Cowboy-Up Ministry is from Ephesians 2:10: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God‘s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” For more information about the Cowboy-Up Ministry, visit a Sunday service at the Hillsborough County Fairground, just north of the intersection of State Road 60 and Sydney Washer Road in Dover. Visit the ministry’s website: www.cowboyupministry.com or check the Facebook pages for Skipper Calder or Cowboy-Up Ministry.
The ministry’s move to the permanent site of the annual Hillsborough County Fair overlooking State Road 60 is “a perfect fit for us,” said Calder. “It has a large outdoor arena for horse demonstrations, a large Ag building we can use when weather is bad, but still permits us to involve a horse in our service. There are 80-acres of land for horseback riding and room to grow with seating for hundreds. Our recent services have attracted more than 250 attendees.”