We’ve been working on some videos for the ministry facebook page. Our son, Jared, is a gifted videographer and has generously donated his time and talent to utilize many of the new media outlets that are now available. One of the videos is comprised of a very abbreviated version of Butch’s testimony. Going through some old, I mean OLD, pictures for the video, and hearing what he shared, has inspired me to write a testimony of my own….complete with overlooked details and a woman’s perspective. If you watch the videos, it is obvious that he is much more comfortable in front of a camera or a crowd than I am, so my testimony will be in print…my comfort zone. I am really doing this solely for myself, but you are welcome to walk with me down memory lane.
I was born……HA! Just kidding! I won’t begin that far back, but just to say that I had a pretty uneventful childhood. My mother stayed home with us three girls, and my dad worked all the time so she could. I was the child who was naturally a man-pleaser and was very easy disciplined. I avoided conflict at all cost and was always looking for acceptance and popularity. We were not raised in church, though I did periodically attend the Baptist church that was just across the road from where we lived…probably more for the social aspect of the youth group than anything else. Thinking back, I believe that I did have a heart for God, but He was not a priority in my life. I met Butch at a rodeo just before I turned 16. He was 22. Everything drastically changed from that point on. I dropped out of all my high school activities, abandoned my friends, and he became my life. I am convinced that meeting him at such a young age kept me from ever sowing the wild oats that were quickly sprouting in my heart. Though we were both raised in metro Atlanta, we grew up with horses and shared a love for all things western. We married a week before my 18th birthday and immediately headed West to fulfill our cowboy dreams. Montana’s Canadian border was a stark contrast to our Southern roots, but we were two greenhorns who embraced the cowboy way of life with gusto. By a divine appointment, we soon met Dale and Karla Camp who took us under their wing, and we were taught by the best in the business. Karla had a passionate love for the Word unlike anyone I had ever known, and that sparked a real interest in me. I quickly became a diligent student of the Bible which, of course, was life changing. With typical cowboy mentality, we grew discontent at one ranch and moved to another, always in search of greener pastures, better horses, and for me, nicer housing. We moved so much that one room in our ranch house was designated just to hold the packing boxes that we knew we’d be using shortly. Before the boys were born, I spent some days working along side of my man and other days alone in houses in bad need of remodeling (to put it nicely) with no television, no telephone, no money, and hours from the closet town. We began to learn to depend on each other and on the God we knew of, but didn’t really know.
In 1986, after 5 years of marriage, when we received the joyous news that we were going to have a baby, we moved back to Georgia to be close to family (and a hospital – I was NOT into home births). Jared was 5 months old when we received more joyous news that another baby was on the way. Soon after Carson hit the ground, we sold our little house, packed everything up in those moving boxes we still had, and moved back to Montana. Though we knew by now the harsh reality of ranch life, we still couldn’t wait to dive back in. A few years later, we finally landed what we had contrived in our minds as the ‘perfect’ job. Of course with two small children, I was back stuck in the house, but when my cowboy would step up on the porch in the evenings with his spurs jingling, his buckaroo hat, and his tall boots, I would just melt! I had never even considered that we would ever have any other lifestyle than the one we had both dreamed of and worked for, so when Butch announced in the spring of 1992 that he believed God had called him to preach, I was stunned. He added that he had always been able to talk me into anything (so true) and that he was not going to try to talk me into this. It would have to be a joint decision and I would have to hear from God myself. As I continued to seek God on the matter, my resistance began to fade until I was convinced (maybe even more than Butch) that we were to hit the road in full-time ministry. So after the fall gather, we gave away most of our possessions, stored or sold the rest, loaded up our two toddlers, the family dog, boxes of home school books, and struck out. I felt like Abraham when God called him to leave his homeland but he had no clue where the Lord was taking him. Almost immediately, God opened some doors for places to minister and then everything came to a grinding halt. Then began a time of testing unlike anything we had ever known. With no home, no money, and no place to be, we began to doubt that we had heard from God at all. We ran the grub line as friends and family kept us fed and sheltered. There was a huge temptation to just go back to ranching and chalk the whole thing up as a huge misunderstanding. It was during these months that we learned Who God is and realized the sufficiency of His grace. Then in May of 1993, God literally “sent” us back to the southeast and stategically placed us in rodeo ministry. We didn’t figure we could fit one more person in the Suburban we traveled in, so Butch decided that I should start doing the music. I picked out a soundtrack, and after I got over literally being sick at my stomach from having to sing in front of people, my music ministry began. Things were finally looking up, and in 1995 we purchased a 5th wheel travel trailer which became our “home” for the next 7 years. With more open doors, we traveled the country with me in the back seat between the boys much of the time guiding them through their real world education. We not only studied about the Alamo, Mt. Rushmore, and the Grand Canyon, we went there!! Of course, there was always that nagging guilt that our boys did not have a ‘normal’ childhood and were missing out on so many opportunities that other kids had….no sports teams, no boy scouts, no local group of friends. But the quality and quantity family time we had together was priceless. When we wore out the 5th wheel trailer, our family (with the addition of yet another dog and a pet rabbit) moved into a 40 ft motorhome. What a difference it made to have all that storage (and not have sound equipment in the living room) and to be able to sit at the kitchen table to do school work while going down the road! A few hundred thousand miles later, we knew it was time for a change. Our boys were growing up fast and we needed to have a home base so they could go to college or get a job. After much prayer, we settled in north Florida. We found 10 acres cheap but it needed LOTS of work. The first “improvement” was a 50 amp plug for the motorhome. We now had a place to “be” when we weren’t on the road. It was really only a place to park, but it was OUR place. Shortly, we began weekly Bible meetings and it soon became apparent that THIS was the reason we landed in Live Oak, Florida. The 4 of us worked tirelessly for months and our little haven began to shape up. There was a tiny shack on the property that was totally disgusting, but Butch transformed it into a charming little cabin which became the boy’s bedroom for the next 3 years. Jared received a scholarship to a nearby college and entered the world of public education for the first time. The next year, Carson also received a scholarship and my 13 years of home schooling were over. In 2007, we began construction on a home without wheels! We had the floorplan in our heads for decades, and it was exciting to see it finally become a reality. We put together some furniture, put the motorhome up for sale, and moved in. Going from 340 square feet to over 2000 square feet was quite an adjustment! No tanks to dump, no water or power to hook up, my first dishwasher, a full-sized washer and dryer, a large bathtub, and 3 toilets!!! The boys quickly moved into their own rooms and were thrilled to have some ‘personal space’ and a real bed instead of a pull-out couch. The boys started staying home while Butch and I continued traveling. We reverted back to staying in people’s homes and motel rooms while on the road, and I did greatly miss taking my bed with me, but the 30 mpg we got in the car eased the pain.
On labor day weekend in 2010, we hosted Jared’s wedding at our home. As I looked around at the beautiful setting, I remembered the times I had cried out to God with all my heart asking Him to provide the way for us to have a real house. I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Carson still comes and goes between his horse training gigs, but basically we are down to one dog and Butch and me. We still live by faith every day, and the narrow road is still filled with obstacles, but God continues to prove Himself faithful. Our passion to share the Truth of the gospel so that many can be delivered from the bondage of the old man and be born again after the likeness and image of Jesus is stronger than ever. When I am having doubts, all I have to do is witness the anointing on Butch’s preaching, and I am convinced once again that we are in His perfect will. If I had known at the beginning what the last 19 years of full-time ministry would involve, would I have jumped in? Truthfully, I don’t know. But I feel like Peter did when many people deserted Jesus and the Lord asked His disciples, “Do you also want to go away?” Peter’s answer was, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”.