Havens Cowboy Camp Meeting the real deal
Posted: Saturday, June 24, 2006 12:00 am
SANTA ANNA — Where can you find wagons, horses, cowboys, trailers and be treated to a chuck wagon breakfast and supper?
For two more days, all that can be found at the 40th annual Little George Havens Cowboy Camp Meeting in Santa Anna. The camp opened June 16 and will conclude Sunday.
Authentic cowboys came for the Goat Tying and Roping School led by Director Jamey Burrus, but they were also there to hear a message. Since its founding, the camp has been designed to encourage people to get closer to God, but to do so in a casual, relaxed atmosphere.
Its gospel singing and preaching services held under a tent attract many worshippers besides cowboys, as well. At the chuck wagon supper, meat and fried chicken are provided. Potatoes, cole slaw, beans, rolls, banana pudding, cakes and ice cream are also served.
Many of those participating this year are associated with cowboy churches.
“We want to do church radically different from conventional churches,” Burrus said. “At cowboy church, we tell it like it is. It’s plain and simple.”
At the chuck wagon supper, meat and fried chicken were provided. Potatoes, cole slaw, beans, rolls, banana pudding, cakes and ice cream are served.
Burrus has a goal for each person attending, whether it’s at the Havens camp or his own cowboy church in Graham.
“If he doesn’t feel like we’re doing church just for him, we’re not being very successful. He’s likely not coming back.”
Prior to breaking into Bible study groups at Wednesday night’s service, attendees spent time visiting with each other. They included cowboys and city residents from throughout Texas. Many of them spent only one or two nights at the camp, while others are there for the duration.
Evangelist Jeff Gore, who was born in Brownwood and is a singer and cowboy poet, was among them.
“I think God is in something on this hill,” Gore said. “This thing should’ve fallen by the wayside years ago, but God didn’t let it. Thousands of people have been saved on this hill.”
Gore questioned some people’s motives for attending conventional churches.
“It’s all about where they’re from, how they’re dressed, how they smell, and how they look,” he said. “People are not willing to get out of their comfort zones. Some people consider this (worshiping outside) roughing it.”
Burrus observes some pretensions too.
“Sometimes, I’ll attend a conventional church,” he said. “I’ll walk in with my hat, jeans, and boots on. The preacher will snub me. Then when I tell him who I am, and what I do, he treats me nice.”
In the true spirit of cowboy preachers, Burrus is also a competitive goat roper. He will compete in the World Championship Goat Roping Competition on July 22. Burrus has been teaching some of his goat-tying tips to the youngsters attending the Havens Cowboy Camp.
Bobby Machen, co-pastor and minister of education at the Brownwood Cowboy Church on High Mesa Drive, preached for about 30 minutes at the Havens Cowboy Camp Wednesday night.
“The preaching here is down to earth,” he said. “There’s not a lot of theology. The camp is interdenominational. I like to hear the good news. Also, what you see is what you get.”
Machen expressed some concerns about conventional churches.
“We have too many people who make an idol out of their church. There are personality-driven churches. That’s OK, if you’re following the right kind of people.”
The Brownwood Cowboy Church started in 2000.
“We’re a family church,” he said. “Everyone looks out for everyone. We have about 120 to 150 in church every Sunday. We wanted to break down the barriers. You just come as you are.
“We don’t even pass the plate in our church. We just put it in the back.
After the Havens Camp concludes Sunday, an Hispanic Camp directed by evangelist Sammy Fuentes is scheduled from June 28 to July 2.