In 1984, after two years of foundational development, I was ready to initiate links into rural Australia. Professional rodeo - a major cultural and social activity that would lead naturally into this area of ministry.
First, I wrote to Mr John Skinner, the CEO of the Australian Rough Riders Association (ARRA) based in Warwick, Queensland.
To my delight, I received a letter in reply from Mr John Skinner, who identified himself as a Christian, and welcomed the concept to explore a formal ministry to rodeo athletes. The concomitant invitation to visit Warwick to start this process was continuing evidence to me of God's providence.
The ARRA was in the throes of changing from a semi-professional sport which had attempted to cater for both amateur and professional events, to a fully professional, sponsored organisation. Many sports codes in Australia at that time were travelling along a similar pathway.
John and Marion Skinner invited me into their home and hosted me for several days leading up to the third weekend of October 1984, the date for the annual Australian Rodeo Championships.
I learned that one-third of those on the ARRA professional rodeo circuit were active followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, with a very strong touring Christian fellowship along the American frontier model, with straight-down-the-line preaching, primarily by US 'rodeo contestant' pastors.
This proved to be a learning time for me as I listened with much joy to these preachers and the rodeo fraternity as they responded to such messages of hope and the potential to become new creations in Christ. As I witnessed full immersion baptisms in a motel swimming pool and evangelism meetings behind the bails - I grew up on a dairy farm.
John Skinner had invited me to an ARRA national board meeting where I was given a short time to detail to the rodeo family how the practical aspects of a chaplaincy ministry would work out.
It occurred to me that I should reciprocate by supporting what was already in place and invited as many Christian rodeo people to the Sports and Leisure Ministry annual conferences providing them opportunities to present seminars and workshops on their ministry.
This is precisely what took place. Over many years, a number of the Australian rodeo troupe would make the annual sojourn to the sports ministry conferences where they gave illuminating and challenging testimonies. I exclaim that everyone lapped up their stories with exhilaration.
The miracle of the Rodeo ministry was that it was already functioning and was further encouraged and supported by me turning up on their doorstep and speaking to their national board. In effect, it was a statement that Christians across the nation supported the Rodeo ministry.
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html