Printed on: November 21, 2012

'Cowboy preacher' following his calling to Burma

By Christina Lords

Days after President Barack Obama became the first sitting U.S. president to enter the country of Myanmar, also known as Burma, a Shelley resident will make a trip of his own to the impoverished nation.

Todd Pierce, 42, leaves Thursday for a three-week trip that will place the longtime Christian deep in the heart of the Burmese jungle with the Free Burma Rangers. The humanitarian organization aims to provide emergency medical care, shelter, food, clothing and human rights documentation for people in the country's war zones.

"Essentially, my job is to go over there (and) hike 50 miles into the jungle to be a part of a training camp that gathers their teams in one spot for support. Every year they do this and turn right back around into the jungle to meet the physical and spiritual needs of the people."

The Associated Press reported that violence between Buddhists and Muslims in June, and again in late October, resulted in the deaths of about 200 people on both sides and displaced more than 110,000 people, the majority of them Muslims.

Pierce, who will minister to and train with teams within the organization, is no stranger to working in extreme environments.

A retired professional bareback horse rider, Pierce has served as chaplain for the Professional Bull Riders through Riding High Ministries since 2001.

The ministry tours with the PBR riders and provides Bible studies and church services for the riders, their families and rodeo fans throughout the U.S. Pierce also has traveled to Brazil, Canada, Mexico and Australia with the tour.

Bull rider Wiley Petersen said he's known Pierce since he joined the PBR tour as its minister.

"He's just one of those guys who'll do anything for you," he said. "It doesn't matter how extreme or how inconvenient it might he, he's a real servant. The fact that he's traveling to Burma to do this work doesn't surprise me at all.

"That's just the man he is."

Petersen said Pierce's connection with horses and being able to tame a wild animal offer people a unique insight to his love of the Lord.

Pierce's "born to be wild, created to be free" demonstration, where he breaks a wild horse within an hour, aims to highlight the parallels between a horse's relationship with its trainer and a human's relationship with God.

When people are able to break down their spiritual resistance and put their faith in God, the freer that person becomes, Petersen said.

Pierce hopes to do the demonstration on an unbroken mule in Burma.

"We've had a lot of people all over the country, some who have been Christians all their life, watch the presentation and it just clicks for them," Petersen said. "Some of them didn't want anything to do with religion or God, but it just breaks down walls."

Pierce said he felt called to the Burmese cause because he believes in the power of the gospel.

"Burma might seem a little out of context for a cowboy preacher, but the reason they're asking me to come is that I minister to extreme athletes," Pierce said. "The mentality that it takes for these teams to go into the jungle in somewhat militant areas all while serving other people is incredible.

"They're extreme men."

Pierce said he prayed extensively about the trip with his wife, Leslie, before deciding to depart.

"We felt like this is something I'm wired to do," he said. "I love seeing men in impossible situations live life fully ... who am I to back down from this situation just because it's dangerous? That goes against everything I believe in, everything I teach."

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