story by Michele Toberer Dawson and Jessica McMaster have “McMastered” their respective events and are sitting at the top in the Kansas Professional Rodeo Association […]
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Meet the Member Cory Wilson & Ride Tough Rodeo Ministries
story by Lily Weinacht
In the space of eight seconds, a roughstock rider might become a champion — or get hung up. A phone call might come that changes everything. A person might pass from this world into the next. These were all things on Cory Wilson’s mind when he felt the persistent tug on his heart to minister in the rodeo world, but the 40-year-old husband and father of four from Hutchinson, Kansas, wasn’t sure where to start.
“A few years ago, I was at the Garden City Community College rodeo, and I started caring more about what the guys’ lives were like more than their scores or their rides,” says Cory. “But I was really nervous about approaching people and talking about their personal lives.” Then, in April of 2016, both of Cory’s in-laws tragically passed away in a car accident. “I got to thinking more about that, and the thing I knew about Lane Frost and my in-laws is that they were all saved. That was the only thing that kept both situations from being a complete tragedy — we’re going to see them again someday if we’re saved. So that motivated me more to think about how I wanted to approach it. I had felt called to some kind of ministry for a long time.”
Cory wanted to start a roughstock ministry, but knew a form of cowboy church wasn’t workable for many of the riders’ travel schedules. Instead, he filled a cooler on wheels — dubbed Wheelie — with water bottles, packed a first-aid kit and tool kit with tools the riders might need for their gear, and he wheeled up to the chutes of his first rodeo in July of 2016. “I’ll pray with guys, and I build relationships. That’s how faith starts. I was just going to rodeos, hitting guys up, and talking to them. I go out and love on cowboys. It’s been well received; I didn’t know how it would go,” Cory explains. “Everybody has a mind for God, I believe. I have a theory on cowboys. A lot of people talk about America and how it’s gone downhill, but cowboys are heroes, and if the hearts of cowboys change, they’ll affect everybody in their community.”
Bareback rider Ty Pellam encouraged Cory to get his KPRA card, and in the space of two months, Cory traveled 11,000 miles, from Oklahoma City to Trinidad and Amarillo, Texas, and even into Nebraska. He also goes to CPRA and PRCA rodeos, or any other rodeo he feels he should go to, visiting with everyone from the stock contractors and rodeo committees, to the contestants’ families and friends. But Cory is also available long after the rodeo ends, taking calls and messages 24 hours a day and staying in touch with “his guys” year round. He created the Ride Tough Rodeo Ministries Facebook page, where he shares devotions and other words of encouragement, and Cory was even asked to make patches that people could share with friends. Barrel racer Bailey Shumpert from Colorado and retired professional bull rider TJ Thompson from Texas co-designed the patches, and more than 300 have been given away so far.
Cory’s wife, Stacie, is deeply involved as well. “It’s what we’ve decided to do as a family. My wife’s a CPA, so she supports the whole thing,” Cory explains. “Last year was kind of getting it established, and this year the family will travel with me more.” They have four sons, Cade (14), Zane (9), Reid (7), and Sam (4), along with a rescued off-track Thoroughbred. Cory is a stay-at-home dad and home-schools one of their boys.
“I don’t know where it’s going, but I’ll do it as long as God’s asking me to,” he says. “I just love these guys. They’re good guys, and anyone who has the courage to get on an animal that could hurt them or kill them, when that person turns to the Lord, what kind of a person of faith will they be? I see that aspect of it, and I just like to know in some small way I’m helping in their life. I have personal goals. These guys are young and not married, and I’m hoping ten years from now they’ll bring their kids up, or I’ll get invited to their weddings. I like to see people happy and thriving, and ultimately I want to see them saved. I want to get to Heaven and say, ‘There’s cowboys everywhere!’”