Rugged religion

CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle Jim Hunsucker, right, watches Travis Odell drain water from a pot of potatoes Wednesday at Ned Houk Park. Odell and Hunsucker prepared food for the Mesa Redondo Cowboy Camp Meeting.

By Tony Gutierrez: CNJ staff writer

The picnic tables filled as close to 100 people filed through the line with plates of chopped roast, mashed potatoes and baked beans at the 30th annual Mesa Redondo Cowboy Camp Meeting Wednesday.

The meeting is part of the larger Ranchmen’s Camp Meeting Association that hosts interdenominational Christian cowboy camps throughout the Southwest and is held annually in Ned Houk Park outside of Clovis.

“I prefer these tent meetings, I prefer preaching outside,” said the Rev. Jack Martin, the camp pastor. “It seems to draw people in that won’t normally come in.”

Martin, dressed in cowboy boots, blue jeans, a white cowboy shirt and hat, said he dresses the same way at his home congregation in Lamar, Colo., although he does own a suit he occasionally wears. Martin spoke about making excuses at the meeting Wednesday night.

“We got all sorts of excuses, why we don’t go to church, why we don’t serve the Lord, why we don’t tell others about Jesus, for not living a godly life,” Martin said. “Jesus is not going to accept those excuses.”

Spokeswoman Wilma Fulgham said the meetings for this area were first held in the Mesa Redondo Canyon south of Tucumcari in 1978, but moved to the Curry County Fairgrounds in 1996 because a burn ban wouldn’t allow open flames for cooking. They moved to the park in 1997.

“We feel it’s a definite ministry to reach people who don’t like to go to a traditional church building,” Fulgham said. “We want to reach people who share the Western way of life, the ranch and agriculture industry.”

With the proximity of the park to town, the program is offered in the evening with Bible studies, suppers, music and preaching.

Fulgham said coordinators bought 255 pounds of beef roast and cooked it at the Central Baptist Church kitchen beforehand and cooked the other food at the park.

Different styles of music are played every night. A band played bluegrass Wednesday night.

“I come out here to hear the truth. Sometimes out here, you hear it a little plainer, no beating around the bush,” said Naomi Starbuck of Clovis. “You hear how God’s worked in others’ lives.”