Alabama Baptist farm families support missions by raising cowscomment (0)
May 24, 2012
By Carrie Brown McWhorter
Frisky calves are a familiar sight at Richard Tabor’s farm in Dutton, but two born this spring have a special “mission.”
The calves were born to cows that Tabor purchased at the Fort Payne Stockyard earlier this year. The cows, eight months bred when Tabor bought them, were paid for by Steer Inc., a nonprofit missions fund-raising program headquartered in Bismarck, N.D. Tabor tagged the cows for Steer, then put them in the pasture with the rest of his herd of about 20 cows and calves.
The calves will stay with Tabor’s herd until they are ready for sale. When they are sold, Steer will receive the profits and distribute the funds to organizations like World Vision, Campus Crusade for Christ, Fellowship of Christian Athletes and other missions efforts around the world.
Tabor said his primary responsibility is to be a good steward of the cows.
“Steer doesn’t make any demands on the farmer or rancher,” he said. “All I’m required to do is feed them and just do what I do with all of them.”
Tabor first heard about Steer when missionary Jonathan O’Brien spoke at the Cowboy Church at DeKalb County, Rainsville, in Marshall Baptist Association. O’Brien, a native of Birmingham, serves as Asia ministry training coordinator for Youth Ministry International (YMI), an organization that trains youth leaders around the world to reach their communities for Christ. O’Brien, a member of South Roebuck Baptist Church, Birmingham, in Birmingham Baptist Association, is currently in the United States raising financial support for his work in Asia. While YMI has partnered with Steer for several years, O’Brien has been connected to the organization for just a few months. In that time, he has visited several churches around the state to explain how farmers can support global missions efforts simply by taking on the responsibility of an extra cow in the herd.
“Many people still think I am asking them to give me a cow, but what I want is for them to raise one instead,” O’Brien said.
Farmers and ranchers help missionaries through Steer in one of two primary ways. A few farmers raise young calves, called feeders, to a heavier weight and then sell the fattened calf. However, most farmers, like Tabor, participate in Steer’s cow/calf program, in which they keep an adult cow and sell the weaned calves each year. In either case, Steer makes the initial investment by buying the animal and providing insurance in case the cow has medical needs or dies. The farmer’s role is to provide food, water and routine care until the cow is ready to be sold. Once that happens, the farmer returns the proceeds from the sale back to Steer.
Keith Kost, executive director and CEO of Steer, said the organization has been helping missionaries through local farm/ranch partnerships for more than 50 years. He said the Steer model provides a different kind of missions opportunity for farmers, who often have a lot of money invested in land and equipment but not a lot of cash on hand.
“If you have a pasture, you can run a cow,” Kost said. “And the money from that cow or calf then goes to missionaries to help support what God has called them to do.”
Josh Sparkman, pastor of No Fences Cowboy Church, Falkville, currently has two cows for Steer, both of which he expects to deliver calves any day. Most of the time, he said, farmers cannot take time off to participate in a missions trip.
“When you present farmers with the idea of helping someone else by working on their farm, they understand that,” Sparkman said. “It gives them a chance to feel like they are helping in their own way.”
Kost said that with cattle prices at almost unprecedented highs, Steer has given more to missions this year — $1.25 million — than in any other year in its history.
Perhaps just as important as the financial support provided through Steer is the ongoing relationship formed between the farmer and the missionary, Kost said. Farmers designate the missionary or organization that will receive the proceeds from the cows they raise. Since a cow can bear a calf about once a year for 7–10 years, the farm family is involved in supporting missions for the long-term.
“It’s a unique partnership that ties together the farmer/rancher and the missionary,” Kost said. “The farmer prays for the missionary, and the missionary prays for the farmer. You have someone in Alabama who is interested in what is going on in Africa, and someone in Africa who is just as interested in the agricultural market in Alabama. It’s a neat connection.”
Kost said 1,200 farmers and ranchers in 38 states are currently involved in Steer, with approximately 2,000 cows in the program. In Georgia, 124 farmers are involved; in Alabama, there are currently only 15. However, O’Brien is working to get the word out to more farmers in the state, and cowboy churches are a big part of that effort.
For his part, Tabor said that his experience with Steer has been very positive and he believes Steer would be a good fit for anyone who has a farm or ranch and wants to support missions.
“As Christians, we want to do missions,” Tabor said. “Steer is just a natural fit for anybody who likes to farm, and we know that when we’re serving the Lord, we’re always going to get a blessing.”
For more information, visit www.greatcowmission.com or www.steerinc.com.