They cracked whips, did amazing rope tricks and hollered "yippee." Pretty entertaining stuff. But while the audience clearly appreciated the talents of the two cowboys, the main reason Lee Homoki and Andy Rotz rode into town was to present the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
The duo, along with Mrs. "Dolly" Homoki and an accompanying group of "buckaroos," are a part of Bible Doctrines to Live By, a ministry based in Grand Rapids, Mich. The group took time off from their summer ministry at Teen Missions in Merritt Island to present their "Old Fashioned Western Round-Up" at Calvary Bible Church last Friday night.
Growing up on a Navajo reservation in Arizona gave Homoki, 65. the experience with ropes and whips that enabled him to create a program which uses analogies about cowboy life to relate Bible truths. He has presented his ministry all over the United States and in several foreign countries.
Rotz, 18. spent part of his teen years setting roping records. He's listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for doing the "Texas Skip" 11,123 times without stopping. Rotz met the Homokis when they ministered at a camp owned by his parents in Hagerstown, Md. He decided he would like to be a part of the ministry.
There was no charge for last week's performance, but Homoki set the tone for the hourlong program by making the audience feel as though they were entering a Wild West show.
"Come on in," he said as the audience took their seats. "It will only cost you a dime, one-tenth of a dollar."
Looking very much like he could be a double for Wild Bill Hickok, Homoki played mostly to the front two rows of children who giggled at his jokes and enthusiastically applauded his tricks.
"I'm so glad to see these cowboys and cowgirls here," he said. "I'm going to prove that cowboys and God do the same thing."
The children in the audience listened attentively as Homoki explained how cowboys branded their cattle and then marked their ears to show ownership.
He asked the children to sing along as he and the Bible Buckaroos taught them a song called Branded for Jesus.
The children quickly learned the words:
"Branded for Jesus,/ trophies of grace./ Born of His Spirit,/ in His embrace./ In the beloved/ bought with a price./ Earmarked for heaven/ branded for Christ."
Then it was time for another joke.
"Cowboys do not sing by note," Homoki said, "They sing by letter. They just open their mouths and let 'er fly."
Homoki became serious when the preaching began. He told of growing up with an alcoholic father who traveled from radio station to theater performing as a cowboy.
"He was my hero, but he wasn't a Christian," Homoki said. "He was a bad man."
Homoki related the story of how his father was standing on a corner in New York City after having performed at Madison Square Garden. He was approached by a stranger who confronted him about his faith.
"Steve, God loves you," the stranger said to the cowboy, who, at age 50, had never set foot in a church.
"Shortly after that my dad became a Christian," Homoki said. "He never took another drink and he never again took God's name in vain."
Homoki's father felt God leading him to minister to his people and for the next 33 years he was a missionary on the Navajo reservation. Lee followed his father's example by going to Bible college and then preaching for 40 years.
"God and cowboys do the same thing," he said. "He rounds up strays. God is not willing that any should perish."
Then it was Rotz's turn to minister. He dazzled the onlookers with his skill in using a rope, sometimes jumping through the lassos he made, other times spinning three ropes at once or putting one loop through another. At one point the children from the audience rushed forward to get underneath a 50-foot rope that Rotz made into a huge lariat.
Amid "yahoos" from the audience, he twirled his revolvers, taking time to remind the children not to play with guns.
As he performed his tricks, Rotz quoted rhymes written years ago by Homoki's father, extolling the greatness of Jesus Christ.
"I didn't come just to do rope tricks," Rotz said. "As Solomon said in the Bible, that's all vanity. What do we have to show for it when we're done? It's only what we do for God that will last."
Rotz said he used to think getting awards was what was important.
"I realized it's just going to pass away," he said. "I want to show people Christ. That means more than all the world's records. I want to be a cowboy for Jesus."
Homoki's turn to perform was next. He cracked his whips so loudly and rapidly that the audience's ears heard a ringing sound. Then, with great skill, he used a whip to slice through paper straws held by his granddaughters, Shauna and Saige. Two other helpers, Paul and Joel, held newspapers that Homoki neatly sliced.
He told the audience about the torturous whip that was used on Jesus before his crucifixion.
"I want people to know what kind of price, what kind of love Jesus had," he said. "He didn't just take our licking; he was made sin for us."
In a breathtaking finale, Homoki used a whip to snap a small plastic cup out from under a large glass of water without spilling it.
"The little cup is the bull's eye," he said. "God's bull's eye is perfection. I've got no way of getting there. I can't be as good as God. Jesus is our goodness. The Father sent Jesus to hit the bull's eye for us. My only claim for heaven is when I trusted Jesus as my Savior."
If you're interested
If you would like to have an Old Fashioned Western Round-up at your church, call (616) 785-3618.
Andy Rotz, 18, performs lasso tricks as part of his presentation of Bible lessons to members of Calvary Bible Church in Inverness. He's in the Guinness Book of World Records for doing the "Texas Skip" rope trick 11,123 times without a miss.
Lee Homoki tells of his father's conversion from a wild, hard-drinking cowboy to a God-fearing, God-loving Christian and of his own decision to follow in those footsteps.