Posted: May 11, 2005 8:27 am EST

Cowboy ministry roping in souls (~13 col. in.)
by Mary Rainwater, Palestine (Texas) Herald-Press
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    Additional Information: Mark Norman of Montalba, Texas, with the He Rose Cowboy Fellowship and Arena behind him, has dedicated the 200 acres to ministering to those who might not normally darken the doors of a traditional church. His ministry comes through weekly and annual roping and barrel racing events.
    CNHI News Service photo/Palestine (Texas) Herald-Press

    By Mary Rainwater
    CNHI News Service

    MONTALBA, Texas - With a Bible in one hand and a rope in the other, Montalba’s Mark Norman took a leap of faith and ended up on a journey not even he thought he would take.
    When he became a Christian more than 10 years ago, Norman began to minister to others like him and started work on an arena and fellowship facility.
    “I was trying to get my life together and was told I needed to give all of my life back to God,” Norman said. “After I did that I started praying and asking God what He wanted to do with me.
    “He told me to finish the arena.”
    From his obedience came the 200-acre He Rose Cowboy Fellowship and Arena in Montalba, a small Texas community near Palestine, featuring a full-size roping area and fellowship hall facility which hosts dinner, services and team roping each Thursday night.
    The first large outreach event held there was the Dogwood Classic Bible Roping event in April 2000, an event which has been held annually ever since.
    “When I first held the event I wondered if anyone would come,” Norman recalled, ”but by 10:15 a.m. more than 300 people had shown up. I am still amazed each time I see the people come through that gate.”
    In October 2004, Norman added an outreach barrel racing event to his ministry at the arena, which more than 650 people attended.
    “There are no entry fees or requirements for participating in our events except that they have to attend the church service,” Norman said. “We also ask that they bring an open mind and heart.”
    A former amateur rodeo cowboy, Norman’s goal in opening the arena is to minister to and encourage those who would not normally darken the door of a traditional church.
    “Everyone that comes through those gates are regular people with regular problems,” he said. “We just want to show them that God loves them.”
    Norman feels that his ministry through He Rose Fellowship is just a testimony to what God can do through regular people.
    “God will never throw you away,” he said. “He will use you wherever you are.”
    Norman was born and reared in the Houston and Pasadena area until he moved to the Montalba area 12 years ago. He grew up around horses and livestock and spent several years in the amateur rodeo circuit.
    He now works two days a week at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Michael Unit and three days a week at the Tennessee Colony ranch of Will and Nancy Broyles.
    Norman lives near Montalba with his wife of nine years, Dee, and his 15-year-old daughter, Kelsie. Both, he said, are very supportive and helpful to him in the ministry.
    “The Lord has shown me and my family a way to reach out to people,” he said. “It is such a blessing for us to be able to see God change lives.
    “Roping is just a tool we use do that,” he said.
    He Rose Cowboy Fellowship and Arena is on CR 448 east of Montalba. Services and roping team events are held at 7 p.m. Thursdays.
    For more information, call He Rose Fellowship at 903-549-2431.

    Mary Rainwater writes for the Palestine (Texas) Herald-Press.

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