For ten days last June, a group from the Professional Bull Riders traveled to Bolivia to help replenish the cattle industry, which has been devastated by recent flooding and famine. They also demonstrated more efficient ways to rope cattle and break horses, pitched in to help with construction projects, and distributed school supplies and clothing to local children.
According to PBR chaplain Todd Pierce, the greatest reward, however, was simply sharing goodwill with the locals.
“It was neat to see how the American cowboy is a worldwide icon that draws people in,” says Pierce. “That says a lot for the sport of rodeo and bull riding and the amount of worldwide influence.”
PBR World Champion Mike Lee, PBR world finalist Jody Newberry, and PRCA world finalist D.J. Domangue accompanied Pierce on the trip, which was organized by the Samaritan’s Purse International Relief.
The group visited an area of the Amazon basin that produces 80 percent of the cattle for Bolivia. It was devastated by floods that wiped out the majority of livestock in 2007 and again in 2008. In adition to spreading Christian fellowship and helping rebuild, the group also distributed 40 cows to 20 families.
The first calves produced by the cattle are to be donated back to the Samaritan’s Purse program, Pierce says.
“Through events like this, we can take the notoriety that we have as cowboys and use it to inspire people, and not just entertain them,” he says.
That said, the riders did organize a bull-riding demonstration with stock selected from local herds.
“They weren’t bucking bulls, but once they were flanked they really bucked,” Pierce says.
“[Bolivians] don’t ride bulls, so the idea of riding bulls to them was fascinating.”
Following the exhibition, a crowd gathered to watch Pierce break a local rancher’s wild horse.
“Within 45 minutes I was riding the horse bare back,” Pierce says. “The whole presentation was to show that the horse was, by nature, afraid of me, and because of that fear and anxiety, he would keep running.
“Once he trusted me, though, I was able to show him peace and love, which is a metaphor for God’s love.”