The horseback trip to the Karoo Mighty Men Conference (KMMC) is a pilgrimage that is all about Jesus Christ, according to Pastor Shawn Warren.
Like last year, he is making the journey from Grahamstown to Middelburg on horseback again with the hope of leading people he meets during the journey to the Lord that and collecting riders along the way to accompany him to KMMC.
Five riders left Grahamstown, but between 20 and 30 riders are expected to arrive at KMMC.
The horseback pilgrimage sets off on the Kwandwe Road to Adelaide, proceeds along the Makazana Road through the Winterberge to Tarkastad, and finally via Hofmeyer and Conway ends at KMMC on Renosterfontein Farm on the far side of Middelburg.
“It is a wonderful route, from the beginning to the end. It is probably the most beautiful road I’ve ever travelled in my life,” says Warren.
A pilgrimage focused on God
“The journey is a pilgrimage, because it is about spending time in the presence of the Lord and spreading His gospel.
“In my mind, I switch off from my everyday existence. I dedicate my thoughts and words to the Lord; when we meet people we might start off talking about horses, but whatever the topic of conversation it becomes a means of spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“It is a wonderful trip from a spiritual perspective, because there are few distractions and the feedback we received from last year’s journey was also inspiring.
“A lady emailed me explaining that she had cancer and thanked us for praying for her. After we left she was completely healed.
“Receiving that feedback made us realise how much the Lord uses us in a plan that is so much bigger than ourselves and that is so beautiful, which has especially encouraged us.”
Rest and renewal
Likewise, Warren says his experience of KMMC 2016 was also one of rest and renewal.
“You know, as a pastor one is always giving, but attending the KMMC gave me the opportunity to receive and eat at the table of the Lord and be spiritually filled.
“The fact that the Mighty Men Conference is in the Karoo and so isolated also helps to switch off from your normal surrounding and focus on the Lord. If it was close to a city you wouldn’t be able to switch off in the same way.”
Last year’s journey to KMMC was a first in two respects for Warren, who is pastor of the Pentecostal Protestant Church of Grahamstown.
It was the first time he had attended the KMMC of which he had heard so much about — from the camaraderie and fellowship to the presence of the Holy Spirit — and it was the first time he had travelled the back roads all the way from Grahamstown to Middelburg.
Journey of faith
“Last year was a journey of faith, because I had never travelled that road before, so we had no idea where we would sleep, camp or water the horses.
“At least this year we have a good idea of the lay of the land. Nevertheless, a day in the saddle is tiring, so we all sleep very well at night.
“The most difficult part of the journey is getting up in the chill of the morning, still stiff and a bit sore from the day before. Then we are not kneeling in prayer, but because of aching bones and stiff muscles.
“We have joked with people along the way that, like John the Baptist, we eat wild locusts and honey, but we have been lucky enough to have Karoo lamb chops at some of the farmers who have hosted us.”
In the same way as last year, the riders will be carrying flags with a KMMC motif, together with a picture of a horse, a man kneeling at a cross, and a windmill, all set against a sun situated low on the horizon and the wording “Because he died for us, we’ll ride for Him”.
Missionary work on horseback
Warren loves travelling along the dusty back roads through the wide-open spaces of the Karoo: he has been spending a week each month for a few years doing missionary work on horseback among people who live in isolated areas.
“Travelling on horseback makes me more accessible to people along the way and the horses seem to draw people, which gives me a chance to minister into their lives.”
The Karoo horseback pilgrimage is also a time of fellowship for the equestrians.
“The ways we minister into each other’s lives along the way is wonderful, just through testifying about our experiences or about what we have read in the Bible; it is like a mobile men’s camp that grows with people joining us along the way.
“Many of the men who joined us last year came along for the ride and were not believers, which gave me the opportunity to minister into the lives of some of the biggest bandits I have ever met in my life.
“When one of my friends first saw them last year, he said: ‘Whoa! What have we here,’ but I said, ‘This is just what the Lord sent us for — these kind of guys, we weren’t sent for the saved, but for sinners.”
Used to refine each other
Warren says being in a group of men and discussing issues of faith refines all involved.
“You know the bible tells us that as iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens the other. The Holy Spirit does not only work on us directly, but also through people around us. Sometimes God speaks to us through conversations that we were not part of, but that we overheard,” says Warren.
The Grahamstown pastor and his cavalry that rides for Christ are set to arrive at KMMC on Thursday April 27. the day before the start of the KMMC.
KMMC 2017 will take place from April 28 to 30 on the outskirts of Middelburg in the Eastern Cape on Renosterfontein Farm. For more information contact Ruthi van der Merwe at (M) 082 857 7839 (F) 049 842 3310 e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org website: www.karoommc.co.za