“Caught in the middle between the Park officer and the Virginia police, Pastor Riggs reminded his group that God had told him to go into D.C.—and go into D.C., he would.”
Saddle-weary cowboys on the trail, dusty from a 1,200 mile trek on horseback from Texas to Washington D.C. In the 1800s, such a journey would hardly raise an eyebrow. But this path, forged on the cusp of the 2016 presidential election, turned heads. It was meant to.
“The Ride” as the journey was called, became an extraordinary 40-day call for the revival of America’s churches. Numerous other cowboys astride their horses joined them at different times—there were 20 on the last day.
On September 29th, John Riggs, lead pastor of Texoma Cowboy Church; Gary Beesinger, the church’s Salt & Light Biblical Citizenship Leader; and a friend departed from Texarkana, a two-county region anchored by twin cities in Texas and Arkansas. At the line, you can literally step from one state into another. From that starting point, the goal was to reach the D.C. on November 7th— the day before the election—and rouse the countryside for God along the way.
This was Pastor Riggs’ second ride. On the first, a year ago, he delivered to Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin a replica of the Ten Commandments after they were unceremoniously removed from the Capitol building. Some folks just can’t stand idly by and watch Americans dismantle what made America great; be it from the wall of a room or the heart of a nation. That replica now sits inside the governor’s office at the State Capitol.
Leading to November, Riggs knew it was time to go the extra mile—or, hundreds of miles—and bring the same message to the seat of the federal government. “Like many others, we have been praying that God would send revival to the Church in America,” recalls Riggs. “As we think about our country, and the condition we find it in today, our hearts are broken over the moral slide and depravity we see.”
Pastor Riggs has made it a point to look beyond the natural. “We know God has left the church here to be salt and light. We believe we can have an awakening, or impact, that will bring about a positive change for America.”
And, so, the horseman-pastor invited cowboys to do what they do best—mount up. Pastor Riggs preached in the nine states and cities along the way. “Before I left,” remembers Beesinger, who served in a support capacity driving horse trailers, cooking and managing administrative duties, “I wondered if this is how the Apostle Paul might have felt as he departed on his missionary journeys we read about in the Bible.”
While often assumed the Apostle was knocked off a horse when apprehended by the Lord, it was after they saddled up that these believers encountered the miraculous. “There were about 50 people saved and baptized—one in a country pond in Arkansas.” Numerous “God-sightings” included a tragic accident avoided when a dog scared Riggs’ horse into the middle of the highway in rush traffic. “Everyone agreed it had to be angelic, Divine intervention that supernaturally stopped the tragedy,” attests Beesinger.
Such Heavenly occurrences brought Pastor Riggs to the deeper mission of The Ride. “Many people are looking to Washington to fix the nation’s problems. But no man, woman or Congress; no President, and no Supreme Court can fix what’s really wrong with our country,” Riggs emphasizes. The heart of the matter, he contends, involves matters of the heart. “The main issue is that of sin, and the fact that America has turned its back against God.”
Beesinger knows that broaching the cultural turn away from God is not popular. “I was excited and honored to go along,” recounts Beesinger. “I was also nervous about it due to the state of country right now. But, we knew God was calling us to take a stand and preach revival to the Church.”
The sight of close to two dozen cowboys travelling on horses drew more than stares. “We had the full cooperation of the law for most of the trip,” recalls Beesinger. “Then, on the last day as we rode into the capital, we were escorted to the Lincoln Memorial Bridge on the Virginia side of the Potomac where a National Park policeman told us to load up the horses. He cautioned we could not cross the bridge into the National Mall without a permit and sticking to the approved trails.” Otherwise, Pastor Riggs was informed, they faced arrests and fines.
The Virginia Police, however, indicated they would not stop the group from crossing. Caught in the middle between the Park officer and the Virginia police, Pastor Riggs reminded his group that God had told him to go into D.C.—and go into D.C., he would.
After warning all to weigh the risk, in a bold and dramatic fashion, 20 cowboys on horseback chose to cross the bridge. On the other side, they were met by numerous police officers shouldering guns, AK47s strapped to their chests. All was resolved peacefully. The horses were loaded up, and with the intervention of the group's legislative congressman Mac Thornberry's office, everyone was released.
The Ride ended as Pastor Riggs preached his final sermon in a specially-anointed location. In 2012, a group of Christians had set up what is known as “David’s Tent.” Sitting that first year on the White House Ellipse, it now resides on the grounds of the National Mall, “a gathering place for the Church of America to publicly worship Jesus.” The idea, they say, was inspired by King David, “who pitched a tent near his palace.” [i]
In that hallowed, yet humble, location, the weeks-long journey of ministry and hope, filled with salvations and healings, culminated as Pastor Riggs, his cowboy band-of-brothers-in-the-Lord at his side, delivered his final, rousing sermon the day before the Presidential election.
Did the trip change history? Heaven knows. But, as time will attest, something is stirring the country. It moved this cowboy pastor to take to the highways and byways of America riding, preaching and strengthening the faith of those who rode alongside him, and the many Americans they met on the trail.