Health & Spirit

Light Notes: Bronc rider trades in spurs for God's arena

Lucy Luginbill, Tri-City Herald on

Published in Religious News

He was a rough-and-tumble bronc rider -- a tall, lanky guy who followed the rodeo. With a swagger to complement his Wranglers and spurs, there wasn't a man around who enjoyed the thrill more.

"I was a cowboy," Micah Smith said as he reminisced about his rowdy youth in West Richland and south of Kennewick, Wash. "That's a domestic way of saying I was wild."

But God was about to rein in the direction of the then 23-year-old and move him to a new path -- one that would make a difference around the world.

"I was working out at Hanford, Wash., and this guy would tell me about Jesus," said Micah, recalling his job as a pipefitter on the nuclear reservation and a persistent co-worker. "I'd be rude and say, 'That works for you, but I'm not interested.' But I could see he was different, he had light."

Micah remembers how it spurred him to study other religions, even positive thinking, but ultimately he felt an emptiness. Then on a late Saturday night in 1979, he had what he describes as a "Road to Damascus" experience.

"I was alone in the living room listening to the song Amazing Grace on the radio," Micah said about the memory and the exact moment he verbally challenged God and his existence. "And the spirit of God came into the living room -- an overwhelming love. And not only a love, but all this feeling of weight and burdens fell away."

When Micah rushed into the bedroom to tell his sleeping wife, Nancy thought he had been drinking. But from that night on, he was radically transformed, a difference that didn't go unnoticed by Nancy or his co-workers.

"I went into work Monday and guys said, 'You look younger, you look different,' " Micah said.

Not long after, the former cowboy became a preacher -- a church pastor teaching the very message he had once rejected.

But God had even more in mind for this man's life-purpose.

In 2002, Micah founded Global Gateway Network, a ministry he and his wife, Nancy, share that "has a passion for helping the hurting in remote parts of the world," their website says.

This nonprofit Christian humanitarian organization works to send medical teams to care for the sick, volunteers to build homes for orphaned children, drill wells and develop clean water systems, including teaching agricultural skills.

From North Africa to India, the Middle East to Southeast Asia, the couple is passionate about changing lives and meeting the basic needs of indigenous people in crisis. To make life better for the poorest of poor is the mission.

It's a huge arena Micah Smith never could have imagined when he was a young wild cowboy. But nowadays instead of following the rodeo, he follows the heart of God.

(Lucy Luginbill is a career television producer-host and the Spiritual Life editor for the Tri-City Herald. In her column, she reflects on the meaning of her name, "Light Bringer." If you have a story idea for Light Notes, contact her at

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