Rough living cowboy impressed by changed life of his fiancé
Bringing the world’s best cowboys and cowgirls together, the 1982 World Cup Rodeo in Melbourne and Sydney was heralded as the world’s first million-dollar meet, the richest and most prestigious of all time, to be run over six rounds.
Given the unenviable task to haul the bulls overnight from Tumburumba to Melbourne was bull rider Graham Heffernam, who had competed in Tumburumba and had not slept for two days.
Recently engaged to Ali, Graham decided that focusing on her would keep him awake for another five hours.
“When I met Ali I was pretty wild,” Graham shares. “Drinking, fighting a lot, and having a foul mouth, most of the time I was pretty angry about anything and everything. I really don't know what she saw in me at the time.
“To keep from nodding off I thought about Ali and what she had been saying about finding Jesus — how she had received Him into her heart and how her life had changed.
“What especially kept me awake and scared me a little was the part where she said that I needed Jesus in my life.”
Graham recalls that his counter arguments were that “I didn't need saving, I could handle anything life could throw at me, and God wouldn't want me anyway.”
Looking back, Graham believes it was the Bible verses that Ali quoted that spooked him the most.
“Especially John 3:16,” he recalls. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
As he drove, he remembers that one word kept tormenting him: “Whosoever . . . whosoever . . . whosoever.”
“Every time that word popped into my conscience it kept me from running off the road. Finally I yelled at God; ‘so you’re real are you?! Ok, I will do a deal. If you get me to Melbourne, I’ll believe you are real.”
After nothing happened, he said this again, but before he could repeat the deal a last time, he felt something he had never experienced before.
“Suddenly I was telling God that I did believe that He was real and that I loved Him,” he recalls.
“Immediately my eyes were wide open, the hair on the back of my neck was standing on end and the huge surge of energy was coursing through my body.
“The last couple of hours of the trip felt like I was just floating along and I was wide awake. At the time I didn't know why God had answered or why He even wanted me.”
Graham says he now knows it was the Bible verses that Ali quoted that spoke directly to Him.
“As God says in Isaiah chapter 55 says, ‘My word that goes out from my mouth… will not return to me empty, but will… achieve the purpose for which I sent it. “
“Faith only comes by hearing God's word,” Graham explains, quoting Romans 10, verse 17.
“Faith means believing first and, after that, God opens our heart to fully understand Him and what He wants to give us.”
After getting to Melbourne in ample time, days later he heard that the promoters of the event had run off with the money, which forced the event to close after three rounds.
However, Graham sees a bigger picture: “Along with the world’s leading rodeo riders, a number of God's servants came to share His Word.
“Through the services that were held in Melbourne and later in Sydney at what turned out to be a jackpot type rodeo, many became born-again Christians, including myself.
“The event was seen by the world as a total failure,” Graham concludes. “But it was really an enormous victory for the spreading of God’s salvation plan for mankind.”