By TIFFANY RONEY
There is something healing about horses.
They can bring growth and rest to human souls. They can also bring an opportunity for hard work, service to others and a healthy dose of fun.
Faith Rocks, a local non-
profit organization, uses horses to teach children, teenagers and disabled adults about kindness, friendship and the love of God.
From dark to light
Tonya Creek, co-leader of Faith Rocks, said she noticed a teenage member posting negative statuses on Facebook.
“I called her out on it and I asked her if that’s who she wanted to portray on Facebook. Is that what she wanted people to believe that she was?” Creek said. “There were several children younger than her that read them and looked up to her. Is that the kind of leader that she wanted to be?”
This honest conversation unearthed a tangle of hurts the girl carried inside.
“(Jackie Walsh, co-leader of the organization) and I suggested that she get a journal and that she would journal to God about the pain in her life,” Creek said. “This journal would be kind of a letter to God and she could write whatever she wanted to in it. Then, she was free to hide it at the farm someplace where Jackie nor I knew where it was and it would always be her safe place.”
The girl started coming to the farm each week to write in her journal and spend time alone with the horses. Over a few months’ time, her perception of her life began to change.
“You could see a difference in her,” Creek said. “She just kind of came alive. Things that were really bothering her, it was easier for her to put it in perspective because she had the help of God instead of relying on her own to do it by herself.”
Thirteen years ago, Creek was riding under some of the best horse trainers in the country. She was on her way to pursuing her dream of becoming a champion horseback rider. Life as she knew it shattered when she got sick with fibromyalgia in 2000.
“I couldn’t ride to my full ability so for me it was an all-or-nothing deal, so I chose nothing and that was wrong,” Creek said. “I sat around for years and felt sorry for myself and just did nothing. And I felt like the talent that God had given me, I didn’t want to share it. I felt like it was the only thing I had left. I wanted to keep it really close to my heart.”
Creek buried her love for horses. Sometimes, until her daughter, Amanda Brock, started talking about Creek to Brock’s friend, Walsh.
Walsh said Faith Rocks started when she and her family moved out to the farm where Faith Rocks is now held. Shortly after moving to the country, Walsh bought a horse and named her Faith.
“When I started training Faith, I started relating my relationship with her to my relationship with God,” Walsh said. “At the same time, I had kids I was giving riding lessons to, and I wasn’t instructing very well because I’d never taught, so I started praying for somebody to help me instruct.”
Walsh contacted Creek and asked her to come to Faith Rocks and volunteer. Creek said she would come, but as soon as she went home, she decided against it. Walsh asked again and Creek, again, rejected the offer. This process continued for weeks.
“Finally, one day I was sitting here in this chair and she had just got off the phone with her and I was really wrestling with God and myself because I almost felt like if I was going to share my talent, it was going to be like giving it away, and that was all I had,” Creek said. “All the sudden I could hear God say, ‘That’s not your talent. That’s a talent that I loaned you and I loaned it to you to share it.’”
The next day, Creek called Walsh and said yes. That night, she visited Faith Rocks for the first time and co-taught a horseback-riding lesson.
“From then on, I was just sold,” Creek said. “It was what I knew I should do.”
Walsh said she knows God brought her and Creek together to co-lead the organization.
“Once she and I got together, the whole ministry part of it just kind of took off,” Walsh said.
Followers vs. fans
In addition to horseback riding, Faith Rocks offers bi-weekly dog obedience classes, monthly family campfire cookouts, outings to the fair and other horse-related events and visits to nursing homes and hospitals to bring baked goods, songs and hugs to sick and elderly people.
Creek said all of these activities spring from her and Walsh’s desire to help children feel God’s love.
“I want people to know that God’s love is real,” Creek said. “Many of us are fans of God and there are few followers of God. To be a follower, you’ve got to figure out a way to feel God’s love. Not just to know it but to feel it and to believe it and every day follow God. These horses show children God’s love in a tangible way.”
Creek said horses were the avenue for her to receive God’s love as a child.
“God isn’t tangible. You can’t look him in the face and talk to him. He can’t hold your hand and he can’t hug you. These horses are so like God in the way that they love you and teach you what God’s love is like,” Creek said. “These horses, these animals love you unconditionally with their whole heart and their whole soul. No matter what you do to them, no matter what’s been happening to them in their life, they still keep loving you. That’s like God’s love. It breaks it down in a way that children can understand it.”
As part of responding to God’s love, Creek said she and Walsh aim to teach children to give back to their community.
“(Followers of Jesus) are the ones that listen to what Jesus tells us to do and act on it,” Walsh said. “We want to teach (children) to give to people who don’t have as much as they do. Even if they don’t have anything there’s always something to give, whether it’s a hug or a smile or a kind word. Every one of us has something to give. All of us have something special that we can gift to somebody else.
“Some of these children don’t believe that they have gifts. They don’t know that they have gifts until you show them,” Walsh said. “‘You have a beautiful smile, hug an elderly person.’ ‘Your mom makes great cookies, take them to the police department.’ Those are followers of Jesus and that’s what we want to do with the horses.”
Walsh and Creek said people of all ages are invited to join the organization. Faith Rocks is held from 6:30-8 p.m. and 8-9:30 p.m. on Mondays at 2161 Fair Rd. No pre-registration is needed. Participation is free. For more information, search “Faith Rocks” on www.facebook.com.