By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer
Nearly three years ago Tim and Lynn Tuggle began a journey from California to North Carolina with a mission in mind — to minister to the lost and needy through prayer and care giving — and to encourage the people of the United States to pray for the U.S. military and the country's leaders.
They are making this trip by horseback and the group, Disciples of Jesus Horsemen, pulled into Crossville Tuesday evening after spending the night in Pleasant Hill at Travis and Janet Fraser's homestead.
"They are wonderful people and we had a great stay there with a beautiful pasture for the horses. It was ideal," Tim said.
As they stopped along Hwy. 70 E. to talk, cars honked and people looked out of the windows of businesses to see what was happening.
It's not everyday a team of horses and herding dog come trotting through town.
"We have traveled into some of the most populated areas where there are gangs, drugs, prostitution, and the people will come and just crowd around us because of the horses. They draw the people in for us to minister to. These horses are the backbone of our ministry," Tim Tuggle said. "Soon after, they are praying with us."
Tim is a contractor and Lynn is a nurse. They lived a comfortable life before they set out on their mission. One day Tim said God came to him and gave him the idea of traveling across the country via horseback to minister to the lost and needy.
"To encourage people to pray, to love one another the way Christ loved the church," Tim said.
On Aug. 10, 2010, after selling everything they owned, the couple set out on their journey from Fort Brag in California.
"We had no idea where the Lord was going to take us. We've met so many people along the way and we have made many lifelong friends with people who have blessed us or we have blessed," Lynn said.
"We've gone through desolate locations like the desert and through big cities."
The group stays on the side of the highway and Chico, the couple's Red Heeler herd dog, leads the pack.
"Chico watches out for us and protects those horses from whatever might be around us. Those are his horses and he stays right with them," Tim said.
While traveling through Tennessee, the couple met Jason Ladd, from Santa Fe, TN.
"Something just told me. God told me and came to me and said 'you need to ride along with these folks' and I left with them to ride along for the rest of the way," Jason said. "Being on this horse, sharing God and the love of Christ with people and being in nature — there's nothing better in the world than doing this."
The group travels solely by horseback and does not rely on any support vehicles that are traveling along.
"We rely strictly on the Lord. He provides for us what we need. There was a time when we were down to $5 in my pocket and $30 in the bank and a man came up and handed us a $100 bill. God provides for us when we are in need," Tim said.
The group stops for rest after traveling between 20 to 30 miles per day and also if the weather is bad. They stay where they are invited and if there is adequate shelter and land for the animals.
They take turns riding different horses each day and the other horses carry the supplies the group brings along.
While in Crossville Scott Walker stopped and approached the group and asked them if they needed any grain for their horses.
"Do you need some grain? I just picked up a few bags," Walker said.
"Thank you, but we have plenty for now," Tim said. "Bless you."
The group is not on any schedule and they take their time, meeting people of all walks of life along the way and care for the animals which include horses Bob, Jake, Warrior, Freedom, Oliver, Gossip, Little man and Chico the dog.
"Do we know when we will complete our journey? Absolutely not. If the Lord takes us home while we are riding those horses, then that will be a wonderful way to get to Heaven," Lynn said.
The Disciples of Jesus Horsemen group is heading for Newbern, NC.
"I don't know what we will do after we get there. We will go wherever the Lord takes us. Who knows, we may even turn around and head back west," Tim said.
For more information about the Disciples of Jesus Horsemen, find them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/horsebackamerica.
There is also a donation page set up for the group on www.timessevenproductions.com under the ministry tab. There is also a video on the page that tells their story.