A Vermont student getting saved and baptized in Warren, Arkansas is probably not something you hear about every day. Mikaela Farmer was a student from Vermont at the University of Arkansas, Monticello (UAM) when she first started to attend Grace Cowboy Church in Warren. What led her there was pastor Chris Barnes’ daughter, Katelyn, a fellow classmate at UAM with Farmer.
“I didn’t love Vermont, so I always knew I’d go to school elsewhere,” Farmer said. “I knew I wanted to go somewhere in the South so when UAM offered a full ride, I took it.”
Mikaela wasn’t raised in a very religious family. She said her grandparents were fairly religious, but organized religion just really didn’t work for her or her family. She was baptized in the Catholic church at a young age and said going to Grace Cowboy Church was probably the first time she had been in a church since she was three or four years old.
Mikaela said she didn’t always go back home during shorter holidays because of how far away she was. Katelyn, knowing this, started inviting her to church in the fall of 2018. Eventually, around Thanksgiving break, Mikaela decided to take her up on the invitation.
“I wasn’t a regular at first,” she said. She had to work most weekends so Sundays off weren’t always a given. But she found herself wanting to go and feeling like she belonged there.
Farmer graduated from UAM in Spring, 2019 but decided to take more courses so she could stay around one more year. The church was planning its third trip to Belize for a mission trip in July of 2019. Chris and his daughter encouraged Mikaela to go with them.
“I wasn’t sure at first,” she said. She knew she didn’t have as much knowledge as everyone else who was going and wasn’t sure how much of an impact she could have to people who needed the Gospel. After some encouragement and thought, she decided to go. “The kids were amazing,” Mikaela said. “They loved the horses. And I loved seeing how much faith they had even though the conditions they were living in weren’t the best.”
Chris Barnes said he talked to Mikaela about her salvation while on the trip. “He was hoping I’d get saved there,” Mikaela said. But the trip gave her more questions than answers, and she felt like she needed to figure this out on her own – though she was headed down the right path as the Holy Spirit was working in her heart.
When they returned from Belize, a few of the people that went shared their stories with their congregation and spoke at several churches in the area about what they had experienced. “I felt led to talk about Belize because I was raised in a different scenario than everyone else,” she said. “I felt like my situation could be similar to someone else’s who was wondering if they should do a trip or not.”
“She spoke at three different churches…it really changed her life,” Chris said about Mikaela’s trip to Belize. “We had people relentlessly praying for her salvation.”
“I asked Chris about what being saved involved,” she said. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and her time left at UAM was cut short. She knew she would be returning to Vermont sooner rather than later, and the time was now.
Barnes said she texted him on a Saturday evening and asked to meet him the next morning. He knew it was time. At that point churches were having online services, but he was streaming live from the church. With only 10 people in attendance, his family and Mikaela included, he preached that Sunday. During the invitation he typically cut the camera and when he did, Mikaela was saved. The following Sunday she was baptized in a pond next to the church and by that Thursday she was flying back to Vermont.
“In life, there are people that come along that are special, really special, and I believe she’s one of those people,” Barnes said.
Mikaela’s plans are to manage a farm somewhere out west. They hope that when she is settled down somewhere, Barnes and Grace Cowboy Church will come out and help minister to the town and the people she’s with.