Changing the Image of Sky Ranch #78

In the years just prior to my become Executive Director of Sky Ranch, summer camper attendance had decreased significantly. The camp had been located in Denton, Texas, just north Dallas. This was a beautiful, hilly area, and large homes were being built on the hills surrounding camp. The feeling of going off to camp was gone! When the Board of Directors began to talk about changing the camp location, building maintenance and equipment purchases essentially stopped, and the camp director quit.

An entirely new image to a larger population was essential. I had no clue how to get the word out. Another…”Lord Help!” Though I did not use the phrase then, if this was Living In Partnership With God, it was a very tough challenge, much more than I had bargained for!

Somehow we made contact with the company that owned many of the large billboards in key locations in and around Dallas. They agreed to put a full size Sky Ranch advertisement on every billboard that was not being rented, if we would have a professionally prepared billboard advertisement available to them. It turned out the advertising company had _many_ bill boards that were not being rented. Like overnight there were Sky Ranch billboards all over the city and surrounding area. No question: Sky Ranch had instant, positive name recognition – at no cost to Sky Ranch!!

Another boost came from Sky Ranch Board members and their friends. Many sponsored lunch gatherings at excellent restaurants. Business and professional people would come for a great lunch – and learn about Sky Ranch. The image of Sky Ranch was changing!

I vividly remember that after one of the first lunches, the CEO of a large grocery store chain invited me to meet him at his office. He warmly welcomed me and, after helping me feel comfortable, proceeded to tell me he was very disappointed in my presentation of the purpose of Sky Ranch: to help people come to know Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. He thought I down-played this fundamental truth so as to not offend non-Christians present. He went on to say that whereas some would question the value of this purpose, everyone would have respected a clear statement of what Sky Ranch was seeking to do. He was kind, but very firm. I sincerely thanked him for what he just said to me – and vowed to myself that I would never make that mistake again.

As we pushed hard to have camp ready on June 1, someone arranged to have Miss America present for the opening day. Another person arranged to have professional soccer player Kyle Rote Jr., recent winner of the Super Star competition, teach soccer during the first week at camp. More excellent publicity.

A quality color brochure was prepared. Registrations were beginning to trickle in.

Though wonderful things were happening, the over-all picture was very bleak. June 1 was getting closer and closer, and at the new location all that was happening was the building of the dam that would create a 70 acre lake. Nothing else! Except for the camper cabins, every building was being redesigned and relocated, and this was proving to be a difficult, slow process.

I continued to spend time morning after morning alone in prayer. Living In Partnership with God? Being Executive Director of Sky Ranch was proving to be a personal test of Hebrews 11:1. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, and certain of what we do not see.”

A great name without a camp able to function would bury Sky Ranch. We pressed on…and on.

Living Under Authority #77

Very soon after arriving in Dallas I met with the Sky Ranch Board of Directors. They assured me the engineering for the lake and utilities had been completed and the conceptual plans for the buildings for this camp/conference center were being finalized. The Board of Directors said they would take the responsibility for the funding and construction of the new facility. My responsibilities included the program, equipment, horses, publicity, camper registrations, staffing, the development of the non-existent conference ministry – and to be available for special fund raising events.

Deadline? Five Months!

The specialty of the architect, who had prepared the camp/conference plans, was country clubs. The main lodge was very beautiful, inside and out. Included was a gathering area with a big fireplace, the dining room and meeting rooms. This was a sealed building which required continual air conditioning or heating. It would be an incredible building for upscale weekend retreats, but I could not imagine campers using this building when coming in dirty and sweaty from soccer or horse back riding.

I have a vivid memory of waking up early many mornings and going into our living room and getting down on my knees to open my heart to the Lord. I realized I was a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, and also realized I was to live under earthly authority unless what I was told to do would cause me to disobey God?s directives. Two examples of this principle from the New Testament: “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves” Romans 13:1-2 “Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Hebrews 13:17

I had to keep reminding myself that I was not responsible for the decisions which the Sky Ranch Board of Directors made. My responsibility was to do what I was told to do with a good attitude. I pleaded with the Lord to give me wisdom as to how to approach the Board, people I really did not know, and tell them I believed the present plans were unsuitable for their intended purpose, thus implying that the time and thousands of dollars spent on them had been essentially wasted. As I shared with the Board my concerns with the present plans, they began the process of coming up with new plans – continually looking to me for suggestions. The days and weeks were slipping by. To complicate the situation, it became obvious there were few significant contributions. Funds available? Essentially $500,000 of borrowed money. The next question became – Chuck, what buildings are essential if camp is to be in operation on June 1? Soon the Board asked me to assume major responsibility for fund raising. I had no experience with fund raising.

I began to struggle with frustration and bitterness. “Lord, I am woefully inadequate to do what the Sky Ranch Board is asking me to. Lord, help me to be calm. Lord, I am totally dependent upon you to guide me, to guide the Board of Directors.” I knew that if this ministry was of the Lord, He would have to act and the pieces would come together. If this was not of the Lord – it was over!

We must all live under the authority of God, of the government, and, for most of us, the authority of a person or organization. Living under authority is part of doing God’s work in God’s way.

Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission, said “God’s work done in God’s way never lacks for God’s supply”.

Our responsibility is to understand our part in God’s work – and how to do this work in a way pleasing to God. These we must do! The supply end is God’s responsibility.

God’s Guidance – As I Understand It #76

Repeatedly I have changed jobs / God’s assignments. In the following I am trying to state what I believe have been the key factors involved in my receiving God’s guidance.

My desire is, above all other desires, is to live as God’s child. God requires of me openness to His directions. God promises that if I trust Him, and do not totally depend on my own understanding, He will direct my path – just as He directed Joshua to fight battles, David to become king, craftsmen to build a portable tabernacle for the Israelite people and Jesus to be a carpenter for fifteen years.

God requires my obedience to His guidance. What God desires me to do begins with my doing what the Bible tells me to do. God will never direct me contrary to His written truth. In decision making, I believe that God wants me to use the brain He gave to me. If I come to a conclusion which provides His peace – I must move forward. If I make a wrong decision and want to know what God desires of me, I believe that He will re-direct my path. In scripture we read a variety of ways God communicated with His people: His still, small voice, wise counsel, visions, dreams, hand writing on a wall, the voice of a donkey — whatever it took, God got His message through.

God directed our decision to accept a new responsibility at Sky Ranch through circumstances, brains, wise counsel, and peace. God confirmed His guidance through the provision of our new home, and ultimately, through having Sky Ranch in full operation on June 1.

When I believe I know God’s will for me, I must go forward in faith. Without obedient faith I know it is impossible to please God. And so I move forward, regardless of how impossible the task looks to be. I depend upon God to provide whatever is necessary get His work done – in His way! This attitude must not imply that no work will be required. Noah had to build an ark. Moses had to lead God’s people for 40 years in a desert. Nehemiah had to direct the building of the wall of Jerusalem in spite of huge obstacles. The disciples were to preach, to heal people. In each case, the person involved was only God?s agent. If I work to obey God, the completion of the work is God’s responsibility. I must not worry, must not get up-tight about the task. Jesus said that His yoke is easy, His burden is light. I had to go forward using all of my resources: my abilities, my training, my experience, my personality – all that is me. Just as faith is required, courage is required! I must keep pressing on – and on – until my portion of the task is finished. I believed that God directed me to get Sky Ranch operational again at a new location. To accomplish this in five months, from a human perspective, was impossible.

I believe this is God’s plan for how each of us is to live our lives. God gives each of us unique work to do. We are each a bit different – different personalities, gifts, training, etc. We are the body of Christ, with many different parts: hospitality, caring, teaching, giving, administrating, etc. We are clearly told that no one is more important than the other. We are a body – each to do our work under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. God desires to direct our paths.

Our challenge: openness, obedience, faith, courage – no turning back.