Kaleo Lodge was a small, beautiful retreat, located two miles from Sky Ranch. The only time I was there, a 5′ tall white haired lady introduced herself: “I am Gladys Lankford. Everyone calls me Glad, and I would like to help at Sky Ranch. I am 81 years old, and as long as the Lord lets me live, I will serve Him.” I asked what she would like to do: “I can do most anything you want me to do. My husband, Bud, who has gone home to be with the Lord, and I owned the drug store in Mineola (15 miles away), and my husband was also the Post Master.” I promised to give her a call.
During staff training the T-shirts and other supplies arrived for the camp store – a building from the old ranch so small it came over on a truck. I called Glad and she arrived in a tired looking car a couple hours later. I showed her the boxes and the shelves, and soon this feisty lady was unpacking boxes, organizing their contents on the shelves. Glad returned the next day, and the next, until the task was finished. One day when I stopped by to see how she was doing, she asked about Sky Ranch: Its purpose, its history, and its plans for the future. She had heard rumors that Sky Ranch was somehow involved with problem kids – a rehabilitation place, or something like that. I explained that I was aware of this misconception, and we were asking people known in the surrounding communities to run advertisements telling that Sky Ranch, a Christian ministry, was re-locating in the area and they were pleased to welcome Sky Ranch. Glad offered to sponsor an advertisement in the Mineola paper – and assured me that everyone knew her! I asked if she was sure she should do this – each advertisement in a local paper cost about $100. She said she thought she could handle it.
Just before the campers were to arrive she noticed camp did not have a “refrigerated water fountain.” She asked me to buy one, and she would pay for it. When camp started, she could see she was no longer needed and quietly stepped out of the picture. I was curious about Glad so went by her home, a small two bedroom brick house.
In the fall she returned to ask if she could sell things in the store. I really hesitated, as Glad had strong opinions which she was very happy to share when she felt it appropriate. But…how could I say no? Young Life rented the facility for the first retreat weekend and, just as I feared, Glad soon lecturing a high school student who smoked!!!!! I cringed! However high school kids loved her, and soon were asking her questions about what life was like when she grew up. Glad told how the first time she drove a car, she drove it through a store window. And how nice girls rode side saddle, but she rode “astride” so she could ride faster. Glad laughed as she remembered, and those around her laughed with the fun, little lady.
After the first weekend retreat she told me to buy a piano. A piano? “Well, you don’t have one in that conference building. Buy a good one, and I will pay for it!” Glad…are you sure? “Buy a good piano!” And so we did. A year later she told me to build a maintenance building. “Build what you need. I’ll pay for it.” We had plans drawn for a building adequate for the future needs of the camp. Glad had no interest in seeing the plans, nor did she have any interest in being recognized for her giving.
Our daughter, Carla, was the first chair cellist with a high school orchestra that was going to Vienna, Austria for an orchestra competition. When Glad learned about the competition, she told our daughter, with Sally Jo and me present, to have her cello teacher pick out a good cello, one appropriate to her ability, and she would pay for it.
Glad, Sally Jo and I became very close, and after six years we took her to see Wheaton College, which she had supported, but never seen. During the hours we talked, she told us she was giving away $28,000 a month! Oil money she called her “unearned increment.” Glad enjoyed giving: giving herself and her resources.
Gladys Lankford lived In Partnership With God, and did not need the praise of men.
Glad lived by her favorite verse: “This is the day the Lord has made; I will rejoice and be Glad in it.” — Psalm 118:24