Summer camp was tough. Everything about camp was new to us: the year around employees and summer staff, the program, the unfinished facility, the food, etc. Sally Jo began five mornings a week working with campers in the 5 acre garden – tomatoes, potatoes, okra, and much more. With summer camp having just begun, Larry and Barbara Brooks and their daughter, friends from our two years in Murfreesboro, arrived to run the craft program for two months. Larry taught art at Middle Tennessee State University. Bill and Vodie Schwantes arrived. Bill, but he was a highly recommended, recently retired business manager from another Christian ministry. While Sally Jo and our three children remained at camp, early each Monday morning I returned to Dallas for a Sky Ranch Board of Director’s meeting and to talk with parents, donors, potential rental group leaders, pay bills, etc. Early each Friday Morning I would head back for a busy weekend at camp, stopping at the Dallas farmers market to fill the station wagon with fresh produce.
The days were hot!! (One summer it never went below 100 degrees, day or night, for 30 days!) Every Sunday afternoon Sally Jo and I met the campers and their families at the entrance of the parking lot. Try standing for two hours on hot black top in the hot sun in cowboy boots, jeans, red and white checked shirts and cowboy hats. The sweat runs down your legs into your boots!
Summer camp was tough, yet rewarding. Most of the campers came from churches which taught the Bible, but many of these same campers did not understand God’s plan of salvation. Hearts were open to hear this good news, and without any pressure, it was often a simple process to lead these children to a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, and to encourage their continued walk as God’s children.
When September came, the heat subsided, but the work continued. As a family we stayed in Dallas from Saturday or Sunday evening through Friday after school – then back to the ranch to welcome a weekend retreat group, and to work in the garden, the store, the dining hall, or with the horses – whatever was required to support retreat groups from Young Life Clubs and many churches. Sally Jo and I also led two weekend “family retreats” during the school year.
In the midst of the daily operation of the ministry, Sally Jo’s diary reminded me that in the fall I left for 4 days to teach previously scheduled Christian Education work shops in West Virginia and North Carolina, and at another time, in Tennessee. We had a steady flow of family, and friends from our days in AL, CT, TN, and IL – over 30, some for several nights. This required keeping our home in Dallas and the trailer at the ranch ready for guests all of the time. Add to this the school functions of three children, caring for a occasional sick child, speaking on behalf of Sky Ranch, participating in church activities when possible, building relationships with immediate neighbors, and going to Sky Ranch board member’s homes for dinner – with many enjoying dinner in our home. It was a crazy pace to live week after week.
Our stability and sanity as a family were greatly enhanced by singing in the car going to and from the ranch, and when possible, making a stop along the way for something fun – a salt festival, the largest flea market in the country, a small town rodeo, a unique place to eat. On slow weekends we would swim, take canoe rides and ride horses together. We were able to take a two week family trip to Florida where both of our parents had condominiums and we spent two weekends alone at our pediatrician’s cabin.
When we live In Partnership With God, much of life is a daily discipline – nothing dramatic. Noah was considered a righteous man, yet there is no indication that Noah found life any different (Genesis 6). We read that Moses experienced several “God interventions”, but it was over a span of 40 years with the Israelites in the desert (Exodus 12 – 40). It is easy to forget that Paul was beaten five times with 39 lashes, 3 times with a rod, stoned and left for dead, three times ship wrecked, and he spent several years in prison (I Corinthians 11). Tradition says Paul was beheaded.
Let us all press on in obedience to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – regardless.