As we entered our second year at Sky Ranch, we looked back at our first year with hearts filled with thanksgiving. Yes, it was an intense year, but God had confirmed over and over again that we were where He wanted us to be:
- Our wonderful home was affordable and in a great location.
- Our three children had settled into their new schools.
- Sally Jo had located everything from the grocery store to new doctors
- My relationship with the Sky Ranch Board of Directors was good
- Sky Ranch had excellent first year “permanent” and summer staff able to deal with changes and challenges
- Rain had stopped construction, but filled the lake. We prayed, God stopped the rain, construction continued
- An increasing number of campers each session filled each new cabin as it was completed
- Though we shared the camp with copperheads and scorpions, only one (disobedient) camper had been bitten.
- God provided Gladys Lankford and Walter Hodges whose example, counsel, and generosity lifted our spirits.
Our family had enjoyed a continual flow of visitors who helped and encouraged us. When summer camp closed, we had time to breathe, and to go to The Spaghetti Factory, Ola Podrida and other fun places in the Dallas area.
In the fall we hired Ricky and Alice, a young couple who wanted to be in Christian ministry. Ricky’s dream was to become a pastor. They both were willing to do whatever needed to be done. Our daughter remembers that Ricky could ride a horse at full gallop, swing down from his saddle and pick up a cowboy hat on the ground.
Contributions, camper fees and Sky Ranch Board member-secured loans carried us through to the end of the year, and the Board was confident that year-end contributions would be good. But the economy in Dallas was sputtering: empty office and apartment space practically stopped commercial construction. People were uneasy. Year end contributions were poor. The Board reminded me that funding was their responsibility, and though they were stopping further camper/retreat cabin construction, I should continue to work on preparation for the coming summer. Contributions stopped, and further borrowing secured by Board of Director members was impossible as several worked in commercial real estate development. Soon Sky Ranch was unable to pay bills, and vendors required cash on delivery. All retreat income had to go toward essentials.
After meeting with the Dallas office staff, Sally Jo and I met with the five ranch staff. I explained that I was no longer receiving a pay check, and asked them to tell me before the end of the day how much money each of them needed to keep going. I saw Ricky and Alice talking intensely. Then Ricky said “Chuck, since we live here at camp and can eat dining hall leftovers, if someone will let us use their washer and dryer, we do not need any money.”
As days moved into weeks, and still no paychecks, no financial relief, I often thought about the Israelite people: After 430 years, they were finally leaving Egypt. God had provided them Moses, and then the miracles of the plagues, ending with the Passover. God had led His people into the desert with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire at night. When they were caught between Pharaoh’s pursuing army and the Red Sea, they had seen God part the waters for them to pass, and then bring the water back to drown the army that was very close behind them. These people had experienced God’s care and provision, yet within three days after experiencing the parting of the sea, they were grumbling at Moses and God, for they had no water to drink. Did they really think God was unaware of this fact?
We did not want to be like the Israelite people. If God had provided, we should be thankful that He would continue to do so. But after six weeks, personal reserves were gone and we were changing our thinking from “Lord, we await your provision” to “Lord, have you forgotten us?” Would the ranch have to close, and we find new work? Was this what it meant to Live In Partnership With God?