What Money Can Do! #96

Darryl Coates grew up in a dog-trot cabin…a room on each side of an open passage way (through which a breeze could pass and a dog could trot)…with an outhouse. He went into the construction business and did very well. His office was one room. He owned no equipment, he had no crews. What Darryl did have was the ability to work with people and a reputation that was as good as solid gold. He would get a contract to build a motel or other significant project and then hire a local project manager who knew the local sub-contractors. In time he had to purchase a small plane to keep up with his various construction projects.

To see Darryl would convince you he did not have two nickels to rub together. His work shoes were worn out dress shoes or dress cowboy boots. He said he was too cheap to buy work shoes as what he had “worked” just fine. Jan, his wife, was just as low key as Darryl. I do not think they ever bought a new car.

In 1970 Darryl and Jan decided they would take their money and build the finest possible facility for churches to rent for retreats and camps. We got to know Darryl and Jan in 1975 through Christian Camping International when we lived in TX. We became very good friends. Darryl said to me one day “I do not want this camp to make me a dime!” To assure that it wouldn’t, he started a not-for-profit organization – and then gave the developing camp/conference center to the organization. Today their dream is a reality – take a moment to look it up: Jan-KayRanch.org

In summary: (all buildings have central air/heat)

  • Buffalo Lodge – 62 retreat guests – 16 rooms with private bath…has meeting room as part of building
  • Ranch Camp – 120 campers 4 split cabins – each side with bathroom
  • White House – for the speaker
  • Common areas:
    • Dining Hall for 150
    • Town Hall – 150 – meeting room with full AV, piano
    • Recreation Hall – ping pong, table shuffle board, foos-ball, games – or a meeting room for 70 people
    • Amphitheatre
    • Indoor riding arena …can also be used for games.
    • There are miles of trails, also hay rides, a covered bridge, a cat fish pond (big catfish!), and great camp fires
    • Large swimming pool – slides, diving boards
    • Obstacle course, 2 basket ball courts, football, soccer, and soft ball fields
    • Lake with canoes, paddle boats, fishing
    • Miniature golf
    • Snack Shack

AND Darryl got a wild animal license. Jan-Kay Ranch has a zoo: tigers, monkeys of many kinds, zebras, camel, emus, ostriches, buffalo, long horn cattle, rhinoceros, etc. Do not be surprised if you see Darryl go by on a 4 wheeler with a bear sitting up behind him, paws on his shoulders, looking over Darryl’s head. Or you might look down to see a puma rubbing his head on your leg.

Darryl and Jan have thankful hearts as they watch lives changed through the use of a facility they have developed for 40 years. A place where children, young people, and adults come to relax, to laugh, to build relationships, and to learn more of the love of Jesus Christ. Darryl and Jan Coates live In Partnership With God.

“What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” — James 14:4

Devastated! #95

Every September our family would move back to our home in Richardson – just north of Dallas. Re-entry was never easy. For three months the kids had the run of 250 acres…which included a caring summer staff, a few other staff kids, a 70 acre lake with boats, a beautiful swimming pool, lots of horses, a bountiful, big garden, and for at least two summers, pet raccoons. Life at the ranch was never real easy – but it was a good place to spend the summer.

Once home it was time to catch up with friends, check in at the school, buy school supplies and some new clothes.

On Sunday we would make the re-entry to the Highland Park Presbyterian Church. The senior minister was Clayton Bell, a long term family friend, and the minister under whom I served when I graduated from seminary. Peggy and Clayton had warmly welcomed us to Dallas.

One fall, when Jenna returned to her Sunday school class, she noticed that all of the other girls were wearing black patent leather flats. So Sally Jo took Jenna to buy black patent leather flats.

The next week, Jenna headed for her Sunday school class with a smile on her face. She had shoes like the other girls in the class were wearing. And then one of the girls looked at Jenna’s new shoes and said, “Jenna, they are the wrong brand!”

Dirk, who was eight at the time, remembers Jenna’s devastation to this day, just as Sally Jo and I do.

What the girl said was true! This reality only made the words more hurtful. My guess is that the girl who made the comment does not remember the words, the incident at all.

On several occasions the look on a person’s face has told me that my words have hurt them deeply. But the words are out. Yes, I can ask for the person’s forgiveness, but the words are out! And what about the people whom my words have hurt deeply, and I have no clue? Lord, forgive me!

James wrote: “We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.” — James 3:2-8

What a contrast to the fruit of the Spirit: “ …kindness, goodness, gentleness, self- control” Galatians 5:22.

And so I pray “Set a watch, O Lord, before my mouth; keep the door of my lips.” — Psalm 141:3

Carla Wanted a Chincoteague Pony! #94

Carla had learned to ride and care for horses when we lived for two years in TN. A church member had a horse farm, and one summer we even had a yearling pony living in our back yard. In the morning I would call out “Hello Dolly” and she would whinny back every time. When we moved to Texas, it was almost like Carla moved to heaven! Every morning we were at the ranch she would head for the barn.

As we prepared for our second summer at Sky Ranch, Carla asked us if she could have a Chincoteague pony. She had gotten the idea from reading Misty, Stormy, and Sea Star – books which told about wild ponies on the island. Every year the yearlings were rounded up by the fire department for auction on “pony penning day”. Without too much thought, I told her that the books had been written many years before. We did not know how true they were, or if there were still annual pony penning day auctions. “Can I write and find out?” I said yes. So Carla wrote a letter to the Fire Chief on Chincoteague Island, VA. When he answered, I knew I was in big trouble!!! Bottom line: in July the two of us headed for the island, 1000 miles away, pulling a borrowed one horse trailer, carrying camping gear and a list of people and places we wanted to visit in the next 9 days. Carla and I had lots of time to talk, a special time indeed.

On our way to the island we stayed with friends and stopped at the Seminary where I had studied for three years. When we arrived at Chincoteague, it seemed like every other horse loving child in the world had talked their parents into coming as well. It was truly a festive occasion – the auction would be in two days. I could also quickly see that there would be considerable bidding for the ponies – sinking feeling in pit of stomach!!!

Carla and I found our camp site, set up camp, and then went to see the ponies which would be auctioned. Unfortunately for me, Carla already knew much about horses, and soon had her eyes on one specific pony, a paint that was larger than most of the others. Though I encouraged her to look at other animals, which she did, there was no question as to which one she wanted. Soon she was reaching through the fence and rubbing the neck of the beautiful animal.

In the early evening, when we were out for a walk, we saw a weathered looking man on a large horse…no Chincoteague pony! I asked the man, Walt Clark, if he lived on the island. He slowly answered, “Lived here all my life”. During our conversation I asked him “Walt, you know these animals. Is there a pony we should try and buy?” He smiled slightly and said “sir, buy her the one she wants, or it won’t matter.”

The next day we met a family with several children that were planning on buying four ponies, and my guess was that money was no object. I remember saying to Carla that it was a good to make friends with them – because if they wanted to buy “your” pony, we are in big trouble.

The auction began, and Carla had her heart set on only one pony…that she was already calling Yankey. When the bidding began on Yankey, it was brisk! Not good for us!! As the price went up, the number of bidders got smaller and smaller. When the price got higher than any previous sale, there were two of us bidding. When we got to $500, the amount Sally Jo and I set as our limit, what was I to do? (“Get her the one she wants, or it won’t matter”) So…I kept bidding. When we hit $700, suddenly the bidding stopped…and we owned Yankey! Immediately after the bidding was over, one of the daughters of the family buying four ponies came over to us, all apologetic. “Carla, I stopped my dad from bidding as soon as I realized we were bidding against you! I am sorry the price got so high.”

After the auction was over, and we were preparing to load Yankey, a reporter came to interview us about the pony we had purchased. When he asked why I was willing to pay more than anyone ever had for a Chincoteague pony, I remember telling him, “We did not buy a pony, but an experience.” The round-up, sale and interview were broadcast across the country – including Dallas, where many of Carla’s friends saw us on TV.

Over the next several years Carla trained Yankey to do most everything but talk! Our adventure was a good investment of time and money. Yes, this was part of living In Partnership With God.

Mr. Mason – Unexpected Provider #93

After campers and their families have found places to sit on the board firmly attached to the top of the rodeo arena fence, members of the staff enter the arena with flags flying. They gallop along the fence and then ride an intricate pattern – just like at the beginning of a real rodeo! Well, almost!!

The rodeo, with campers as participants, continues with everything from the water balloon toss to barrel racing.

During the rodeo I was walking outside of the arena when a man I did not know leaned back, handed me his business card, and asked me to give him a call. When I returned to Dallas, I called Mr. Mason who invited me to come to his office.

I was warmly welcomed, and then he said something like “I do not know why I gave you my card”. I suggested we talk a few minutes to see if we could come up with the reason.

Out of our conversation came the realization that the Mason family had a cabin two miles from the Sky Ranch which they seldom used. Our family was invited to use the cabin, and to enjoy everything in the cabin, including the ping pong table…and the food.

“When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip ‘Where shall we buy bread to feed all these people?’ He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. Philip answered him, ‘Eight months wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!’

Another of his disciples, Andrew…spoke up. ‘Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish’. Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated (5,000 men, plus women and children) as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.” — John 6:5-11

It is sobering to have God unexpectedly use us to provide.

It is sobering to have God unexpectedly provide for us.