In our seventh year at Sky Ranch it felt like everything had “come together”. We had come a long way from a piece of ranch land and staff of three.
The ranch was operating at capacity throughout the summer, with a considerable waiting list. During the school year the Dallas Independent School District had a group of grade school children at Sky for their out-door education program Tuesday – Thursday. Young Life used the facilities many weekends, Sky Ranch ran its own programs on other weekends, and church groups enjoyed the facility on most remaining weekends. About 8,700 people a year were coming to Sky Ranch.
Sally Jo was teaching a different group of campers each morning how to plant and harvest vegetables and co-led the Sky Ranch retreat weekends. During the school year and on the weekends our family was at the ranch Carla, a sophomore in high school, worked almost every day with the horses – two of which were hers. Jenna, in Junior High, helped in the camp store and with Sky Ranch retreats. At our home in Dallas, Jenna had a growing collection of beautiful pigeons. Dirk, in grade school, pretty much enjoyed “the run of the place.”
To have the facility operating near capacity with this varied usage required a good facility and a quality staff. Both were in evidence at the camp/conference facility and in the Dallas office. The operating surplus for the year I think came to $38,000. Yes, the to-do list was long… but it was happening!
It was in this year we finally had a beautiful home at the ranch that we could call our own. In addition to work by local contractors, two electricians came from Connecticut to do all of the electrical work, our family did a tremendous amount of finishing touches inside and out, and nephew Steve Gieser came from Illinois to create a series of stained glass panels for the clerestory windows that faced south, up over the living/eating area…probably 25’ of glass work. Glad, the 86 year old lady who loved to give her income to the Lord’s work, gave the large kitchen table and chairs.
When I had accepted the position of Executive Director of Sky Ranch, my compensation package was the same as it had been when I was the Associate Pastor of Christ Church of Oak Brook. The understanding was that I would get at least an annual cost of living increase each year. After several years of struggling with financial survival and no raises of any kind, the Board had gone back to my original package and raised it according to the inflation factor for each year. Although neither Sally Jo nor our children were compensated for their work, our income was finally good.
Plans had been made for Sky Ranch’s 25th anniversary celebration. After 18 years at the Denton, TX facility where Sky was a summer camp, and now 7 years as a year around ministry at the East Texas facility, it was time to celebrate. A big dinner and program were to be capped off with the announcement that Gladys Lankford was giving a beautiful chapel to the camp, the design drawings having already been prepared by an architect.
After serving as program chairman for the previous national convention, I was asked by Christian Camping International to head up the annual convention in November at Ghost Ranch in Glorietta, NM.
Looking forward to a busy fall, and with everything up and running, it was a good time to go on vacation. We decided to spend two weeks in July with our family in Wisconsin.
Getting this effective ministry up and running had required a tremendous amount of hard work, but it had been obvious from the beginning that this was the Lord’s ministry – the result of His guidance, His provision, His blessing. Often I reflected upon verses like: “The Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.” — Gen. 39:23.
Living In Partnership With God was hard work, but good!