Each year, after retiring from Deerfoot, Chief Ron has asked me to spend an evening with the staff. In addition to a specific assignment, Chief Ron asks me to tell something of DL history, and have a time for questions. These questions are written on small pieces of paper which are folded and given to me. No one knows who wrote any question. Give 60 college students that opportunity… no subject is out of bounds!!!
When I unfolded the square that said, “Chief, what do you consider your greatest legacy?” for a moment I was speechless. I had never thought about my legacy. Never. My mind began to race!!!
What came to mind was that I desired my legacy to be that I have worked at living a life pleasing to the Lord, doing whatever I believed God would have me do. I went on to point out that each of us should have this legacy.
Since that evening I have thought about “my legacy” — and the fact that each of us has one.
After leaving Sky Ranch in Texas, Sally Jo and I decided our focus was to be on the development of people, not on the development of facility. I had just spent 7 years raising money and developing a facility and program that required hiring and managing the core staff of what became 9 people. My time was not focused on building godly people.
Deerfoot’s emphasis since its beginning has been “building godly young men in a Christ-centered community through wilderness camping.” I knew this to be a fact. My father was one of those young men in 1931-32.
I was hired to focus my time and energy on building godly young men. My selection criteria for staff began with their desire to be godly young men and to build godly young men. One way to check on a person’s desire to be God’s man was to check his knowledge of the Bible. Another was to talk with people who knew them on their college campus. Did their life evidence a desire to be God’s man? Camping skills, counseling skills, first aid skills could be developed during staff training and throughout the summer.
Quite frankly, I was looking to hire young men who, in this core area of their life, thought as I did. Beyond this – incredible variety was wonderful – for DL, necessary! About 85% of the summer staff had previous DL experience. DL campers become staff members. Eight to ten summers at DL is not unusual. Building godly men takes time.
In the area of facility development and maintenance, Brent Karner, a furniture maker, and when he resigned, Ken Hoffman, a garbage man, were hired. Both Brent and Ken became Chairman of their respective public school boards. These two men have impacted hundreds of lives at DL and in their home towns. Godly young men — not so young now.
Facility development and maintenance were viewed as an opportunity to build godly men. “Outside” contractors were no longer hired as this work could be done on work weekends — which were seen to be an excellent way to build godly men. These weekends have become a spiritually challenging, growing experience. The number of those coming has grown from about 10 per weekend to over 100. Some of the men have participated in 40 or more of the weekends. Do they do good work? Check out the care of the old DL buildings, the quality of the new log buildings. But maintaining and building is not the key value of the work weekends. It is the building of godly men!
My legacy? I want it to be that I have worked at being God’s man, at doing what He has had for me to do. I want my legacy to be that I have worked, In Partnership With God, at building godly, capable people.