Below you’ll find a set of pictures from our many adventures around camp this summer. I was going to tell you all how fortunate we are to live in this place called Miracle Ranch. Sure, the challenges of summer camp ministry are immense, but equally so are the blessings. We enjoy our times on the big field and pulling every ball out of the ball closet. Swimming in the lake is such a treat on a hot day, and we all love a stroll or two when we just need to get out of the house. The beach makes an amazing sand box on a cloudy day and I can’t even begin to express how much love my family has felt from the summer staff who have graced us with their presence and service this summer.
When Darin and I were first married we spent some time seeking God’s direction in our lives and felt a real call to camping ministry which we have pursued whole-heartedly ever since. Education, summer jobs, a CCCA conference and many hours of prayer finally landed Darin a gig at Miracle Ranch as the Program Director.
When people ask Darin what exactly he does he likes to tell them that he is in charge of all the fun around camp, which is only partly true. He gets to plan and coordinate all the activities (minus specifically the horse stuff) and supervise campers and groups that use them. But he also hires, trains and supervises the 75+ staff that come here in the summer to minister to campers and groups, plan and implement our camp retreats called “fusion” weekends, manage the camp store (which now includes a beautiful coffee shop, which he helped design), and interact with guest groups using our facilities, plus much much more.
Years ago we sensed that call to camping ministry, but it has been through our years here at Miracle Ranch that God has deepened and honed that call and specifically the vision Darin has. We love camp because we love reaching kids, building relationships with them, and ministering to the college students who pour out their lives and are transformed by their service in 10 weeks. We are passionate about the community that develops when all staff, from high schoolers in the dish pit, to rec staff lifeguarding the waterfront, to store employees making ice cream, to counselors in the thick of it, are here to share the love of Christ with kids.
Crista camps is passionate about many of the same things, but Crista camps is also dedicated to becoming a premiere destination for churches and groups looking for a retreat location. And while Darin can recognize that as a valid and important and even God-given vision, it isn’t one he necessarily shares. And this summer it has become apparent to him that this lack of shared vision will only frustrate and wear on him, and that it is time for us to move on.
If Darin's life right now is a pie-chart it would include program, guest services, and family/other interests outside work. And if the guest services slice is indeed increasing, then either what he is passionate about (and came to Miracle Ranch to do) or his family slices will necessarily decrease. I am honestly proud of the choice he made here.
Darin is so incredibly at peace with this decision and it is this fact alone that is keeping me from a total freakout. (Yes, we will be unemployed and homeless in a recession.) But I have watched him struggle this summer and wonder where the passion and drive and excitement had gone. And then I watched him make this decision and become the Darin I knew again. He is confident that God is leading us this way, and Darin’s co-workers and bosses have been nothing but supportive and encouraging. If you have to leave a job, this is the best way to do it for sure.
Besides trusting Darin, I am certainly doing my best to trust God. These are the things my head knows, that my heart is still trying to figure out:
-God is sovereign.
-He brought us here.
-He will take care of us.
-He dreams bigger dreams for me than I can ever imagine.
-He loves us.
-He loves others.
-He is in charge of my life and of this place called Miracle Ranch.
But I am still really really sad. We were supposed to be here for a long time. There are many dreams wrapped up in living and working here. Dreams of summer camp revivals. Dreams of relationships built with staff. Dreams of my daughters growing up in an environment so unique. Dreams for them expressed in these pictures.
There is also the sadness of leaving my community of friends outside camp. I will miss these dear moms who help me in my job every single day.
I think there’s a reason the Bible Study I chose to lead this summer is about joy. I’m not taking for granted the fact that the week before our lives changed our study was specifically about the act of “counting it all joy”. There are many places in Scripture where joy is linked with suffering. (Don’t believe me, check out 1 Peter 1:6, 1 Peter 4:12-13 or James 1:2.) I wrote this at the journaling time at the end of our lesson:
”Am I willing to say, ‘yes, Lord, your will be done?’ in the midst of trials and suffering? I keep wanting life to get easier, but there is nary a promise of this from God. But there are many promises if His faithfulness, of joy to come, of character building, of pointing others to God, of an end to the story where the Creator of the Universe wipes away my tears. Those promises help me persevere and choose Him every day.
Lord, my future is cloudy and my present is trying, but you see both with clarity. Help me to trust you and to seek joy in the middle, and not just at the end.”
It is time for me to open my hands. To trust in my creator. To remember the times when He has surprised me. To lean on those around me. To walk forward confidently knowing that if God is calling us away from here, He must be calling us to something even better.
For those of you who are curious about the practical stuff…
Darin will be done working in the middle of October and we have until the end of October to move out.
Darin is still in negotiations with HR about severance and unemployment benefits.
I am hoping to stay at home still, so Darin is on the job hunt for now. We know we want to be in camping long term, but whether it’s the next thing or down the road a ways has yet to be determined. (Camp life is really hard with young kids and we may need a break for a little while.) We are open to a lot right now, so send any job leads you’ve got!
If we don’t have a job in October, we’ll likely be moving up to Lakewood to live with my dear mother-in-law. While I love her to pieces, I really treasure having a home of my own. I’m trusting God in this one too…
I’m still very much in the processing stage of all of this, because trust me, it happened just this fast. Pray for me, pray for my family, and pray for this place called Miracle Ranch and the many people who work here too. We have loved our time here and will miss it (and them) like crazy.