Since our trip to Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch in Oregon this past May, God has been making the vision for Risen Ridge more organized and clear. What started as using horses to show people God’s love and healing, has become much bigger! Through listening to Him and through the confirmations He has been giving us in our own lives, we are seeing how everything can be used as an open door for Him to enter someone’s heart.
Probably the most obvious way God has reached our whole family was when he placed us on the farm where we currently rent. Through everyday life with the beautiful family who owns the farm and lives right next door; quiet conversations, driving tractors, baling hay, tending to the animals, having a garden, hanging laundry on a line, cookout suppers, really every single aspect of daily farm life, God has been opening our hearts to hear Him. To slow down and prioritize Him in our lives, to reflect Him in all we do. In this way, Risen Ridge will maintain horses as a focus, but people will be able to share life on the farm with us. We will be able to form relationships as we are weeding the garden, to speak about how the Lord provides for us as we work the land, to share His love through play, and to sit quietly with people as they feel led to open their hearts to the Lord’s love.
Chris has also been blessed by his job with Love INC. Not only is he making valuable connections, but he is getting more comfortable sharing his heart in front of groups, and he is learning the ins and outs of ministry (something he could only learn from the inside).
Another big undertaking this year has been homeschooling our kids. This is a work in progress, but we still feel that it is what God has called us to do. Our kids are learning a lot of life skills as well as developing a curiosity for learning that has the freedom to flourish without a mandated program.
We also recently made the decision to have a family milk cow. We were gifted a beautiful 2-week old dairy heifer to
raise as our family pet and, after she’s had a calf, in about 2 ½ years, we will be able to milk her. With raw milk, we can drink it, make cheese, and have an unlimited supply of homemade ice cream!
Through all of this learning and waiting, God has been revealing to us the ministry that He has called us to start.
God has been roughly outlining the structure of this ministry. After we get settled into life on the farm, wherever He chooses to plant us, we will start with what we will probably call, sessions. A 90-minute time frame spent with one session leader, one friend (God hasn’t given us a good name for the people who will come yet; clients, ranchers, campers, neighbors…for now, friends), and one horse. The session will start with a 20-30-minute chore. This time gives the session leader and friend a chance to get to know each other a little bit, for the friend to feel more comfortable and start to build some trust with the session leader, for the friend to take some ownership in the farm (they can come back another time and see the fruits of their labor), and most importantly, for hearts to begin to soften so that God can come in. After the chore, the friend gets to spend an hour with a horse. This time can be spent grooming the horse, riding the horse, going on a trail ride, or even just looking at the horses. As the ministry develops, sessions will be able to branch out. The friends who come see us may choose to spend their time working in the farming aspect (tractors, hay, mechanical stuff…), they may want to tend to the chickens, create something in the art room, or sit quietly by the pond. The Holy Spirit will lead each session and our leaders will be trained on a philosophy we learned at Crystal Peaks, “Pray, Listen, Do”. We are simply tools in His hand and we need to remain always sensitive to His leading because He knows exactly what each person needs when they come.
In addition to the sessions, we feel like God is going to use this ministry as a retreat. Two different kinds of retreats, actually.
The first will be called a Respite Retreat. A time when missionaries and people in ministry can bring their families to the farm for some down time. Similar to a vacation, there will be separate housing available with bathrooms and kitchens and the families can come for a few days to simply be “off duty”. I have always felt that being in ministry must be an extremely demanding position. A calling, for sure, and a welcome burden from the Lord, however, I can imagine that it is difficult find time to away from pouring into others and to be filled yourself. During this time, which will probably be Fridays through Sundays, families can utilize all that the farm has to offer and we will hold a family-style cookout and time of worship on Saturday evenings.
The second will be called a Restoration Retreat. This will be a 3-4 day (probably M-Th) retreat where people will come and stay with us in the housing available on the property. This retreat will have two different programs; one for marriages and one for service people (veterans, police, firefighters, EMTs). God values families so, while the actual programming will be geared towards the adults attending the retreat, families will be welcomed. We will have scheduled activities for the children during the program times as well as time to be together as a family. Restoration Retreats will offer an opportunity to go deeper into relationship with our friends, for the Lord to really begin to heal, and to develop a plan for healing as people move back into their own lives.
Even farther down the road, God has given us the vision of a conference center! We will be able to have seminars, church groups, leadership training, counseling, and whatever God wants to do with it at that point.
By the way, these things are in no way things that I would normally be excited about – lol! I am super excited about the horse aspect, but the rest is certainly not something that I have dreamt of in my life. It is truly from the Lord and THAT makes me excited about it!
To start the ministry, we feel there are four key positions that are needed. These would be paid staff positions (since Chris and I would be holding two of these positions, only two would be a paid position).
RISEN RIDGE MINISTRY
Program manager, PR, outreach & awareness
Maintain grounds in a professional manner (grass cutting, weed eating, weeding), manage crops, maintain buildings, maintain fencing, roadways, trails
Oversee health & maintenance of animals, manage equipment pertaining to animals, coordinate upkeep of riding arenas, jumps, water supply, fencing, pastures
HUMAN RESOURCE COORDINATOR
Assist with program and training development, first point of contact, lead orientations for volunteers, interns, staff, and clients, maintain ministry database
We are still praying for a third board member to come forward. We know and trust that it is in God’s time, so we aren’t worried about it. Our board will come together when He is ready for it to. That being said, please don’t hesitate to let us know if this is something that God is putting on your heart. We would love to explore that with you and pray about it.
It has been made clear to us, after about 2 years of being still, that it is time to start promoting this ministry. We know that God will provide those opportunities, and we feel very excited about what that will look like. In the meantime, we are going to start holding meetings from time to time to update people already on board, to educate people who are curious about what a horse ministry is, and to pray together for this amazing, God-sized vision that He is laying out before us. If you feel called to join this ministry in any way; from praying for us, to working with us, please let us know so that we can let you know of any meetings we may have or exciting news we have to share! We know that God is putting all the people in place that He wants and we are praying that those who hear the call will be obedient.
Finally, with a God-sized vision, comes a God-sized property to house the ministry. Would you believe that the place exists within our own county? God has shown us this property in many ways, from co-workers who know what our
future holds, to old neighbors who were also looking for property, to friends at our church who have taken riding lessons there and have been praying for it to be used for His purposes long before we were ever on the radar. The farm is called New Meadow Farm, in Steeles Tavern, VA. It is currently listed for sale and you can click the link to read all about it https://www.zillow.com/homedetails/863-Lotts-Rd-Spottswood-VA-24476/127093252_zpid/?fullpage=true . Because it is used as a girl’s summer camp, it also has a web site www.newmeadowcamp.com and you can find it on facebook. We don’t know that this is the place, but it has everything in place (from stables, pastures, and trails, to hay fields, to bunkhouses) that God has shown us Risen Ridge will be. We are actively praying for it and would love it if you would join us.
Chris and I both feel like God is moving things into place. Even though you can’t see much on the outside, we know that things are shifting. We feel a bubbling excitement and we hope that you do, too. Thank you for your prayers and your continued support!