JH Ranch stories & reports
One Illustrative JH Ranch event
One seemingly small thing happened the first morning at the JH Ranch. Here’s my first draft of telling it. In the morning I got up and headed up to the lodge. One guy from our half of our cabin building walked with me and introduced himself. He was at the Ranch for the second time. When we got to the lodge he saw some people he wanted to talk to (I presumed they were people he met when there before) and I was on my own. I grabbed a coffee and did the new/lost/not-knowing-what-to-do-or-who-to-talk-to guy wander, trying to look like I had a purpose, all while feeling unconnected. I began to notice that I was not the only one in that state.
I wandered back to outside the cabin Katrina was in, to see if she was up out and around yet. I saw no sign of her, but I did see a younger girl who had an unmistakable look of angst and fear on her face and in her body language. I briefly asked her if she needed me to check in the men’s cabin if her Dad was there, and she shyly gave me his name, and I went in and called out if he was there. He was not. I went out and told her, then set to waiting for Katrina to emerge. All the while this girl nervously fretted and flitted glances from under her Avril Levine hair at each man who came along, and, when not finding recognition, rotated herself around the tree she was by so that she would not have to talk to the man.
When Katrina came I gave her a brief report on what was going on, and she and I approached the girl, offering to walk her up to the Lodge and look for her father. She said she’d already been there and did not find him. She was a little more at ease when I had Katrina with me, and accepted the offer. We took the girl with us to the lodge, promising we would not leave her until we had connected her with her dad. We got to the lodge and she could not spot him. K had to use the washroom, and the girl and I waited. Suddenly she spotted her dad, and told me, and went over to be near him.
I had been instantly and deeply moved by this girl’s discomfort when I first saw her. What a terrible way to begin a week with Dad. I was also upset with this Dad, who seemed oblivious to his daughter’s vulnerable state and to the togetherness purpose of the week.
I need to fast forward here and tell you the end of this story. What we did there, Katrina and I, came quite naturally to me and to us. We have this thing in our family for ‘lost’ and ‘marginalized’ and ‘hurt’ people. But I also knew that in this girl’s delicate state I needed to be very careful in approaching her. I could or would not have done the delivery to her dad without Katrina’s female, daughterly, big sister presence and her ready understanding-of and participation-in the mission.
The outcome of this story is one of the most touching symbols of what the JH Father-Daughter experience is all about for me now.
At the end of the whole week, there is a time for people to get up in front of everyone and testify to what they experienced. One of those who got up, to my astonishment given her shyness and fear the first time I saw her, was this same girl. This same formerly frightened and lost girl got up in front of about 250 people and told her story. It was a story of having been in a struggle to find connection with God, of slowly losing all her friends, and not understanding why, of not even fitting in at her church. It was a story of feeling abandoned as she prepared to come to JH Ranch. Hearing it, the fear I had seen in her that first morning made total sense. She then shared with all how she had found a new confidence, a new connection with God, and how she was eager to move ahead in that. And I cried those kind of soul tears one cries when one feels deeply deeply priviledged to have been in a small way used by God to be part of a journey of restoration and reconnection for one formerly abandoned-feeling person. They are tears that say how sad it is that people feel that abandonment, and tears that say how great it is that they can be helped to find their way.
It is very clear to me today that the week at the Ranch is about exactly that process: Reconnecting people with God and each other. And it works because God is in it and because people cooperate with God in it.
I also see that just as the sawdust speck in my eye is made of the same type of wood as the log I see in someone else’s — otherwise I would not recognize it — the aloneness I saw in that girl was a reflection of my own disconnected state early that week.
That too began to change for me during the experiences of the week. Much of that story is too personal to share in such a public place. Sorry about that. You’ll have to ask me or Katrina in person sometime to find out some more.
Experiencing July 4 in the US as a Foreigner
An ongoing discussion about Evangelicals in the military on an email group I hang out on just begs me to tell the story of our July 4 experience at a God centered, Spirit-soaked guest Ranch attended by 146 or so American guests and 4 Canadians and staffed by another 100 or so college aged youths who were there as volunteers. The Americans were predominantly from Alabama and other such Southern states. Try to relate to my relief at finding a few Pacific NorthWesters from Bellevue WA and feeling a bond of appreciation because we spoke the same language!
July 1, our first day there, was our national holiday, which we celebrated in our reserved Canadian way. That went like this “Hey, it’s July 1, Happy Canada Day” and that was it.
July 4, on our first group activity, I wished the Americans in our group (we were in a “huddle group” with 5 other fathers with older daughters) a good holiday. Later we went River rafting, and the River guides had a flag they unfurled and they led the group in singing the anthem with passion. Katrina loves singing so she sang along. I didn’t. It’s not my anthem. But I removed my hat and stood respectfully.
That night in the nightly Big Top Tent Worship-and-Talk-hearing time the Holiday was attended to again. All veterans and active duty military personnel present were asked to come forward, and a 25 year veteran was asked to address us after the Anthem was sung again. He spoke of US national history, of the founding fathers, of the dream of Freedom, of how they laid their lives on the line by signing the document (making them traitors to England), how the freedom was a gift from God, how Abe Lincoln was a God-fearing man (He’d just read a new biography on him) and then the history of spreading that gift-from-God freedom. That’s my best memory of what I heard. It was moving, it was convincing, except for one thing I tripped over (which I will state later to not break the flow too much now).
Our Veteran speaker led us in a prayer that retouched these themes and asked for success and safety for military personnel and strength for the families left waiting.
After the prayer, the army guys were about to return to their places when one asked for the mike and asked a buddy to stay up there with him. It was revealed that the younger man was on active duty in some kind of special force and was to go back a few weeks from then, and the guy with the mike told of getting to know and respect him, and his faith, and his godliness, and his passion for bringing freedom to Iraq. He then led a prayer over that man.
Again it was moving, heartfelt and touching, and genuine.
I saw and learned something more than I already knew of the deep-rooted respect for the military in the US. I have no idea of the political party stripes of those who were there, prayer was offered for the Commander in Chief because he was the Commander in Chief, it seemed. I do believe most present were Baptist or Pentecostal with a few Catholics and others (I found no CRC’s and most people had never heard of us).
Now, two closing observations, one noted by my daughter. I missed it at the time.
When the 12 or so military guys were up on the stage, and we prayed, we were asked to extend a hand out to them in prayer, and they extended a receptive arm of blessing to us. Close your eyes and picture that–a group of men standing with their right arms stretched out before them at about shoulder height. She found it a kinda creepy visual image.
My biggest hurdle, one I cannot overcome even as I appreciate the depth of feeling these people have about their country and the Freedom-bringing role they believe God has given them is this: How you spread God’s freedom from behind a gun?