Press In and Buckle Up
Our ministry and operational staff took a road trip down to Bend, Oregon to attend Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch Jesus First ministry conference last week. We managed to pile 11 of us into a 15-person van, pulling a U-Haul full of luggage, and made a 7-hour road trip turn into twelve. But it was a bonding twelve hours.
God blessed us with a beautiful three-bedroom home forty minutes from Crystal Peaks to stay in for the duration of the conference at no cost. It was a joy to get to know one another in such an environment. It's amazing how sleep deprivation, early morning prayer with each other, and late night chats over homemade popcorn in our pajamas deepened relationships. We talked about nothing and everything, and it all increased our love an appreciation for one another.
When we finally made it to the conference, it took all of five minutes before half of us were in tears and another twenty minutes before all of us were convicted and moved to such a level we were rendered speechless. Philippians 2:12 says to "continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling."
Through the leading of the Spirit we each found ourselves embarking on an individual journey with God that challenged us to do just that. On that journey we realized we were also being drawn closer together for the sake of this ministry. Speakers like bestselling author and founder Kim Meeder and her husband Troy, ranch staff like Katie Jacobsen, Brad Schultz, Jeff and Kelsey Woodford and more challenged us to let God loose in our hearts and lives, and to follow him where he's calling us to go.
"God never sets us up to fail, only to grow. Nothing surprises him." (1 John 3:20)
"Your weapon in life is scripture. The only thing you need to do when facing the enemy is to focus on his tactics just enough to put them in the cross hairs of God's Word and pull the trigger." (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
"There's always a way through the hardship. It doesn't matter that you can't see it. You only need to believe." (Mark 5:36)
"It's not enough to know about the power of prayer. You have to grab hold of it. Make prayer synonymous with breathing. If you can think about a problem you can pray about it." (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
If we're going to speak healing and redemption into the lives of the people we minister to, we need to be willing to go there ourselves. Through scripture and the leading of the Spirit we were all deeply convicted and moved to surrender. A few things outside of the time we spent sitting and listening helped this growth and conviction.
Every day we spent thirty minutes in immersion worship. The CP staff set up speakers and turned up true worship music (Bethel, Jesus Culture, Kim Walker-Smith and Chris Tomlin to name a few) and told us to grab a blanket or a knee pad or go wherever the Spirit led us to go and just spend thirty minutes in worship. It's an amazing thing to see more than 75 people scattered across an 8-acre ranch with arms raised in praise, kneeling in the dirt or simply sitting with eyes closed to bask in the sun in worship.
Every day we spent time alone with God. We had a lesson, and then we were sent out to spend time with our Lord in the silence. One day I went up to the cross on a hillside and wrote in my journal. The next day I left my journal and Bible in my pocket and spent time in a pasture with a half-blind horse named Hero and learned how to trust as he lay beside me with his only seeing eye in the dirt.
Others sat in silence and learned to be still with God with no words and no busywork - just to simply exist in His presence. Others took a good look at the burdens they carried and learned how to lay them at the feet of God. Others still took a good look at the Word and challenged themselves by asking, "do I really believe this? Do I really believe God sees me this way?"
Every day we came back to the house feeling like a wrung out rag, convicted and exhausted. And yet excited. Every one of us was getting a vision for EMBRACE that was adding up to be an incredible sight to behold. Whether in two years or twenty, we could see that God was going to do some pretty amazing things with our ministry if we would simply let the Spirit lead and be obedient to scripture, personally and in our ministry.
We saw acres and acres of land, dozens of horses, worship and praise permeating our work, thousands of lives and hearts changed and softened and moved for the Lord. We saw trials, but we saw ourselves overcoming in Jesus' name. Praise God!
If our ministry were to end tomorrow we can all confidently say that it's been a good run and lives have been changed. We surrender our ministry to God's will because, as in all things, we desire his will to be done. At the end of the conference, however, Kim Meeder approached our president and asked, "What's God telling you?"
Renae laughed and responded, "'Buckle up.'"