I find my thoughts drifting these days to a state of disbelief as I watch the news and the computer screen. In fact, I can hardly watch the news anymore. I want to say, “Stop the madness! Everyone breathe!” The best way for me to navigate these uncertain times is to focus on helping people around me. It is my hope that we can change lives and hearts one at a time.
My thoughts this weekend turned to my beloved Big Oak Ranch where children of many different backgrounds live together as one. These precious little ones were placed at the ranch because they have no parents or the ones that do have discarded them. Most were abused or neglected. They come with fear in their hearts, longing for someone to love them.
I became involved with the Ranch over 10 years ago. I was asked to visit the Ranch and School by friends of mine. I really didn’t know how I was going to react to this, as my usual response is to shut down. The thought of any child hurting or being hurt makes me crazy.
I met this beautiful young woman named Rachel Fisher. She had been at the Ranch for several years, along with her sister Trinity. These two beautiful young women just made the room happier when they entered. Rachel captured my heart from the moment I met her. Rachel, who was very witty and very inquisitive, walked up to me and said, “Who are you?” I introduced myself and told her I was visiting the Ranch as I had never been there before. I just adored her feistiness as we talked for a few minutes.
She had beautiful green eyes and a smile that would melt butter. Her smile was mischievous and she was a pistol. I knew I had just met someone that really intrigued me and I loved her instantly.
It was that day I knew God was calling me to be involved with Big Oak. John Croyle, the founder of Big Oak, asked me if I was involved or committed. Wow, that was a question I had not anticipated. I responded, “committed!” It was because of Rachel. I felt that the Ranch needed a Ladies Auxiliary to support the work at the Ranch.
The Girls’ and Boys’ Ranches were split, very wisely, and at each Ranch the children were divided into homes. Each home has a set of house parents whose life is committed to raising this wonderful group of children. They have so much sadness and abuse to work through. There were things that I thought an Auxiliary could do to help these wonderful parents by supplementing the operating budgets they have.
There were 10 of us who met to start the Auxiliary. We all knew we could be instrumental in this ministry. Our numbers and the work of the Auxiliary has grown to include gifts, clothing, etc. for these children and be a support group for the House Mothers.
Back to Rachel—I was there when she graduated High School. I watched her walk across the stage and get her diploma with aspirations of being an aesthetician. I wanted to help her and in fact had proposed the idea of her coming to live with me in the fall so I could help her get started. We had our plans and I was so excited that I was going to be a part of her life. I know she had blessed mine and I was hoping I could do the same for her.
It was only a few weeks later that John Croyle called to tell me that Rachel had been killed in an automobile accident. My heart was broken and it still is today. It’s not mine to understand why this happened, as I know God is in control. I felt a huge loss that day. As time has passed, I can still see her beautiful face and witty smile. It has been ten years ago this week.
Events like this change us in so many ways. Our work has gone on and there are over 2000 children who have come through the Ranch and leave to be responsible adults. It is important to break the cycle of abuse and neglect and go out into the world establishing homes where children are loved. Rachel’s sister Trinity works at the Ranch now and it brings great joy to me to watch her change lives.
Paula Deen came for our first fund raiser to get us going. And that was the shot in the arm we needed. Joe Namath joined in along with Bart Starr, Taylor Hicks, and Jeannie Robertson for fundraisers in the next few years. In September, Amy Grant is coming for our 2016 fundraiser. What a marvelous woman to give of her time to our Auxiliary. If you are in the Birmingham area September 20, we would love to have you join us. Go to www.bigoakauxiliary.com for more information.
I don’t have any answers or any opinions about life other than knowing that I want to make a difference. There are probably organizations in your area where you can make a difference. When someone knows another cares for them and loves them, it changes hearts and lives. Let’s make a difference every day!