Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Jubilee Youth Ranch

Two Tuesdays ago, we left the rollercoasters and joy rides of Coeur D'Alene behind to embark on a new and different adventure. We drove through fields and fields of wheat and along many desert-type canyons to be able to claim that we have seen the middle of nowhere.

Okay, not exactly.
But, that's how it felt when we first got there. That's how most people feel, I hear.

We spent 4 days at Jubilee Youth Ranch, where we witnessed and heard enough in that timespan to realize that we were actually...in the middle of God's grace.

Yes, God's grace in all its raw splendor.
God's grace, pure and unadulterated by self-righteousness.
God's grace, given freely, but at a dear cost.
God's grace, in every redemptive story. 
It's not easy to capture with words all that we felt and experienced...all the redemptive stories that touched our lives...all the memories that could change us if we let them.

On our last day, as we got ready to leave, it was hard to believe that it had only been 4 days. Really? Just 4? It felt like much longer than that. Perhaps it's because we had had to process so much of what was happening around us. We had had to take our suburban-jaded lenses off and enter another reality as though blind...in order to let it change us. We were taking it all in.

The Ranch. Jubilee Youth Ranch's website adequately lays out its mission and the way things work around there, so I will not spend too much effort on relating those details... except to say that it is a school for troubled boys between the ages 13-18, and currently has 35-40 students enrolled. I took the picture above at the top of the hill the boys have to run up if they fail to comply with the rules and regulations of the school. All four of us ran up this hill at one point or another just for fun (I promise we weren't naughty). It was HARD...harder than it looks! For me, reaching out to touch the cross at the top of the hill had a Bunyan-like feel to it. I could picture my burden rolling down...

The Cross. In a way, the cross was at the center of this whole trip. It was in the forefront of the founders' mind when they built this ranch, it was on the lips of the staff members as they shared their stories and the reason why they'd be willing to sacrifice so much to be there, and it was what had motivated Andrew to take his family out in the middle of nowhere in the first place. 

We went ready to serve...really. really hoping to be a blessing and not a burden. I think for the most part, we achieved the not-being-a-burden part, but it's hard to tell how much we truly helped. At the least, we were glad that the ranch had a guest house for us to stay in and a cafeteria to eat at so we wouldn't have to impose on any of the families living on campus. Not to say that the families were not hospitable to us...because they really were. In a way, they were more than hospitable---they were real. They let us enter their lives both at home and the workplace...and made us feel welcome and appreciated every step of the way. 

The Staff.  We are so thankful for the many opportunities we got to better acquaint ourselves with the staff. Meeting them was probably one of the most memorable part of our trip for Andrew and myself. We both felt inspired by these individuals who had answered God's call and now lived counter-cultural lives for His glory. Many on staff live on campus--especially the young families. One of those particular families, the Rileys, really ministered to us as we ate together and discussed a variety of topics from homeschooling to theology to the hope that is within us. We are now committed to praying for them and their ministry. Notice the little blond 2-year-old in the picture? I fell in love with that kid. It made me so happy when he'd try to get Miss Anne-Marie's attention. 

As Shawn explained, most of the people working at the ranch have jacked-up pasts. They've tasted and seen God's redemptive power in their own lives and now want to spread that hope to others. I think of the staff we met...Jamal, Leigh and Rebecca, Tom, Darren, Mark and Cosette...there are amazing stories out there. But if you think about it, it's what we have all been called to do, really, this spreading of hope. We all have redemptive stories. We were all lifted from the mire.. We all should be living our lives as salt and light in the world.

And so, it's been my hope and prayer that we would not forget these people and this place, but rather that we would let it (them) inspire us to love the unlovable as Christ loved us. For while we were still sinners, enemies of God, weak and ungodly, He loved us (Romans 5). We didn't get our act together first because we simply couldn't. He did it for us and and it cost Him dearly--not us. Except He does call us to pick up our cross and follow Him. Follow Him as in 'do what He does'.

And what He does is GRACE.

It was GRACE that made the Broetjes found and continue to fund Jubilee Youth Ranch, Vista Hermosa, and several missions throughout the world. These husband-and-wife sole proprietors of over 7,000 acres of apple orchards chose not to hoard God's blessings but to use the success of their ingenuity to bestow grace upon others. Yes, lots and lots of grace on lots and lots of people (even adopting 6 along the way).

I came upon this view of the orchards on a morning run and again, came face-to-face with God's grace...along the Snake River, of all places.
I thought of Jeremiah 17.

How blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
whose trust is in the Lord.
He is like a tree planted by water,
That sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anwxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.
The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick; who can understand it?
I the Lord search the heart and test the mind,
to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.

I was left wondering which way I lean. Do I trust Him--that He will give me the grace to do what He calls me to do--or do I often let my heart of flesh guide me? My deceitful and sick heart. Put in different words, would I be willing to do this--what the Rileys, Broetjes, and countless others do if that's where He wanted me to bear fruit?

We met Mr. Broetje. I'm tempted to say that it was by chance, but I'll defer to God. He knew I wanted to meet the man who was behind all this...and so He probably decided to indulge me. Mr. Broetje couldn't have been more regular of a guy. In fact, if Andrew hadn't recognized him from last year's visit to the orchards, we wouldn't have known who he was. Just a guy in the front office of a huge apple factory building on a Saturday morning letting us know that the store was closed. But there was kindness in his eyes and humility on his lips..and I felt his discomfort at being recognized, but a willingness to indulge us also. After visiting for only a few minutes, he even let me take the picture below... reluctantly, but graciously. Very graciously. I got a lump in my throat as we said goodbye to this kindly man I had just met....because I knew that thanks to his willingness to count the cost... 

...I had just spent 4 days in the middle of God's grace.


  1. I loved..."all the memories that could change us if we let them..."
    This was beautiful AM.
    I know you shared some when we talked, but this gave such a good window in to the experience, the mission, what God is doing, how it hit your hearts...
    And the photos were perfect.
    That one of the cross and that one of the moon were so striking.
    I love that you guys went on this journey together and I'm thankful for the way you choose to spend your summers.

  2. Thanks, Kara. You are always so supportive! I'm excited about posting the fun pictures of that trip on my next post. That was a good suggestion you made, that I write two different entries. It helped me to just focus on reflections for this one...