I stood, scrolling through the list of podcast titles, asking the Lord to show me what I needed to hear before I started a journey that I knew would stretch me and ask more of me than I would be able to handle well. I found it and prayed that God would help me surrender the things that were weighing me down. A long run was in order. Why? Because I would soon be surrounded by 85 people for 5 days in close quarters. I would not be able to disappear, be left alone with my thoughts or better yet find ways to quiet my soul the way I am use to. Life at Orton Ranch is rugged, if you were to ask me. Others like to point out that we are using running water and have beds to sleep in, but if I can’t take a shower daily, have to worry about mice getting into my food or have to listen for the bell ringing to warn of a bear on the grounds, then that my friends is called rugged in my book.
I was challenged on my run to look at my “why”. I have listened to this podcast many times, I have pushed play on this very title more then 2x. What I didn’t realize was that I could find another reason to apply this message to my current situation.
I came back feeling accomplished and ready to tackle what lied ahead, even though I heard from the Lord some things to consider, I was still unsure of my exact “why” for camp.
We spent the rest of our morning grabbing last minute things and loaded up anxious little bodies that could not wait to go back to a place they had been dreaming and counting the days down for. Orton Ranch has carved a special place in the Harney family.
The boat ride, 2.5 mile hike into camp with 22 kids went so much smoother then it did the year prior. There were no injuries, no bags to haul that couldn’t be carried by their tiny little owners, no suitcases with broken wheels to schlep over the hump over and over again. The biggest struggle we faced was a bound and determined 4 yr old that insisted to hike the WHOLE way on her own and let everyone know on the trail, as well as any living forest creatures that she did not appreciate any help. Even though it was so hot, we still found fun along the way and Richard realized the best way to keep Veil from whining was to break branches of blueberries and give them to her.
I won’t ever forget the feeling I had when I first saw Orton ranch last year, Ezzy asked if it was what the garden of Eden looked like. I wondered if I would find the same feeling, the breath slightly held, the quickening of the heart at the view and the joy of seeing everyone there waiting for us.
Orton did not disappoint yet again. It was hard to no want to run when the trees parted and the lush green lawn full of kids running and playing was finally in eyesight.
Our 1st evening at camp was surreal. It is honestly such a blur. We were the last group to hike in, which meant we didn’t get there until an hour before dinner. After arriving, we had to set up our gear and get ready for our first night of the bible lesson. Kids were anxious to find out who their group members were and the counselors quickly had to start learning names and establish trust so that they could try and break through whatever background, family situation, stage of faith their kids were going through.
Everyone welcomed their beds that night and I believe, felt that the first day went better than expected.
Little did the camp know that we would find ourselves woken to a naughty group of boys that decided to get up before 5 am, waking their entire cabin. Thanks to coach Harney, he showed them what life would be like if it happened again. Sprints, kalasetics, and drills were being ordered as they moved their anxious bodies across the green lawn.
The group Bible lessons were amazing. I had the privilege to lead the kids in worship, teach new songs and watch them as they digested what they were taught. It was really cool to see the lights come on for some of the kids who were hearing for the first time that Jesus rescues, saves, holds on to them when they are facing big things. I myself was in awe of the kids’ hearts and perceptions about the things they worry about. It was an eye opening experience.
Even though I was on little Harney duty, I still managed to get to know the campers, not in the same way as their counselors, but atleast enough to know each of them by name and be able to have conversations with them at meals, during elective time or anytime I was walking around the grounds, making sure Ya’el and her independent spirit was staying safe or Veil and her inquisitive mind didn’t let her wander to far.
I am not going to lie, it is down right exhausting trying to make sure that a 4 and almost 2 yr old stay safe, when there is a flowing river and nonstop bear visits. The only time I was able to let my guard fully down was when they were safely tucked in their beds at 10 pm each night and by that point I was too exhausted to hang with the other adults that needed to unwind by the fire each night.
I waited, still wondering if God was going to reveal my “why” for camp. Unsure if I was going to be able to seperate my head from my heart.
Then it happened.
I was sitting by the river banks, baby in my lap, 4 yr old being loved on by one of the many hands that willingly took a little Harney. I was sitting with a dear friend and the Lord told me to share what I had realized, to share how God had brought me through something. With tears in my eyes, I shared, deeply shared where I had been and where I was now. I was engulfed in a hug and was received. It couldn’t be denied the healing had come.
My “why”: healing.
I had settled for that to be the “why”, that we needed to talk about the past and see how far God had brought us to the now. I didn’t think there was going to be anymore big ah ha moments.
Oh ye of little faith, Sarah.
The very last day of camp, we found ourselves faced with a fever ridden puking camper. When you have 85 people crammed together, you know without a doubt how impossible it is to keep that from spreading. In passing a staff member said, “we need to pray over this camp”. When I found a group of willing adults, I gathered them around and we prayed that any attempts of the enemy to mess with the last day would not prevail. Unable to find the person who had suggested praying, I made up my mind to track them down and let them know a group had prayed. When I did find the person, I learned they had gone on their own and walked through the camp and dorms praying over each person and interceding for God’s divine protection.
Not a single person was hit with a puking bug. There were a few upset tummies that lasted for part of the day, but nothing else.
My “why”, yet again, was to witness: healing
Our last night, after tucking in kids from their “rave” at the campfire well past the normal bedtime had me wanting to spend time with the other staff. Thanks to my dear friend, I was gifted a 2 hr nap and finally felt like I could hang out with the rest of the adults and have some adult conversations not being interrupted by 2 busy little ladies.
A fall down the stairs ended with me crawling back up the stairs and elevating the ankle that I heard rip…I going to have PTSD from that sound for a while.
The medic had gone to bed, richard was finishing the devotions with his group and I was silenting crying inside. How was I going to hike out? I am not going to be able to walk for days, ran through my mind. This injury was not new to me. I knew it was not going to be pretty.
Thanks to a quick thinking person, I had my ankle wrapped up in a frozen bag of cheese. As I waited for my husband to show up, I was anointed with oil and prayed over by a bunch of teenagers. Hands were laid over my ankle, intercession for my health was made, tender hearts were talking to our Abba Father, for me…I don’t think that moment will ever leave my memories.
Being the person that I am that struggles to fully trust God, I was wavering with thoughts that I would really be ok the next morning. It was then that a very perceptive youth, who had the audacity to call me their elder just minutes before, challenged me. They said, “I can’t wait to see you tomorrow when you get up, because you are going to be healed”, I must have flashed a quick look the revealed my wavering faith, because they then said, “faith like a mustard seed Sarah, you just have to believe”.
Very early the next morning, I woke to a stiff throbbing ankle. I repented and told the Lord, “I want to believe Lord, so I am choosing to believe”. I went back to bed and waited for the camp to wake up. The true test was going to be when I placed pressure on my foot. I readied myself to have to quickly grab something due to the lack of being able to bare weight on my foot. I however was met with strength. The swelling and massive bruising that should have been there, was barely noticable. I walked out of my room in awe and found the youth that had challenged me the night before. We praised God and I thanked them for challenging me.
My “why” yet again: healing.
There were many other wonderful experiences, conversations that breathed life into me, and times that I found the surrealness of Orton Ranch take me over.
Ya’el intently listened to the bible lessons and shared her heart with the counselor that let her tag along with their group.
Ezzy didn’t miss a single vest treatment, yet again thanks to her brother who ran a half marathon to get her a generator.
Kyre found her identity outside of the shadow of her sister and faced her fear of water!
Cayden had a learning lesson that provided other strong faith believing adults speak into his life.
Veil got to be loved and snuggled by many different mommas that had loving arms and hearts to receive her endless need to be held and loved on, plus she was the only one to get a bath out of 85 people.
Richard was able to serve alongside a friend that he has needed in his life, one that has been a brother to him as they have walked growing in the Lord.
Kayaking the whole way out and going down the ramp was a new experience that I can’t wait to do again.
Watching a friend, who had told me their desire a year ago while standing on the front porch of the main house, enter the waters of baptism was really special. To see someone follow through, to grow more in their faith and to be a testimony to so many others over the year, it was inspiring. To know they met God deeply in a way that only Orton Ranch could do a year ago, it made me realize what this place does to souls.
It is a place of healing.
I am home, have had 2 hot showers, there is more laundry than any sane person would want to do, I am preparing my family to detox off the sodium, beef and simple carbs they ate non stop, I slept in my own pillow top bed and have avoided jumping in to quickly to normal life here.
I don’t want to forget what happened. I don’t want to fall to quickly into the rhythms that can water my faith down, I don’t want to fill up on things that leave me wanting to retreat, because I let them hold too much power over me.
Believe it or not, my heart is already longing to go back. Back to the place that God designed long ago to shine his light over and bring healing to many souls.
Orton Ranch, my “why”: healing