We had guests this past weekend at the Ranch, the mom and dad of an 11-year old boy with disabilities. They are in the early stages of building a “place like Down Home Ranch” for their son and others like him.
Sound familiar? Does to us! We are contacted all the time (two to three times a week, in fact) by parents dedicated—sometimes desperate—to locking in a good life for their son or daughter as they age.
Jim and Laura’s story is similar yet different from ours. Their boy does not have Downs. Instead he presents a puzzling set of neurological mysteries that don’t settle him easily into any particular category.
Not everything about Jimmy is a mystery, though. His love for the family farm is deep and obvious. Just as obvious is Jim and Laura’s determination to see that Blue Ridge Community Farm gets built and fulfills the dreams promises they hold for it.
So impressed were we by how far this couple has come that we did something we’ve never done before—devoted an entire weekend to spend with them. We needed that and more. I commented to Laura Sunday evening that they must feel like Alsatian geese—you know, the ones they funnel-feed.
So much information, so little time! But of course the mentoring will continue. So easy these days in our seemingly virtual lives!
Most often when someone says to me, “I want to do what you’ve done with Down Home Ranch,” I reply only half-facetiously, “No. Trust me. You don’t.”
I’m only half kidding when I say I don’t really know how Down Home Ranch happened to come into being. Jerry and I regularly wake up, walk outside, and look out on the Village, where the Ranchers are stirring and getting ready for their day, and we look at each other in amazement.
Usually Jerry will say puckishly, “Whose idea was this anyway?”
What a journey it’s been. If we’d had half an idea of how hard it would be we would never have been brave enough to step out in faith and do it. But God graciously led us on day by day. Over the past 20 years so many amazing people have come into our lives, offering the best of what they have and who they are.
Parents, campers, counselors, staff and board members—what a continuous inspiration they have been! And oh, how we have needed that inspiration. It’s been a long, hard, exhilarating, sometimes heartbreaking, journey.
This weekend we saw the Jerry and Judy of 1990 in Jim and Laura—standing on the precipice of a grand adventure—a vision quest to slay the dragons that threaten to devour the ones we love.
And we just know that Blue Ridge Community Farm will someday be a reality, that Jimmy and his friends will care for the animals, gather the eggs, and will know that life is good.
Photo: Laura meets Blossom, first resident of Down Home Ranch