Four times in four separate autumns with four different children, we made a twelve-hour pilgrimage to tiny Spring Creek, Pennsylvania – two hours from Niagara Falls, one hour from Lake Erie, and fifteen minutes from the New York border. The first trip occurred ten years ago, the last one two years ago. Little did we know the important role Miracle Mountain Ranch would play in the lives of our children. Upon this tenth anniversary of our beginning journey with MMR, our children and we want to give a shout out to this place that we sometimes call a “holy place.” We will begin with words from Hannah, posting all four children’s words as well as pictures over the next week or two.
“First of all, my apprenticeship year was right before the smart phone age- so all my pictures are what I stole from Facebook. My apologies for the quality. My siblings will have far superior pictures. Second, most of these pictures are too far away, but if you do notice that my hair is a different color in every picture, I just want to say, I’ve been a brunette for 6 years now and I’m thankful for all the friends and hairstylists who helped me get to where I am today. Ok, on to the more important points.
I, Hannah, recognize that the foundation my parents gave me in our home growing up played a critical part in setting the groundwork for how God would work in my life 10 years ago when I was an apprentice at Miracle Mountain Ranch – my home away from home. However, after my year as an apprentice I returned home a different person. I developed a zeal for excellence and for being a difference maker for Christ. I became unafraid of being set apart for my faith and not blending into the crowd even when I lost long term friendships because of my commitment to the Lord. If my Christian beliefs and my morals forced me to think differently from the cultural mores, I would be ok with this. The ranch staff inspired me to really think through ideas/issues even if my peers think them trivial, including what I wear, where I go, whether or not I work hard when no one is watching, etc. In other words, I became a deeper thinker about God, family, this world, and my place in it. I came to believe my behavior and my decisions said something about me and my relationship with the Lord. Most importantly, I learned to trust God, to apply His Word to my life, and to extend grace to myself and to others. The healthy relationships I have with my family, friends, children, and spouse are all because of the discipleship I received as an apprentice. Lastly, the staff helped me to learn about my strengths and my weaknesses and how God uses both in His kingdom.
Last fall, the youngest and last Jackson to attend Miracle Mountain Ranch as an apprentice graduated. I was unable to attend Carla’s graduation because of my second child’s due date. Adalynn was born on August 23rd, the 9 year anniversary of my graduation from MMR. Such a momentous date in my life. Over the last 10 years, each fall I can’t help but reflect on my year as an apprentice and this year, I’ve been pondering my place in my millennial generation as well. When I look around at some of my peers out there, I realize so many are motivated by the approval of man whether as parents, in their personal politics, in their relationship with the Lord, or where they live and work, etc. I struggled with this as well until my freshman year of college. I distinctly remember standing outside my college dorm, approximately two months after graduating from MMR, talking on the phone with my sweet friend and fellow apprentice, Mallory. She reminded me of some of the principles we learned as apprentices regarding the favor of man vs God. I broke those chains that afternoon and never looked back. Thank you, MMR, for helping me to cement in my heart at a young age that I don’t have to compete with anyone nor seek man’s approval because I am a daughter of the King and my worth comes from what Christ did on the cross for me. I don’t like the term “safe space” these days, but I’ll lean dangerously close to it and use the term “safe place”. MMR, thank you for providing me with a safe place to ask questions about faith, to grow in my relationship with the Lord, and to develop long-lasting relationships with solid believers. Thank you, MMR staff and my fellow ’07-’08 apprentices, for playing such a pivotal role in my Christian walk. I love you all and cannot express how thankful I am for each of you.”