All Things New Again
A multi-generational team from Richland Hills Baptist Church spent a week building a new outdoor Wilderness Chapel at Miracle Farm, an experience that was transformational for the mission team and will pay long-term benefits to the residential boy’s ranch ministry near Brenham.
“Some of our youth are from homes that are not far above where many of the boys on the ranch are,” said Richland Hills Senior Pastor James Hooper. “They were able to see a ministry that was helping kids who had something in common with them find a secure spiritual footing in life.”
In addition, he said, the adults and youth “became very close by working together and sweating together. Most of these kids had not been in an environment like this, in a rural area for a week without their parents. They learned a lot about what it takes to get something done as part of a team.”
“God certainly sent the right mix of 20 people to come build our Wilderness Chapel,” said Cheri Baker, a house parent and the Volunteer Coordinator at Miracle Farm. “The adults were so very patient with teaching the youth and the youth were very willing to do what they were asked to do.”
The result was a secluded, outdoor chapel nestled in a clearing among beautiful live oak trees not far from the Miracle Farm Retreat Center. It’s a place of solitude where the only sound is the occasional whinny of a horse in a nearby pasture.
The chapel will be used for devotionals for the boys in residence, by groups staying at the Retreat Center, for devotionals during Family Enrichment Weekends, and for anyone simply needing a good spot for quiet time.
The area where the chapel is located was cleared last spring by members of the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets, a project coordinated by A&M student Andrew Piland, Miracle Farm’s summer intern. From there, things came together according to God’s plan.
Pastor Hooper had pastored Lone Oak Baptist Church, not far from Miracle Farm, in the early 1990s. When Richland Hills began discussing a mission trip for adults and youth, Pastor Hooper’s mind drifted back to Miracle Farm, where he says he knew “there were boys in at-risk situations who were learning about God and lives lived by Christian faith and principles.”
A small team from Richland Hills, including Youth Pastor Jon McFarling and Billie Sue Fields, whose husband, Gerald, is the church’s Minister of Outreach, visited Miracle Farm in the spring. Together with Farm staff, they identified building the Wilderness Chapel as the perfect opportunity.
“It was amazing how this group immediately grasped the concept and got very excited about it,” said Baker. “We feel very blessed to have the opportunity to host Richland Hills and get to know each of the team members.”
“Our kids knew it would be a lot of work, but I was pleasantly surprised at the maturity of their work ethic,” said Pastor Hooper. “They were up at 5:30 every morning, had breakfast and some quiet time, then worked straight through to noon every day.
“As they saw what they accomplished, there was a sense of pride in what they were able to do. In our Bible studies in the evening, they were able to put together the themes of work and worship and how they complement each other.”
“One of the very interesting things about the group was the diversity,” said Baker. “One of the young people was a blind young man named Joseph. He was not able to participate in much of the work, but he was at the work site every day, playing his guitar and entertaining the workers.”
When the Wilderness Chapel was dedicated on the last day the mission team was at the Farm, the volunteers had built 10 sturdy benches with cement bases and a nice podium platform at the front. Being crafted in the Farm’s workshop is a tall cross that will stand at the front of the Chapel.
Of course, it wasn’t all work for the mission team. They held a cookout with Miracle Farm residents one evening and spent afternoons doing activities such as visiting Blue Bell Creameries in Brenham and the Museum of Baptist History in nearby Independence. The entire team was able to stay in the Farm’s fully self-contained Retreat Center, which can accommodate up to 78.
“One of the benefits to our boys in having mission teams like this on campus is that it provides positive interactions for them with other youth and also gives them an opportunity to see volunteers giving efforts on their behalf,” said Miracle Farm Executive Director Alex Hamilton.
“Our desire was to bring glory to God in the project we chose and be a vehicle for His glory,” said Hooper. “We are thrilled with what happened. It was a good fit for everyone.”
Mission teams are always welcome at Miracle Farm and plenty of projects are available. To find out more, email Cheri Baker at firstname.lastname@example.org.