A WOW Experience!
I had the privilege of traveling to Kansas City. Mo to be a part of a program there called Inner City Slickers. It was started by Michael McMeel, the drummer from Three Dog Night, for troubled teens and teens that are homeless for many different reasons. Michael works with these kids and teaches them about trust and courage. He does this through horses.
I wasn’t really sure what this program was all about as Diane Parten, Greg Coffman, Shirley Coffman and I left out for our very long journey. All I really knew was this drummer from way back in my day who sang “Jeremiah was a Bullfrog” had started this program and his web page claimed that these kids changed drastically in just a few hours of arriving at his camp. So I just had to go and see for myself.
The church that hosted this one day camp was called, Open Range Fellowship. It was a cowboy church that stressed, “ it’s all about relationship not religion”. I like that. The church was a big horse arena with a section closed off for church and the other part was an open arena for horses.
On Saturday morning a program called Re-start, a homeless shelter for teens, drove up with a van of 15 kids. Only two of these kids had ever been to the ranch. The other 13 had no clue where they were. As they started climbing out of the van, we noticed that each kid had a look of terror on their face. Some looked angry and confused and all had a look of total distrust. I could hardly blame them. Life had not been very good to them so far and they had no clue who we were. Michael had them all meet in the middle of the arena and commended them on coming and asked if they would just trust him a little bit. Some acted like they might think about it but most were stand offish and looked at him like he was crazy.
The first thing he had them to do was called the “Fall of Faith.” This is where he would ask them one by one to climb to the top of a ladder and fall backwards into the arms of some strong cowboys. Now you have to remember these kids have been abandoned and neglected by the very people who they thought loved them and now you want them to trust total strangers to catch them. But something amazing started happening. The first one went then another and then another. Oh it wasn’t instantly it took time and it took encouraging them. There were a couple who would have nothing to do with it. One girl wouldn’t even touch the ladder and even asked “Why should I trust you, I don’t even know you.” So true a statement. But by the end of that day she did trust a little more than she did when she first arrived.
The kids had to clean stalls and feed the horses. I would have thought the way teenagers hate to do chores that this would have angered them but you know what? They loved it! They jumped right in and some of them picked up horse poop with their hands! Amazing! Then after much hard work they were now ready to ride these beautiful creatures they had just cared for.
Some of the kids jumped right on with excitement still others were terrified and didn’t even want to touch a horse. But slowly one by one they all rode. They even learned how to lead a horse. I stood to the side and watched with tears streaming down my cheeks.
At the end of this glorious day the kids were brought into the church part of the ranch to just sit and share. The adults who had worked with these kids all day began to share what they had learned and how certain kids in their group had touched their hearts. Then slowly the kids began to stand up and share. Remember, these were the same kids that when they first arrived just six hours ago had attitudes and really didn’t want to be there. Now they are standing with tears in their eyes saying, “ I don’t know why you guys did this for us today”or “ I don’t understand how you can love us when you didn’t even know us, but thanks.” “But thanks,” “But thanks” over and over we heard thanks. There was not a dry eye in the place. They stayed for the church service that night and five of them raised their hands for salvation. Now that my friend is what it is all about!
I told Michael McMeel that only God can do such a wonderful thing. Yes, God uses Michael and his love and compassion for these kids that others just often overlook and throw away, but without God’s touch on his life none of this would be possible.
I want you to know that God loves you too. He has a special plan and purpose for each and every one of us. Just because we have problems or short comings does not mean God throws us out. I want to ask each of you reading this article to stop today and say a prayer for Inner City Slickers. I want you to contact me if you live here in the area and have horses or love kids and want to help Michael hold a camp just like this one right here in Tennessee. He has the ranch we just need people to help! I am telling you I came back a changed person after being a part of this and you will too.
He is a fabulous young man and he has so much ahead of him. Placing him at Step, the shelter where you met him, was one of the hardest things we’ve ever done as parents. It means so much to me that you were there, reaching out to those kids. JT had a solid home to come back to and was placed for the immediate safety of his siblings during a meltdown. So many of the kids at that shelter don’t have homes to go back to and they don’t have parents who will stand by them.
What I learned through that experience is that sometimes it is someone OUTSIDE of the family circle, someone who is under no obligation to say nice things to a child, that makes the most impact in a child’s life. It really does take a village to raise a child.
Thank you for being a part of our village and thank you for being there for so many more.