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This is the continued series called “Confessions of a Co-founder”. Here I hope to provide some insights, struggles, and joys when starting up a Christian Non Profit and working at GOYR. In these short “confessions” you will gain a small glimpse into some of the lessons I have been learning personally. Perhaps you all can relate.  

My family has been slowing going through the book of Joshua at night before bed. There are a ton of great leadership examples in this study, but in my quiet time part of the story stood out to me. Around chapter 17 the tribes of Israel are beginning to take hold of their inheritance. Literally taking possession of land for their families and herds.  At one part, the people were feeling discontented with the land that God had provided for them so they complained to Joshua explaining their position. In verse 15, Joshua basically responds to them by saying, “…if you are so great, go clear out and develop what God has given to you” (Paraphrased by me). Don’t ask for “more”, just work with what you have! In other words, cultivate what God provided: clear out the junk and keep what is good: Be faithful in the little things.

This hit home for me. One of the most unpleasant truths found in God’s word is that God often times will use difficult situations to develop our character.  In fact, God is more interested and concerned with developing us internally rather than expanding us externally.  I can hear God clearly through these studies:

God: Hey Ben, I am going to put you in some uncomfortable places so that you learn to grow in faith, wisdom, and love.

Ben: But its SOOOO much work Lord! I think you should just give me a break! Maybe you could just provide everything I want upfront instead? How about a nice fat check so I don’t to worry about bills anymore? Or maybe some new status with a better paycheck?

God: Well if I do that, you won’t mature or grow! I want to grow you to be like Jesus! There are great plans ahead!

Ben: (refusing to listen)…. OOhh or … or … you could just give me a really great vacation!…..

It’s selfish of me I know. I often fight God on the very work he is trying to do in my own heart. The truth is that God would rather work in our heart and make us mature rather than bless the outward issues that seem to dominate our lives.  In my own prayer life, I find that I am often praying for external things like: a better job with more money and security, or for more time and resources to accomplish my own goals. On some level, I seem to forget that God does His best work through trials and not outside of them.

I can hear God’s message through it:

Ben: I don’t have enough (insert: “money, time, smarts, expertise”) to complete everything Lord!

God: I know that. I never put “everything” on your to-do list. But that which you do have, that which I have provided to you…. What are you doing to develop it through Me? What is your heart like even when there are confining boundaries?

Ben: Got it Lord. You want me to be content, and grow in integrity, in intimacy, and sacrifice.

We are well into our 2nd year of operations at Graceful Oaks Youth Ranch. We have our first family fun night under our belt for 2017 and more planned in the near future. We have twice as many kids in our leadership program as last year, and close to three times as many for the session program.  While we have a far way to go, we have made significant progress in networking with our local community in our attempt to serve families in the love of Christ.  What makes me pause is the importance and seriousness of this volunteer work. Many of the kids coming to our ranch have had to endure terrible sins. Things that should NOT have ever happened. Some of these kids are starved for some positive attention and we as volunteers must walk with integrity and humility in God’s grace to be effective in that mission.

For my small part in this ministry, it can still be uncomfortable.  The earthly demands of the ministry all still present. But God is right there working through all the people who pray for us, who support and volunteer, and come along side us to help encourage to reach others. It is with great joy that I am starting to recognize when God is doing a work through each person involved with GOYR.  Our collective devotion and sacrifice at GOYR isn’t about gaining SOMETHING, but instead gaining more of SOMEONE. That someone who will never leave us nor forsake us and who wants to live through us….

So in appreciation: Thank you all for being an important part of changing lives and pointing people to the healing relationship with Jesus Christ! If you feel led to join us we always need prayer, financial help, and strong mature Christians who wish to help in volunteer roles with kids at the ranch! See us at GOYR.ORG for our application process or donation form!

Sincerely, Ben Cartledge

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