The usual first agenda item on the way to the ranch is the stop at Dairy Queen. We sit and get to know each other a bit better, maybe reacquaint ourselves with each other. It doesn't take much and we are laughing and eating and enjoying huge ice cream cones in short order. I remember how much I love this. I love the opportunity to speak into the lives of young ladies from the perspective of a man who adores them and honors them, cares for them, will protect them.
This trip was the third annual Kids Outdoor Zone Pinks (girls only) Quail Hunt. Some of the girls have been here before; others are new to the program. The Austin Gun Club facility provides a great experience for our program. The lodging is a huge well appointed bunkhouse, a huge kitchen, a multi person bath, media room and some other comforts for sitting, talking, reading. The grounds have on-site tactical shooting, skeet, trap and pistol ranges. They also have an outstanding dog training facility with dogs for the quail, chucker and pheasant hunting on 1,000 acres that wraps around the property.
My daughter, Taylor, is a freshman in college, (Texas A&M) and she is a female chaperone who knows the girls and how to mentor them as a young woman. They love her, respect her and see her busting birds from the air and quick firing a pistol as good as any boy. Then she takes it to a still quiet level in the evening studying a Scripture passage that has been placed on her heart for the trip. Powerful.
Each one of the girls has a story, some good, some painful. Salem (Pickles) came to us after her father died in a car accident. He had just promised to take her hunting; she never got to go with him. This trip is an anniversary of sorts for her and me. We have grown to care for each other, and I have been blessed to speak into her life on lots of adventures since that first trip.
Destiny lost both of her parents and lives with her grandparents now. I know it is hard on all of them, but they persist. This was her second adventure with me; her first was a deer hunt over the holidays when she got her first deer. Actually, it was one of her first trips away from home, first time to shoot a shotgun, drive a four wheeler and, well, the list goes on. She has been empowered with the idea that she can actually do hard things, amazing things, and it has changed her.
Ashley is one of our newest leader prospects. She came to us last summer and embraced the opportunities and outdoor adventure with gusto. I love the joy this young lady carries. God brings along these kids at very specific times, and Ash was one of them about whom He was very particular. He loves her deeply. She has begun an amazing walk with God since we met. I have seen her confronted with choices and a life she questioned not long ago. Her loving Father offered her hope, direction and a sword with which to fight. She grabbed it.
Most of the things we did on this adventure were pretty basic as far as outdoor skills. They all drove the four wheeler, shot guns, rode horses. But it was the things that God did that absolutely astound me when we get out of His way. Truth be told, I didn't want to go. I felt I was busy, and it might be best with a small turnout to just cancel or reschedule. I went to my trusted team of men and asked their council; they were unanimous, go. So I prayed just that -- Lord, You must have a plan, so I will take the girls and go. And of course, He did.
Friday night I asked the girls, as I usually do with the kids on the first night, “Where are you in your walk with God? Have you been baptized? Have you asked Christ into your heart? Do you know what those things mean?” Saturday morning we talked more about what how He speaks to us and our heart. We returned to that topic on Saturday night. Destiny told us she wanted to be baptized and her grandparents wanted her baptized and thought maybe we could do it. They knew we did "that kinda stuff." Yea, we do. So we planned to do it sometime on Sunday.
In a quiet moment on Sunday little Leelah came up to me and asked if she, too, could be baptized. I am moved to the edge of tears just recalling the moment. Her heart was tender, and I could feel the presence of the Holy Spirit. Incredible. Of course, of course you can! I hugged her.
Now where do we do this? Lord, you know where … can you let me know? But there was nowhere on the ranch that would work. It wasn't there, then I thought of the river on the way home. Pretty, clean and easy to get to. When we got there the wind was strong and the water was freezing, but it was right. The girls were fearless and came right out into the water one at a time. In the pictures afterward I could see the joy of the moment on their face, even cold they were bold in their expression to the world of their commitment to a Heavenly Father.
He knew. His plan all along was for a small group of girls to go to quail camp and for these two to be baptized while we were together. Forgive me, Lord, for being weak in my convictions, for being short-sighted and shallow in my faith sometimes. Thank you for loving me anyway. Thank you for loving the girls. Make them fearless. Make them bold. Let them know, no matter what, that You are a loving Father and You will never leave them, never forsake them, never, never. Amen.