Echoes of Hope

This past Saturday, Bright Side had the privilege to hold a Round Up for a group of teens from Rock Hill’s Children’s Attention Home. Round Ups are something that we started last year to provide a group experience at the ranch for those who are unable to send their kids individually for our mentoring sessions or feel that bringing a group is a fun way to expose their kids and teens to Bright Side. These 12 teens who came out to the ranch have one or both parents incarcerated and have faced many challenges in their young years. Very few of them had ever been around a horse or fished before, so the whole morning was filled with new experiences for them. This group spent over 3 hours fishing in the pond (which includes learning to bait a hook), brushing horses, learning about the power of words, painting ponies, chomping through a pie eating contest, and hearing that while others may fail you in life, Jesus never will. It was a beautiful morning filled with laughter, smiles, and excitement – and I was thrilled to play a part and serve along with some amazing volunteers who loved on those kids.

The following Monday morning, we received this from the director of the Children’s Attention Home:

“Just wanted to connect with you all and let you know that our kids THOROUGHLY enjoyed the event on Saturday. It was the topic of discussion at Breakfast today and EVERYONE agreed that this was the best event EVER!!

Thanks a bunch for all you do to support the children.”

Yep, I was in tears. To see that Bright Side was able to provide a shining moment in their lives and point to the ultimate Hope – how beautiful.

As I mentioned briefly, we worked with the horses some and talked about how building trust in a relationship is a two-way street and how words build worlds. So, painted on the horses and wrote words that inspire, encourage, empower, and motivate. We were to wash the horses off after we were all done, however, there was so much commotion over the desire to catch one of the giant carp in the pond, the horses ended up being washed off after the kids departed and the ranch was quiet.

I looked out in the field to where Evan and Luna were out grazing with the kids’ words still emblazoned on their sides and saw the word HOPE shining like a beacon. After the exciting whirlwind of a Round Up and long after everything was picked up and put away, Hope remained. It lingered and echoed well past the boundaries of the fences of the ranch. It resonated in my heart and continued its song in the hearts of the kids who experienced love and joy and support.

On this same morning, I spoke with a mom whose daughter has been coming to the ranch for mentoring sessions. This young girl of 11 has dealt with such heartache, abandonment, and grief that she struggles with depression and self-harming. In asking her mother how things at home were coming along, she shared that her daughter loves the ranch and her time with the mentor and the horses. In fact, she’s more at peace than ever and hasn’t been self-harming since coming to Bright Side.

The beginnings of hope. Being pointed to the ultimate One who never fails, never abandons, never stops pursuing. And may that hope linger and echo in her heart too, long after the dust of the arena settles and the smell of horse and leather are washed out of her clothes. May she recall that she is loved, that there is joy, and there is Jesus who can walk with her through it all.

As I was washing the horses, it was tempting to leave the brightly lettered HOPE on Luna’s shoulder. But, I didn’t think she needed the reminder as much as we often do. So, no worries, the horses are paint-free and ready to be a canvas again for the next Round Up. They are such wonderful vessels for communicating so much about life, relationships with others, learning to see ourselves in a new light, and seeing God as one who wants to do life with us. They are our Agents of Hope in this dark world and help the ranch to keep the echo of Hope alive.

IMG_0328.JPG