This month we are going to feature Big Oak Ranch. John Croyle, founder and executive director of Big Oak Ranch, together with his wife, Tee, believes the key to providing a loving, safe and Christian home for children needing a chance is simple. The familiar refrain is their motto and the mission of the Ranch:
A hundred years from now it will not matter what kind of house we lived in, the kind of car we drove or how much money we had in the bank, but the world may be different because you and I were important in the life of a child.
Big Oak Ranch has been the living and growing embodiment of this concept for 40 years, helping thousands of abused, neglected or abandoned children since 1974. The Ranch – through three branches: The Boys’ Ranch in Gadsden, Ala.; the Girls’ Ranch in Springville; and Westbrook Christian School, Inc., in Rainbow City – works to give these children a second chance and a normal life.
On Big Oak’s website, John says, “Our children are not bad kids. They come from bad circumstances. The commitment we make to the children placed in our care is love.” While the Ranch does indeed provide the necessities of food, clothing, shelter and education, what’s most important is that it gives these children hope. John had this to say:
We give them a chance at a new way of life, a life that is different from the cycle of pain they have known. We make a promise to every child that comes to the Ranch. I love you. I’ll never lie to you. I’ll stick with you until you’re grown. There are boundaries, don’t cross them. From that foundation, we raise every child to know God’s love.
The vision for this safe haven grew from John’s feeling that he was being called to minister to children. A star player on the 1973 University of Alabama National Championship football team, John had lots of offers to play in the NFL after college. But since age 19, he had felt drawn to working with youngsters in need. John felt he had been given a special gift in this area. After talking with his coach, the legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant, who encouraged him to follow his heart and calling, John turned down a life of professional football. Instead, he began to establish what would become the Big Oak Ranch. The name is drawn from scripture, Isaiah 61:3, “And they shall be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He may be glorified.”
As each child comes to the Ranch as a tiny acorn of potential, the good folks who become their family help to nurture them, excited to help them put down roots while they discover how high they can reach with a solid foundation. There are currently more than 100 children living on the two Ranches. Westbrook Christian School provides a quality Christian education to the children from the Big Oak Ranch, as well as children from the local community.
The Big Oak Ranch, a 501(c)3 organization, welcomes contributions to help support its mission. There are a number of ways you can help. Visit www.bigoak.org/ways-to-help to learn more. You can make a financial donation through the website. You can also pray for the Ranch, the children and all of the adults affiliated with the Ranch, and that’s as important as anything we can do.
Sources: Yellowhammer News, BigOak.org
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