Boys Ranch taught me to be a rebel.
I grew up on a ranch. Not just any ranch, but at that time I grew up with 300-400 brothers–it was literally a boys ranch. An environment full of opportunity and possibility. I moved to Boys Ranch with my family at the age of four and lived there for 14 years graduating in 1992. Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch is located 36 miles north of Amarillo, Texas.
I am thankful my parents moved our family to Boys Ranch because it taught me to be rebellious.
Let me explain….
I am in the process of teaching our students and encouraging them to do the same thing that I did–REBEL. Rebel against a teenage culture of low expectations. Rebelling against a culture that says it’s all about me. Rebelling against a culture that says to, “Just Do It”. Rebelling against a culture that says, “Obey your Thirst”.
How did that happen at Boys Ranch? Wasn’t it an atmosphere that if you rebelled you got the belt? Sure it was, but let me explain how I rebelled and how the Ranch taught me to Rebel.
I started working when I was 6 years old in the Dining Hall. I could barely carry a pitcher of water or tea. Some today would call it child abuse making a kid work, but at the age of 6, I had a responsibility to not only care for my needs, but to care for other peoples needs. It taught me to not be selfish.
I’ll be honest. There were times (actually a lot) that I hated it. Especially when Gabby(our boss) would keep us late because of a few goof offs and we would have to line up on the wall and just be silent. (What a great man Gabby is!) But, it taught me to do my work well and be focused.
I then graduated from table waiting to being on the Custodial Crew. I remember making $12 a month working every day of the week. I remember having to sweep most mornings around the pool and sweeping all of the bat droppings. For those of you who grew up at the Ranch, you will remember that it was an olympic style pool, so it was large and so here I was every morning, I swept around the pool–that got old quick.
But….it taught me to not give up and just because I didn’t enjoy it-it didn’t give me the excuse to quit. It taught me endurance and perseverance.
My next job was working at the processing plant with my dad. The processing plant was where we would pasteurize the milk and then package the milk into pint sized cartons. I’ve got to be honest, I got the shaft when it came to this job. Most jobs at the ranch, you could choose to work before school or after school, but because I worked with my dad, my dad made me work both before school and after school. He would drop me off at the maintenance building at 5:30 to get the milk truck and then he would go and pick all of the guys up on our crew. So I would get to work 30 minutes earlier than everyone else. Then after school at 4:00, I would have to go back to work at the processing plant to clean up with the crew. Talk about not fair!!
I loved this job because I learned to drive. I drove a big milk truck and after cleaning it out, there was a stretch of road by the hog barns that I would put the pedal to the metal and just fly. I also loved it because it taught me leadership. After I learned from the other guys(Thomas Reihl, Jason Granger and Trey McCallie) how to clean out the truck, they passed the keys on to me after they graduated. I also learned how to clean the machine and package the milk. Once I knew the inner workings of the machines, I helped lead the crew in what needed to happen.
My dad trusted me as I grew into my leadership.
Even though I had to get up at 5:30 a.m. every morning and then go back to work after school, there was a pride about my work that I was taught. I was taught to be excellent in my work. The feeling of working hard and seeing the results of that hard work was my reward. I was taught that life was not always fair (having to work both times). Plus, I got a good paycheck, especially during the summer!
My next job was working as a chaplain’s assistant at the Chapel under the leadership of Steve Singleterry and Al Jordan. It was here that I learned to walk with Christ and serve Him. After I got saved at 16 (on a choir trip to Oklahoma), Steve started giving me opportunities to lead Bible studies, lead music and preach. It was here, that God started to reveal my purpose: I WAS SAVED TO SERVE HIM.
Even though I was a child and “teenager” in each of these circumstances, there was an expectation to me more than just a typical teenager. Responsibility was given and based upon my response to that responsibility determined the direction I would take and how much more opportunity would be given(a life lesson that everyone needs to learn).
I learned rebellion at the Ranch. I became a man at the ranch. I moved from being just a child to a young adult with real responsibility that taught me that it wasn’t just about me, but there was a great purpose on this earth than just trying to get by.
Now, living at the Ranch, wasn’t all work. I had a lot of fun! Band, Basketball, intramural wrestling, track, softball, BMA Camp, Junior Staff Trips, Dances, Boys State, Hiking in Colorado, Ski Trips, Trips to New Mexico on our Summer Trips–there was definitely a balance of fun.
And I am not going to lie…there were difficult times that I encountered at the Ranch, but I see God’s hand in all of it of how he delivered me from a messy life.
But fun wasn’t really the end goal. The goal was for me to find myself and to find my purpose. The people that worked at the Ranch, of which I am forever grateful, challenged me and saw in me more than just a shy, blond haired geek named Mikey. They saw something in me that I couldn’t see myself.
To name a few: Chris and Brenda Weems, Tom and Lori Novak (Lori was my 3rd Grade Teacher), Melba Brown (my 1st grade teacher), Carroll and Wanda Powell, Mickey Spoon, Sonny Dickerson, Dennis and April Moore, Mr. Hickerson, Ms. Mikalunas, Bob Pyle, Ken Sawin, Buddy and Dianne Sparks, Benny and Wilma Allison, Steve and Dianne Singleterry, Al and Belinda Jordan, Garland and Shirley Rattan (my UIL Spelling Teacher), Lefty and Jolene Adams, Paul and Susan Jones, Bob and Jody Granger, Jack and Ruth McCallie, Steve and Mariella Crist.
Most of all–thank you to my parents, Dean and TeAta Lehew. They were my role models and my encouragers even through the difficult times. They were willing to be obedient by calling us as a whole family to come alongside, minister and encourage other young men and women!
These people saw in me more than what I could see. I am forever grateful. More than an atmosphere, God used these great people to help be be a Rebel. They saved me from an ordinary life and helped give me direction and purpose.
I write all of this as I prepare to teach on people in the Bible who rebelled against their culture: Mary, David, Daniel, Josiah, Paul, and Jesus. They didn’t allow the culture to tell them who they were. They allowed God, in all of his awesomeness, to save them from an ordinary life and used them to change the World.
That’s my prayer for our students–that they would change the world. They don’t have to live like every other teenager chasing after everything that comes there way. They don’t have to indulge in temporary pleasures. They don’t have to be angry. They don’t have to hate their parents. They don’t have to play video games all day to find like they are worth something.
They aren’t useless…they are full of WORTH and they don’t have to believe the lies of this world, but THEY CAN CHANGE THE WORLD!*For those that I grew up with that may be reading this and you didn’t have a great experience, I am praying for your healing. I have talked with many over the years who still have struggles. If there is any way that I can pray for you or you need to talk with someone just to get it off your chest, please know I am willing to listen. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I know in the eyes of some that being a “staff germ” wasn’t the same as living as Boys Rancher and I totally get that and I cannot even imagine the hurt that some may have gone through. With this post, I am only speaking of my circumstances and how God used it to shape me who I am today. I, too, did not have a choice of going to the Ranch and it sure was difficult to compete sometimes against 24 other boys for the attention of my parents, so to a degree it wasn’t all rosy for us staff kids as well. I say all of this to say, that for some that read this, it may invoke anger because your experience was not like this. I must say, I didn’t post any negative stuff that happened and I will not. I am just trying to celebrate and remember the good things that happened.