Sweetwater Youth Ranch

Call us “Old Fashioned”..

As long as I can remember, I’ve had a soft spot for “Old Fashioned”. I love movies set back in the 1800’s, Westerns, History, Antiques, Amish communities…I’m not sure what it is that draws me but I suspect it’s the simplicity it portrays. A time where porches were used for more than just a decorative entrance to a house; where neighbors actually gathered and talked to each other; a time where communities came together for common goals.

While planning for and praying about this Ranch, I imagined a place with that old-fashioned feel to it; a place for the parents or guardians to unhook from the cares of life, visit with the host or just relax while the children make fond memories. I had no idea what the Lord had in store but I knew enough about Him to trust that whatever it was, it would bring joy to my soul. When we bought the property we saw such potential but–oh my, the work involved would be immense!   Clearing, cleaning, restoring, developing and building.  While assessing the situation we convinced ourselves it would be a great opportunity for the community to come together. Knowing it would be challenging we accepted the challenge and lit into it! It didn’t take long to realize our limits. It’s a sad day when you wake up and realize you’re not 20 anymore! We started to question if we had taken on more than we could handle. We had put the word out into the community but it seemed like feedback was minimal. We reasoned that like us, everyone was just too busy. While discouragement threatened us, we kept asking God to work everything out according to his will and give us the grace to accept it and strength to press on. Making a schedule was almost impossible and goals got hung out on the line more than once but Phillip just kept saying “it’s all in Gods timing”.  On February 22, 2014, the weather was exceptional for working outside but my day was already committed to cooking for a youth group event at our church so I wasn’t able to go out to the property to help.  Around 10:00 my phone rang and it was Phillip. At first, I thought something was wrong by the tone of his voice. He started off with “you’re not going believe this!” We had experienced some vandalism and theft already so I braced myself and said “what?” he said, “I pulled up to the gate and it was open”. Before I had a chance to reply, he said: “and there are men everywhere working–Henry brought men from Freedom Baptist church!”  Immediately my mind went to that place stored in my memory where images of the community coming together for an old-fashioned barn raising. This wasn’t the barn but the sentiment was the same and it was actually happening!

Fast forward to the spring… My son and I were out working on the property down around the creek and had taken a lunch break. I sat down on the creek bank and just melted. The sound of the water rippling, the sun on my face…Oh, sweet peace. I started reminiscing to my son that when he was little I would take him out to Mills River or Davidson River with his sisters to play in the water so I could completely relax. Water has that effect on me–my happy place.  He asked why I hadn’t done this in a long time and I could only reply with “I guess, like everyone else, I’m just too busy.” Those words hurt coming out, but as I looked back into the creek, it hit me– look what God gave us! A happy place.. right here! But, it’s not just for me, It’s for all those parents or guardians that will soon be coming here. Indeed; this brings joy to my soul!


I believe this is the reason we do not actively seek grants or government funds for the ranch. We’ve explored the process and prepared for it but never felt peace about it. We believe the ranch is supposed to be more of a community effort. Some come to help physically and some help financially, either way, the effort is grassroots and personal and maybe just a bit old-fashioned. 

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