Changing lives: Renewal Ranch celebrates third anniversary

by Sonja J. Keith

Renewal Ranch recently celebrated its third anniversary with a time of reflection on the lives that have been changed.

Renewal Ranch is located in Perry County and is a 12-month program for men suffering from addiction. Residents are required to live on campus during the first six months and are housed, fed and ministered to at no cost to them. “During this time residents will be given the opportunity to develop a personal love relationship with Jesus Christ,” states the Renewal Ranch website.

An anniversary service held at Family Life Bible Church in West Conway included emotional testimonials and video segments recapping the last three years.

Cardboard signs with messages from Renewal Ranch participants were displayed in the front of the church. Messages ranged from “Fully alive” and “Clean. Truth. Renewed” to “Addict. Hopeless. Lost” and “Healed. Found. Content.”

Sixty men have graduated from the program during the last three years. Twenty-three are currently at the ranch.

“I thank God for Renewal Ranch, for life and what He’s done for me at this place,” said graduate Israel Flores.

Graduate Barry Miles also shared his testimonial and thanked the volunteers and supporters of the ranch who have shown love while giving of their time and resources. “God put a calling on your heart,” he said. “Without you, we couldn’t exist.”

A poignant moment during the service was when the graduates of the program — donned in their Renewal Ranch shirts — stood along the steps at the front of the church sanctuary to sing the Ray Boltz song “Thank You.” Their words expressed their appreciation to all involved with the program: “Thank you for giving to the Lord. I’m a life that was changed.” Those attending responded with a standing ovation.

Pastor Mike Lefler was the keynote speaker and told those attending about a visit he had made to James and Laura Loy’s home.

“James talked about a dream God had placed on his heart,” which led to the creation of Renewal Ranch.

Lefler described the support involved in constructing the first bunkhouse at the ranch and what has continued. “God continues to perform miracles at the ranch,” he said. “There are things happening at Renewal Ranch that we cannot explain.”

In discussing the 60 lives that have been changed, Lefler said, “Over 70 percent are still living faithfully for Christ and doing great things.”

Renewal Ranch Chaplain Larry Pillow also shared his testimonial and his desire to start a residential rehabilitation program in the mid 1990s, which failed. The program idea remained dormant for about a decade until Renewal Ranch was born. He also recognized individuals involved in the beginning through the present. He said the board is committed to the core values of spirit of unity, integrity and a commitment to excellence. Eighteen board members representing 12 different churches have served.

A highlight of the event was the arrival of founder/executive director James Loy in a wheelchair. Loy was hospitalized for several weeks with blood clots and shortness of breath. “It’s a miracle I’m alive,” he said. “When I look back on what God has done, I’m amazed. It is an awesome God we serve.”

Loy had a special message for the men at the ranch: “You’re in my heart, and you’re in my prayers. I look forward to my complete healing and returning.

“God is at work at Renewal Ranch. I think we’ve just scratched the surface of what God wants to do.”