Renewal Ranch – Dream becoming a reality

James and Laura Loy moved to Conway in 2007 and began working toward the goal God had set for them. In May, the ministry finally obtained land on which to build the ranch – 94 acres in Perry County, and James and Laura moved from their rental home to a ministry-owned home near Renewal Ranch’s front entrance. A sign at Highway 60 and Stony Point Road now points the way to the ranch.

This past year has been filled with activity – fundraising events, speaking engagements, the move, James quitting his job at Home Depot and construction of the first building.

“This has been the most trying … and the most rewarding year of my life,” James said, adding that God has been stretching him since he finished drug rehab in 2005.

“I’m overwhelmed by the very dark place that God has brought me from in a very short time.”

In May, ground was broken on the north side of the pond for the ranch’s first building. On July 7, a workday was held and more than 100 volunteers showed up to erect four walls and part of the building’s roof.

The 3,200-square-foot building will be completed this month. It has six bedrooms, two baths, two utility rooms, a large lounge area and a multipurpose room with a kitchen area. The multipurpose room will be used for Bible study and chapel services, and as a dining hall.

“We’ve had a combination of paid labor and volunteer labor,” James said. Mark Williams, a general contractor, volunteered to oversee construction, and people with a variety of construction skills have contributed time and equipment. Others with few if any construction skills have provided “sweat.”

A large riding mower and several weed trimmers have been donated to allow proper upkeep of the land, and as a result, the ministry was able to harvest and sell hay grown on the acreage. Sunflowers were grown last summer to provide dove food, and a hunt was held in early September at which 30 hunters paid $100 apiece for a dove hunt, skeet shoot and lunch.

James already has twice as many applications for rehab as the ranch has space, at least in the beginning. They have come from as far away as Memphis and Tulsa.

And his phone rings constantly – calls wanting help for themselves or a loved one calls offering help to the new ministry.     

“I’m so blessed to have these other people in our organization that have a passion for these people,” James said of the many who are praying for the ministry, providing financial help or volunteering their time.                                         

As soon as the first building is completed, a second bunkhouse – all bedrooms – will be started adjacent to the first one. The goal is to build two bunkhouses a year for the next five years. On the ridge south of the pond – which has a view of the pond, a lake and the Arkansas River – a large chapel and dining hall will be built. The men in the program will be expected to help with this construction as part of their rehab.

Eventually, the ranch will be able to serve 50 men at a time. Clients will remain at the ranch from 6-18 months. After two weeks to become acclimated to the program, clients will begin 3½ months of Bible study, which will be taught by local ministers. James, Larry Hogue and Dr. Larry Pillow began writing the Bible-based curriculum last summer. After the first 3 ½ months, clients will be sent into the community to work at jobs, do volunteer work and attend church so that when they finally leave the ranch, they will have a support system to help keep them sober.

“We are going to be a service community,” James said, adding that giving to others is the only way to break the cycle of self-focus that addiction causes.

Renewal Ranch board members are David Stobaugh, who has provided food for many fundraisers; Dr. Pillow; Kim Hogue, director of mission development for Goodwill Industries; Marsha Rawls; Vickie Critcher, who heads up fundraising; and the Rev Chris Allen, a volunteer chaplain at the Pine Bluff Diagnostic Unit.     

Eventually, the ranch will have a garden, taken care of by the clients, to provide fresh produce for the ranch, with surplus donated to Bethlehem House and other area food ministries. Plans are also to raise cattle for meat.

“We are going to be as self-sufficient as possible,’ James said.

God keeps expanding the dream.

“Our long-term vision is also to have a facility for women and adolescents,” James said. He would also like to partner with area institutions of higher learning to help “expand the men’s skill sets.”