Chapel Services are at 4:30 p.m. on Thursdays on all the campuses of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch.
We do not require children or staff to attend. But, many do.
Last week, I was on campus in Minot for Chapel. Minot is our largest campus, our seminal campus. Chaplain Rick Jones and Deaconess Kelly Bristow do a beautiful job of bringing His word to the kids in a way that relates to them. Yesterday the message was from Romans 13, where Paul talks about how to think about “authorities.” Chaplain Rick was able to make sense of God’s delegation to “authorities” in his name, while acknowledging that many in authority had been the very people who had victimized these children. He explained how the authority was from God, but how the person in that position may be in the clutches of sin.
Honestly, I am not doing a great job of paraphrasing him, but the children were given the information to separate the concept of “authority” from the misuse of that authority. Anyway, that was wonderful, but not the most striking part of Chapel. I always anticipate Chaplain Rick will do well in His name. I always learn something.
What did strike me was the group’s reaction to the young boy who read Paul’s message. You see, every week, Chaplain Rick and Deaconess Kelly ask children to volunteer to help with the Service. Some children help Kelly with the music. One child is tasked with lighting (and putting out) the candles. Each of the two scripture readings are read by a different child.
The second reader, the one for Paul’s writing, was a boy about 11. When Chaplain Rick asked for volunteers he was quick to raise his hand. He walked quickly and confidently up to the microphone. Chaplain Rick stood off to the side, as he always does, ready to help if necessary.
As soon as the boy started to speak, it was obvious the reading was beyond his ability. He simply can’t read well, yet. His school time has been disrupted so many times by the goings-on in his family, and then the changing of schools multiple times. Chaplain Rick quickly stepped up and coached him on each word as he spoke them into the mic. It was a long, awkward, tedious process. It was hard to follow the reading. I know in my home church there would have been shuffling as people shifted uncomfortably. Probably even some sighs if Scripture was presented so ponderously. The reader would probably be encouraged to find other ways to contribute.
But not in that Ranch Chapel. I sat and listened and watched. The room, filled with behaviorally, psychiatrically, trauma-affected kids, was perfectly still. Even the jittery kids sat quietly. Everyone waited. When he was done, as is our custom, everyone clapped.
I don’t know what was going on in each child’s mind as they sat quietly. I do know most of them have felt the sting of being shamed in front of others. I know most of them have been rejected or bullied or abused.
I know in that moment, I felt God’s mercy and grace come through those children in a way I could almost reach out and touch.
Please pray for our staff and kids.
In His love,
Joy Ryan, President/CEO
Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch
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