Revisiting a Legacy

Former Ranch Chaplain returns to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch

Revisiting a Legacy

Last summer, Rev. Victor Tegtmeier, along with his son and daughter, drove onto the Minot campus of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. Rev. Tegtmeier's wife had recently passed away, and he was taking their two children on a cross-country tour of the places they had lived and served.

Chaplain Rick Jones, Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, who gave the Tegtmeiers a tour, quickly found out that Rev. Tegtmeier was one of the first chaplains at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch. From 1962-1966, Rev. Tegtmeier had a joint call as the pastor at St. Peter Lutheran Church, in Sawyer, ND, and Chaplain at Dakota Boys Ranch.

"At that time, Dakota Boys Ranch was a place for boys who had gotten into trouble," Rev. Tegtmeier said. "They were placed there by social workers or judges. In some cases, it was a place where boys got a second or last chance."

"It was kind of like a big family. We were trying to provide boys with a place where they could experience something positive. The boys were expected to take on responsibilities, show respect, and learn about consequences and rewards for their behaviors."

While he only spent one day a week at the Ranch, Rev. Tegtmeier spent a lot of time listening, and reassuring the boys that they were loved by God.

Rev. Tegtmeier said many of the boys had little to no religious background and they were often reluctant to participate in chapel and Bible Studies. He spent a lot of time working one-on-one with the boys to show them the importance of God's Word.

"They were hearing things they'd never heard before," Rev. Tegtmeier said. "It was rewarding to talk to these boys who didn't even have a concept of who Jesus was. It was rewarding to be involved in trying to help young boys find a new way of life."

Rev. Tegtmeier remembers one young boy who had been living on the street, eating out of garbage cans, before he came to the Ranch. When he came to the Ranch, he got to see what a family could be like.

"As we got closer and closer to Christmas," Rev. Tegtmeier said, "Michael* started acting out in different ways. We couldn't figure out what was going on. But then he burned his Bible and that really got our attention! We found out he didn't want to go home for Christmas because he knew the situation wouldn't be good. He thought if he got into enough trouble, he'd get out of having to go home."

Michael didn't have to go home that Christmas, Rev. Tegtmeier said, not because he burned his Bible, but because his home situation was not conducive for a young boy.

Rev. Tegtmeier's time at the Ranch prepared him to work in social ministry. Early in his career he served as Chaplain at the Grafton State School, and at the end of his career as Chaplain at Bethesda Lutheran Home in Watertown, WI. Before leaving North Dakota, he also served on the North Dakota Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod board and Chaired the Synod's Social Ministry committee.

Wherever he lived and served, Rev. Tegtmeier stayed connected to the Ranch, first as a board member and then as a donor. He has been amazed at the changes he has seen over the years.

"The Ranch developed into a proactive therapeutic kind of program. They are now serving boys and girls who talk about how they've been helped. And in the process, they learned about their Savior, Jesus. There is no other program like this in the country."

After giving Rev. Tegtmeier and his children a tour, Chaplain Jones said, "I was thrilled to show Rev. Tegtmeier what his efforts and dedication helped to build. He seemed very pleased at how far we've come and how purposefully and effectively we have learned to always approach our work with mercy and compassion. It was a beautiful experience."

*Name changed to protect confidentiality.

This article was originally published in Ranch Voice: Winter 2021.

Read more stories like this and explore other issues of Ranch Voice here.

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