The beautiful and well-known 500-acre Mo-Ranch camp and conference center in Hunt had a problem. Children from the Rio Grande Valley have not been attending its camps in any recognizable numbers. Why?
Anglo pastors in the Rio Grande valley told the Rev. Dick Powell — Mo-Ranch president — that the reason for their not coming was the many 12-mile checkpoints along U.S. highways near the border, and that parents were worried about documentation issues, and if they sent their kids to Mo-Ranch camps, they might not be able to return home.
“Then we’ll take our camp to them,” Powell said.
After overcoming many issues and problems, Blanca Barrera of the Mo-Ranch staff, who is a native of Piedras Negras, Mexico, went down to the valley to meet with parents from small Hispanic churches there. Eventually, with the help of First Presbyterian Churches of Weslaco and Mission, logistics for a camp there were worked out.
The first year, 36 children stayed at the camp. The number jumped to 62 in the second year. Last year, organizers had space for 70, but 93 children wanted to attend for the week — and Mo-Ranch made the space for them so that no child was turned away.
This year, to keep up with the growing demand, organizers have been asked to do two one-week camps
According to Powell, taking camp to the children in the Rio Grande Valley has turned Mo-Ranch around. What both the Anglo and Hispanic families want for their children — to grow in Christian living, collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking — has become Mo-Ranch’s 5 Cs for camping and is now being implemented in all of Mo-Ranch’s summer camping programs.
This emphasis is deeply impacting children’s lives. As a result, they’re literally outgrowing their campus space.
Taking 30 counselors with up to four vans packed with equipment and driving five hours to set up camp in a place no one was familiar with initially seemed impossible, Powell said. But he knew it was a way for Mo-Ranch personnel to think differently about what they were doing.
Across the board now, Mo-Ranch support staff, nurses, cooks and counselors tell Powell that taking camp on the road is the best week of ministry they do.
Mo-Ranch spends about $40,000 for its week-long camp in the valley. On average, it spends $25 on each camper and counselor, per day, on lodging alone. Despite the cost, the camp has been underwritten for each year through the generosity of Mission Presbytery, churches, foundations and individual donors.
This is the story of a Mo-Ranch miracle!
Thanks be to God!
David Tritenbach is a retired Presbyterian minister.