Planting the Seeds of Faith

Brittany Whiles as teenager

Miracle Moments

Brought to you by: Molly Maid of Birmingham, www.mollymaid.com/birmingham

“So is My word that goes out from My mouth: It will not return to Me empty but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:11

Raising children from difficult circumstances and equipping them for generational change is not an endeavor that often provides instant gratification. Perseverance is key. Faith is vital.

Brittany Whiles Davis with son Zaiden
Brittany Davis is seen here with her son Zaiden who recently gave his life to Christ.

Brittany joined the Big Oak Ranch family in 2006 and day in, day out her houseparents emptied themselves so that she would know the fullness of Christ. Every opportunity given to her, ministered to her in ways she didn’t even realize then. Every relationship formed would weave the tapestry of forever family. Brittany’s time with us was shorter than most, and as heavy as our hearts were to see her leave Big Oak, we remained connected. What we plant together, God will bring forth in due time. Brittany’s story testifies to that truth.

Brittany Whiles as teenager
Brittany Davis’ time at Big Oak was short, but the impact continues today.

“As a former resident of Big Oak Girls’ Ranch my stay was not a very long one, but the values and direction that were given to me are lifelong. I carry on in my children the same Christ-centered teaching that I received at the Ranch. In our home, we have never skirted around the truth nor jumped around the tough questions. We have always allowed our children to speak freely in love and question often to help lead them to the truth. Recently, my oldest child, 7-year-old Zaiden, imaginatively described an asteroid falling from the sky and ending the world. Zaiden has the tendency to take me up on my openness to explore challenging questions. I responded to him with, ‘Well, at least I know where I’m going, because Jesus is in my heart.’ This led to a quick change of tone and deeper conversation when Zaiden asked me, ‘How do I get Jesus in my heart?’ Sound the trumpets and jump for joy! This was such a meaningful moment I had waited for.

I called my sister Melissa, who is also a former resident of the Girls’ Ranch who remained there until she graduated college. Melissa came alongside me to lead Zaiden in the most important decision he will ever make – complete acceptance of the Gospel. That is breaking the cycle. That is a life changed. That is love. Thank you for planting seeds and pouring into children, trusting that God would bring forth fruit. You are making an eternal difference.”  – Brittany

To learn more about Big Oak Ranch, visit www.bigoak.org.

-Big Oak Ranch

Hank and Leslie Wells in kitchen

Miracle Moments

Brought to you by: Molly Maid of Birmingham, www.mollymaid.com/birmingham

“In all your ways submit to Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:6

I grew up in a rural part of Etowah County. My family was extremely poor, often going for extended amounts of time without running water or electricity. I lived with my mother, stepfather and several siblings, and emotional and physical abuse were always present in the home. My biological father, who was rarely present, altogether stopped visiting me when I was in the third grade. 

Hank Wells School Picture
Seen here is Hank’s school photo.

In March of 1993, I was thrown out of my house. I walked to a friend’s home where I was welcomed to stay during the snowstorm and then for the next several weeks. I attended church with them one Sunday which happened to be the same church where Joe and Sherry Fain attended, a couple preparing to be houseparents at Big Oak Ranch. The Fains saw the need I had for a home. They spoke with John Croyle and Big Oak Ranch social workers, and it wasn’t long before I was on the winding country road that led me to the entrance of the Boys’ Ranch. I was met by people who listened to me with genuine concern. Their actions, character and words told me that I mattered. At 17 years old, I entered the Perkins Home and was the Fains’ first child at Big Oak. The Ranch helped me get my first job at Jester Door and Trim. My boss, Wes Ingram, and his wife, Virginia, ended up becoming my Resource Family for the Ranch. Pop Fain and Wes prayed with and for me- they were the first men to ever show me what a relationship with Christ is supposed to look like. The first time I had ever felt the love of Christ in my life came from my houseparents and resource parents. They faithfully invested in my daily life, expecting nothing in return from me, yet waiting in full expectation for the Lord to work in my life in His timing. 

Hank and Leslie Wells in kitchen
Hank and Leslie Wells are passionate about sharing the Gospel and serving others. He credits his time at Big Oak for teaching him the importance of being a servant.

In high school, I met a girl named Leslie who worked at a local grocery store and soon started dating. After going our separate ways in early adulthood, the Lord brought us back together. The Lord has been sovereign over my every step. The Ranch gave me a foundation, while my houseparents and resource family invested in me daily. When I reconnected with Leslie, it all came full circle as I finally realized my desperate need for a personal relationship with Christ and received Him as Savior. We get to share the Gospel all across the world – from Uganda to Peru to local missions. My prayer is that God would use me- my story- to help others who have faced the same hardships. 

-Hank Wells

 

Leavy with wife Sara and son JC

Miracle Moments

Brought to you by: Molly Maid of Birmingham, www.mollymaid.com/birmingham 

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Isaiah 9:6

Leavy Riddlespur school photo
Leavy arrived at Big Oak Ranch when he was a child and continues to pour into other children at the Ranch today.

Before arriving at Big Oak, the circumstances that surrounded Leavy Riddlespur were grim. Nothing was constant as he had to see, hear and experience many things no child should ever have to. At the age of 10, Leavy lost his biological mother to cancer. After his mother passed, he was removed from the home of his father and placed at Big Oak Ranch.

Like many children who first come to Big Oak, the light in his eyes had been dimmed. But, when he came to Big Oak, Leavy was quickly able to receive the structure and love, the stability and constant assurance that he would be taken care of. Leavy still remembers his very first Christmas at Big Oak, the Christmas that opened his eyes to the hope that was set before him. “During my very first Christmas, it snowed on Christmas Day. My favorite Big Oak Christmas was that first one- full of the gifts of getting to know my new family and playing football in the snow,” Leavy says, adding, “From that day on, I knew there would always be something for me on Christmas. I knew I could always trust my houseparents and those taking care of me.” Christmas would never look the same for Leavy, now that his home was at the Ranch. Nor would his life, as he began to experience the Light of the World. Today, when you show Leavy his original placement photo, his eyes light up.  When you talk of his Ranch siblings and his role as older brother still, his eyes light up. When he comes home to the Ranch to spend weekend visits and holidays with his Ranch family, his eyes light up. As he pours into the children who currently call Big Oak home, his eyes light up. As he and his wife raise their son to know the true Hope of Christmas, his eyes light up. 

Leavy with wife Sara and son JC
Leavy Riddlespur is seen here with his wife Sara and son JC.

At Big Oak, the Light of the World brings light to the eyes of children who have been hurt. The dim past of each child is met with the Light of a God who redeems, who reworks and who restores all evil with good. This year, the children who call Big Oak home will experience Christmas just as Leavy once did. They will open and receive the gifts of family, of belonging, of unconditional and unreserved love. They will be forever molded and transformed through the days of joyfully celebrating the birth of Christ. Learn more about Big Oak Ranch at www.bigoak.org.

-Brodie Croyle

President & CEO of Big Oak Ranch

 

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Are you purpose-driven and interested in startups, small businesses, side hustles, and entrepreneurship? Don’t miss 3rd Tuesday meet-ups! We invite you to come network, share and collaborate with like-minded women entrepreneurs.

 

Miracle Moments Found a big oak a place to belong family around the time August 2022 BCF

Miracle Moments

Brought to you by: Molly Maid of Birmingham, www.mollymaid.com/birmingham

At Big Oak Ranch we say often, “A small thing repeated is not a small thing.” The reward for the daily, committed work in nurturing the hurting places in our children is frequently found in the glances, in the smiles, in the subtle comments that bring us to our knees.

Not too long ago, a 6-year-old girl joined our family. A little girl who, despite past hardship, is always smiling, loving and friendly. She’s a typical child who enjoys coloring and has a fascination with frogs. The day she arrived at Big Oak happened to be the day her new Ranch family had plans to leave for a beach trip. So, she joined right in and they talked, laughed and connected during that 5-hour drive. She then stepped onto the beach for the very first time.

Big Oak Ranch LogoMost of our kids don’t come to Big Oak, only to leave for a beach trip with their new family that day. But that circumstance was specially appointed by God. Since that trip, her houseparents have watched her grow and weave into her new family. Even the chores around the house she does with a sweet spirit, including making her bed every morning with no reminder. Well, except for one day – her first day of school.

After all of the children were off to school on the first day, her housemom walked past the little girl’s room and noticed her bed wasn’t made. Realizing this was unusual, her housemom lightheartedly asked the little girl about it when she got home. She said, “Were you just so excited about your first day that you forgot to make your bed?” The little girl replied, “Well, no ma’am. When I woke up, I thought I was late and didn’t want to miss breakfast.” She recalled how, before she came to Big Oak, she used to rely on breakfast at school but because she was always late to school, she often had to do without breakfast. Brought to her knees, the little girl’s housemom assured her that she would never go without breakfast and that she would always make it to school.

Each morning, this young girl enjoys breakfast and a devotion time with her family before school. She is learning to trust and growing in confidence. And, as a bonus on that first day of school, she found a special connection with her school teacher around a great love of frogs.

At Big Oak Ranch, one of the greatest gifts we give our children is a private, Christian education through Westbrook Christian School. They receive the opportunity to dream and strive toward the plans God has for them, and it changes generations. 

-Big Oak Ranch

www.bigoak.org

Lincoln Dorrough enjoying a snow day at Big Oak

Miracle Moments

Brought to you by: Molly Maid of Birmingham, www.mollymaid.com/birmingham

“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.’” Jeremiah 29:11

Growing up without a biological mother and father really hurt, but looking back, it was a season when God was working for my good.

Lincoln Dorrough enjoying a snow day at Big Oak
Lincoln Dorrough credits his time at Big Oak Ranch into making him the man he is today.

I was born into a difficult situation, with a biological mother struggling with drug and alcohol addiction and an absent biological father. But my grandparents were quick to adopt me, providing a loving Christian environment. In their home, I was loved and couldn’t have asked for a better life. But I was confused. I didn’t understand the reality of my situation and why it was different. Many honest and difficult conversations helped me accept the life I lived, and I chose to focus on the love I was receiving. As life went on, like many young boys, I was curious and adventurous, but for me, it was leading down the wrong path. During this season, my grandfather unexpectedly passed from an aneurysm and, one week later, my grandmother was diagnosed with colon cancer. It was then that my life took a turn.

Thinking of my future, my grandmother and a wonderful long-time friend of the Ranch, Larry Fuhrman, explored Big Oak Ranch. I arrived at Big Oak a fragile, angry, and uncertain 12-year-old boy, only to lose my grandmother to her disease six months later. Despite the seemingly infinite acreage of the Ranch and so many people around me, I felt alone. But that didn’t last long. Little did I know, receiving Rickey and Donna Duke as my houseparents would be one of my greatest blessings. From them, I learned the importance of remaining humble and loving God, always putting Him first. I learned that family is not always connected by blood, but often relationships from God made up of people who choose one another. Mom and Pop Duke, and the entire Big Oak staff, molded me into who I am today.

Lincoln Dorrough and his family
Lincoln Dorrough and his wife Silvia have two daughters, Aiyana (9) and Eva (3), and live in Pensacola, Fla. Dorrough says of his family, “I consider myself rich, not with money, but with family…something I had searched for throughout my life.”

I am Petty Officer First Class Christopher L. Dorrough, and I have served in the United States Navy for the past 15 years. I joined the Navy in 2006 and have traveled the world. Upon graduating boot camp and focused Navy training, I was stationed for four years in Whidbey Island in Washington, during which I deployed twice. My first deployment was to Misawa, Japan for six months and the second was to Camp Tallil in Iraq, close to the Euphrates River and the House of Abraham. From there, I transferred back to Misawa, Japan where I spent another four years and met my wonderful and loving wife Silvia.

As my journey continued, I transferred to Atsugi, Japan close to Tokyo, and was attached to the USS George Washington and the USS Ronald Reagan. I did four deployments in the 7th Fleet onboard those aircraft carriers. Since 2018, I have served as an instructor in Pensacola, Fla. teaching Aircrew Survival Equipment Technician School. My job requires incredible attention to detail as I inspect and repair life-saving equipment. This is a characteristic Mom and Pop Duke instilled in me, and now I use it to serve my country. To read more of Dorrough’s story, visit www.bigoak.org

 

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Miracle Moments

Brought to you by: Molly Maid of Birmingham, www.mollymaid.com/birmingham 

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Grey Darrah, one of the first boys to live at Big Oak Boys’ Ranch, is a certified professional photographer specializing in timeless portraiture. As an overall skilled craftsman, he also makes beautiful wooden vessels. Darrah said of his craft, “You can take a piece of wood and turn it into a bowl or a vase but it’s the ones that as you start digging deeper and deeper in the wood, you find these crevices and occlusions running through them – imperfections. But it’s what makes them so special and so particularly beautiful.”

Grey Darrah and his family
Grey Darrah is seen here with his family. Darrah is a Marine veteran and has passed on his love for his country to his children.

As a husband, father of three grown children and grandfather of four grandsons, he understands this illustration in a personal way. Darrah was 14 when he arrived at Big Oak Ranch, a Christian home for children needing a chance. Big Oak was just beginning and so was God’s rebuilding work in Darrah’s life.

At Big Oak, Darrah found family. He found safety and a place to belong. He found consistent examples, stability and loving discipline. He found a relationship with Jesus and lasting purpose. God took the imperfections of Darrah’s life and crafted something extraordinary.

Early days at Big Oak
Pictured above is a snapshot of the early days of Big Oak Ranch. The ranch opened in 1974 and has impacted the lives of more than 2,000 children.

Darrah has been married to his wife Kaysi for 37 years. As a Marine veteran, he passed on to his children a love for our country and for serving something greater than oneself. Of their three grown children, one son is a dentist, their daughter a speech therapist, and their second son, a graduate of the United States Naval Academy. But, more than that, their children didn’t know the same cycle of pain that Darrah did. They have also found a relationship with Jesus and are raising children of their own in Christian homes.

The art that Darrah makes today will be handed down from generation to generation. Much like the work that was done in his life at Big Oak Ranch. To hear more of Darrah’s story, click here.

Big Oak Ranch Logo

 

 

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Miracle Moments

Brought to you by: Molly Maid of Birmingham, www.mollymaid.com/birmingham

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born, I set you apart…” Jeremiah 1:5

Sav-a-Life Shelby’s Mission is to develop a culture of life where abortion is unnecessary and undesirable in Shelby County while offering the hope of the Gospel. Here are two miracle stories of lives saved.

1. When Almir found herself pregnant, she thought she had no other choice than abortion. After a visit to the abortion clinic, Almir was given a choice of procedures. “It was very cold, like when you go to the dentist and they tell you about what happens when they pull a tooth,” she remembers. Almir’s cousin had visited the Pregnancy Resource Center before, and already knew what services were provided. She urged Almir to come in for an ultrasound to see how far along she was. When she came into the center, one of Sav-a-Life Shelby’s peer counselors spent a long time with Almir, talking through all of her options and listening to Almir’s concerns. “She told me, ‘It’s going to be okay,’ and she told me that God loved me,” Almir recalled. After seeing the ultrasound of her son, Almir said she felt such a relief and peace, and she made the decision to choose life for her son. 

2. It was her third pregnancy, and with two other children to take care of, Rae remembers thinking, “I don’t need another baby.” She had an abortion appointment set for that morning, but because her ride was late, Rae missed the appointment. “I felt like I had no other choice…I really was thinking about having an abortion,” she said.
Rae began searching online for help and came across the Sav-a-Life Shelby’s center. She decided to come in to see how far along she was to determine whether or not she could be comfortable with having an abortion. Still undecided, Rae talked with a peer counselor about her concerns and agreed to have an ultrasound. Seeing her baby on the ultrasound screen, she admitted, “It made me want to keep the baby. It was a baby, you know, not just a thing in there,” she said. “They assured me that God would make a way. They offered services that would help me provide for my child” Today, Rae has a beautiful baby boy named Andrew. “Now, I see my son and I’m like, ‘What was I thinking?’ Not only did Sav-a-Life Shelby save my son’s life, I feel like in a way they also saved my life.”

Every day, the team at Sav-a-Life Shelby shines a light on the gift of life and shares the hope of the Gospel. To read more about the Pregnancy Resource Center, visit www.savalifeshelby.org. †

We need you to share your Miracle Moment! Email melissa@christianfamilypublications.com Subject Line: Miracle Moments or call 205-408-7150.

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