Little Hands, Big Hearts
By Amy Naegeli
Every so often, the ranch has the opportunity to provide school groups with tailor fit field trips to enhance a unique time of learning. On this particular crisp April day, we had the privilege of spending time with the Vern Patrick Elementary School Life Skills class. A bright new school bus maneuvered up the steep, narrow driveway. We as the staff assembled quickly, standing at attention. It felt as though we were waiting for dignitaries to file off the bus. Each of us held an unspoken but noticeable esteem for this small group of children. “So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And anyone who welcomes this little child on my behalf is welcoming me.” Matthew 18:4-5 (NLT)
There was something so undeniably dear about this group and oh how they must touch the Lord’s heart. All were dressed like cowboys and cowgirls, with their plastic cowboy hats and colorful bandanas. There was excited chatter combined with a few anxious faces as the children turned their attention to the adults.
It was intriguing to see how each of us was paired up with a specific child. We didn’t know these children, nor their specific needs and challenges ahead of time, yet God orchestrated each pairing to His perfect design. I couldn’t help but be overwhelmed with emotion. The child I was matched up with, James, chose to instantly trust me with no foreknowledge or guarantee needed. He just believed that I was going to keep him safe and so was our 1200-lb Tennessee Walker, Jed. This young man’s sweet nature was exceedingly charming. It was no wonder that even Jed couldn’t help but do everything that was asked of him. As we prepared Jed with grooming and tack, James encouraged him the whole time. “Come on Jenna. That’s good Jenna. You can do it Jenna”. Many times I shared with my young friend that the gentle giant next to him was indeed a boy, named Jed. There was a special connection with the name Jenna that seemed to resonate and stick with James. So Jed and I accepted his new nickname with joy and soldiered on.
We spent time in the arena with the horses and kids playing games with pool noodles, caution cones, and diving rings. Plentiful smiles mixed with bursts of laughter as enthusiastic voices filled the air. Our faithful horses seemed to know just how necessary their steadiness was on this day and were all wonderfully responsive companions for our new friends. Each of us engaged our session kids in carefree play while gently instructing them in very basic riding skills. After the riding time, we ushered the kids up to the area behind the greenhouse. Once there, Georgia taught the kids all about the process of planting seeds and the importance of the common earthworm. She displayed the concept of order through planting in rows and explained what elements are necessary for plant growth. The kids were eager to participate in digging for worms, as well as planting seeds that would soon produce tender lettuce leaves.
Our time with this group of children and adults was intentionally planned so that we could facilitate much in a limited time frame. Throughout the event specific activities had to be modified to meet the needs for a handful of the children involved. The leaders made these adjustments with grace, understanding and kindness. Their actions poignantly reflected the tenderness of God’s Heart toward us mirroring His consistent patience and forgiveness. Just as God never gives up on us, the leaders continued to work with each child in spite of their fears and self-stated limitations.
The Almighty King is the One that makes us brave. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” 2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV).