Episode #15 An Adventure in God’s Goodness at Rockside Ranch. Jen Thompson

Quick Links
From Today's Episode

Jen Thompson shares the mind-blowing ways God has displayed His goodness in the adventure of establishing Rockside Ranch, a place of restoration for young men in crisis. She and her husband have seen God do the impossible: from suddenly owning a 100-acre Ranch in their early 20’s to learning deep truths out of septic tanks and compost piles to witnessing the miraculous transformation of young men who have discovered the freedom and joy of walking out their true identities in Christ.

Today's Verses
  • Ephesians 3:20
  • Psalm 34:8
  • Habakkuk 3:17
  • 2 Corinthians 4:16-18


Additional Resources

An Adventure in God’s Goodness at Rockside Ranch. JenThompson

[00:00:00] Welcome to the Unshakable Hope Podcast, where real life intersects redeeming love. I’m Kelly Hall, and this is where we wrestle through faith questions, such as, How do I trust God’s heart when His ways and delays are breaking mine? How can I believe God is good when life doesn’t seem good? My prayer is that God would renew our hope in these conversations, and that each of us would experience the very real power of His presence and love.

Kelly: I am calling this episode “an adventure in God’s goodness,” because by the time we’re done, I believe, I’m fully convinced your heart is going to be filled up with a fresh sense of God’s faithfulness and love and how available that faithfulness is to you right here right now. So you’re about to meet Jen Thompson, who, along with her husband, founded Rockside Ranch, which is a place that helps young men in crisis walk into their God given identities. [00:01:00] So Jen, welcome. We’re so glad you’re here. Can you start by telling us a little about yourself?

Jen: Thank you so much, Kelly. I’m so glad to be here with you today. Yes, I’m Jen Thompson, and my husband and I and our family live in Etna, California, which is a little tiny town at the top of California. It’s like the secret part of California, and we have three kids, and they are 3, 6, and 8 and I homeschool them. So that’s kind of my big, my big adventure currently, my little one says she’s in kindergarten.

She’s three. So, you know, we have lots of very big kindergarten work going on. I like to think that my hobby. Well, my hobby is my children currently, but, cooking for a crowd. That’s kind of my, that’s, that’s my really fun thing. So where we live, we live at Rockside Ranch and there’s a whole bunch of people that live here.

I’ll tell you a little bit more about it all, but I often find myself [00:02:00] cooking for 30 or 40 people. That’s kind of like a normal, community dinner. We have a big dinner. On Tuesday nights or a Friday night, it’s just always like 30 people. It’s just a small group this week. It’s just 30.

Kelly: Well, I love that for you that’s considered an adventure for me that would be a nightmare.

Jen: It would have been for me long ago, but I feel like God has really, challenged me to say yes to that. So,

Kelly: Well, so now we want to hear about Rockside Ranch and how it works, but I just want to clarify this is a full up working ranch with cows and pigs and horses. Is that right?

Jen: Yes. So we have all kinds of animals here. We don’t have cows, but we have goats and sheep and chickens. Chickens are kind of our main deal. So we have a large egg laying flock. And then we also do meat chickens every year. We raise turkeys and, in the wintertime, we board some horses for a camp that’s down the road. But yes, it’s a full scale, farming [00:03:00] operation where we raise and package and butcher and sell meat and eggs, directly to customers.

Kelly: So how does it work? What is the mission of this camp and what do y’all do?

Jen: Yes. So Rockside Ranch is a life restoration program for young men in crisis. So our guys come from so many different backgrounds. We define crisis as just not being able to hold a job. And so that can look a lot of different ways, whether it’s mental health or addiction or failure to launch.

Our guys have a lot of different stories, but the thread that really ties them together is that they want to come here. So, Rockside Ranch is not a court order place. It’s not somewhere that someone can force you to go. Our students have to make a decision that they want to come and then we hold them accountable to goals that we help them set.

So we always say that we’re not prison guards were coaches. And so sometimes we require, we require hard things. We want [00:04:00] them to challenge themselves, but we are not here to force something on them. We only want guys to come here who, who really want something different, who want to turn their life around.

And it’s really cool what happens when somebody really wants life restoration. So we’re a Christian program. And a huge, really important piece of what we do here is Bible study and also just living in community together. So the guys don’t have to be believers to come, but we just say they can’t be hostile to it, and when they come, I think sometimes they’re a little surprised, like, you’re not going to force me to be a Christian and we’re like, no, we’re just going to present this feast of God’s goodness and truth.

And so many of them, just really come to know the Lord in their time. It’s very special.

Kelly: It reminds me of Psalm 34:8, taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, and I remember one of the videos I watched. One of the things, he said is “I’ve heard a lot about Christianity, but I’ve [00:05:00] never experienced Christ until I came here.” That’s such a powerful recommendation and explanation of what your camp does.

Jen: Oh, thank you. It’s so special, I think, just what happens in this kind of environment. So our students are here for eight months, so we get to know them pretty well and they’re working outside. So they work on the farm, but that’s not all they do.

They also do class. They do life skills and I teach nutrition and we do all kinds of activities. So on the weekends, they’re out. They’re out in nature, experiencing creation. They’re hiking and backpacking and fishing and horseback riding. And it’s a very holistic kind of space and the staff, we all just really love the students.

So, like I said, we live here, Craig and I, and our three kids. And so the guys sometimes come here and they’re like, I thought that I was coming to a rehab program, but there’s kids riding their bikes outside the window, like, I don’t [00:06:00] understand. And so it’s really fun for them, I think just to experience this wholesome family place where they get to come and we just all really love being together, the staff, and we love being with the guys.

And so it really makes for something very sweet, that we just really get to do life together and God just works some really, really cool miracles in the midst of that.

Kelly: Wow. It just sounds like a beautiful, absolutely beautiful environment, but I’m curious, Jen, you’re there with all these men and your kids. And I’m just wondering, is this what you dreamed of doing when you were a little girl playing with dolls?

Jen: Oh my goodness. I was thinking about this question and I was kind of laughing to myself. I grew up in Los Angeles in the suburbs and. My life was nothing like what my life is like now and, but when I was six, my grandma moved to Montana, my grandparents [00:07:00] retired up there.

And so we went on a trip to a dude ranch and they wanted to introduce us to this wonderful place that they lived. And ever since then, my whole growing up years, I feel like I, just prayed like, oh, God, wouldn’t it be so cool if I could live in the country. If I could have a ranch where people could come and experience God in nature, but it was almost like I was playing this movie in my mind of something that could never really happen.

Because I really had no idea what it would take or what it meant to live in the country. I mean, I grew up like three blocks from Target. That is just hard to picture right what it’s like to really live rurally and raise food and everything that comes with that. And so when, I met my now husband in college and, we were really good friends and we found ourselves talking one day about these dreams that I had and that he had totally separate of [00:08:00] each other.

We had both sort of conceived of the same idea of living in the country. And for him, it was a little more realistic because he he has a farming family and they have a rice farm in Chico. And so it had a little more roots for him. And for me, it was like, Oh, rolling pastures and horses and very romantic.

But we started talking one day when we were just friends, and we realized that God had really given us the very same dream. And once we realized that, it was all we could talk about, but we still just thought, Oh, someday, or, you know, this isn’t something that could happen right now. But actually within a year of us having that conversation, uh, of realizing that we both thought this would be awesome.

We got married and even then we thought, I mean, I think our, really our vision for our life together was that we would just be all out for the Lord. We were like, let’s move to a hut in Africa. Let’s just go, and. wouldn’t you know, the way God would have it that [00:09:00] three months after we got married, we fell into this conversation with this landowner and we told him this dream that maybe someday we want to do someplace who knows where, and the landowner called us back and said, you have to do that here.

Sorry, I guess I skipped this part. We had moved up here to Etna to work at this little camp. And so our stuff was up here and we don’t have family here. We didn’t have jobs here. And the landowner said, we want you to do this here. And so we just sought the Lord and we were like, God, I think you’re really opening the door for this to happen.

So, the landowner just said, we’ll do whatever, we’ll get really creative. So they got really creative in how they allowed us to purchase the land. They leased it to us for a little while. They dropped the price and so we wound up on a hundred acres and we were just kind of astounded. Like God just flung wide the doors like, okay, here you go guys here.

Let’s let’s do it. And I, I like to think we were [00:10:00] 23 and 25 and had been married for six months, the day that we moved in here. We were young enough that we thought, How hard could this be? Right, you know, we were kind of just still…in that sweet stage of life where anything’s possible.

“Oh, we’ve dreamed of this. It’s going to be great.”

Kelly: I’m curious. You mentioned the dream of living like that, but did y’all have a dream of it being a ranch of rehab for people?

Jen: Yes. So that was always really what drove the dream was that, that there would be meaningful work to do that people would be able to come here, that they would work outside.

I think that Craig and I just have both in our lives experienced such healing and flourishing in times when we have been outside working and under the stars. And so that was always a piece of it for Craig. It was always a place for men, is what he dreamed that it was a place where men could come and work.[00:11:00]

I dreamed that it was a place for women. And so when it started to come together, I was really a little discouraged. I was like, God, you’ve been setting this before me my entire life, this dream that it would be women and children. And God spoke to me so clearly one day, if you want to serve women, raise up godly men, and I just never looked back. It was such a clear direction.

It’s been amazing to see how God has, just really shown me in that, that he really had a place for me here that I couldn’t have imagined back then. I had a certain idea of what it would look like, right?

To do this kind of ministry and having it be for young men has actually given me the sweetest place I could possibly imagine here, like getting to be a mom to them and a mom to my kids at the same time. Where we really get to build a family here and the role that I get to play just feels so ordained to me where God just, he has seen every part [00:12:00] of me and just knew what I really would be so joyful in doing. And even though at the beginning, I was just like. Not prepared.

Kelly: That is a beautiful description of how God unfolds the plans for our lives in ways that minister to exactly the way he created us to be. Well, I love how God’s timeline played out in your whole camp story and you know how God will often, he gives us a big vision like he did for you guys.

And then he may give us a starting point, but then he leaves out all the thousands of steps in between. And so you’re kind of wandering around saying, I have no idea how this is going to play out. And I love that God chose when you guys would open your door and who your first clients would be. So can you talk about that?

Jen: Yes. So we moved in here and Craig had experience rice farming, [00:13:00] but we didn’t have any experience with livestock. And so we just kind of started, he got a job at a cattle ranch and I started working at a local group home and we were just like, okay, God, we’ll just kind of keep taking one step at a time and see what happens.

But I think even after we had purchased this land, we were just like, what do we do? We don’t even own a shovel really. And when, like when we got married, we didn’t even ask for anything. Cause we thought we were going to travel and go overseas so we didn’t really have very many things. We just kind of were like, okay, God, we’ll just take one step at a time.

We were working these jobs and just really praying, God, how do you start farming livestock? And how do you invite guys when you’re, we’re just really young and we don’t know very much. And so one day, this young man ran out of gas in our area. And our pastor called us and said, Hey, [00:14:00] can you put this guy to work? He needs some gas money.

And so we were like, well, sure. So he came over, this young man came with some friends and, we put them to work for a few days. And one day we were, ,we took them to lunch, at a local burger place. And one of the guys said, he’s like, Hey, I heard that you guys are going to start a men’s program at this place where we’ve been working.

And Craig and I were like, Oh, someday, someday we’ll do that. And he’s like, I want to be your first student. And we just kind of were like, we don’t have a program. And he’s like, no, I’m going to be your first student. I’m going to come. I’m going to come. So he said, I need to go home. He’s from Pennsylvania.

I need to go home for a couple of weeks and get my stuff and I’m coming back. I want to be a student in your program. And we just. Said, okay.

There’s another little house when we bought the property and we had a renter in there and in those 2 weeks. So we just kind of were like, okay, God, if this is what you have, we’ll just trust you that you’re going to [00:15:00] arrange the details.

So our renter called us out of the blue. She’s like, you guys are going to kill me. I finally got into this place I’ve been trying to get into for years and I have to move next week. And so all of a sudden there was this house for, this guy to live in. And he came for about six months and that first summer.

So it was our, it was our second actual summer living on this property that we raised a thousand meat chickens. And a couple hundred laying chickens. We raised pigs. Um, and not only did we raise those meat chickens, but we butchered them all on site, which we learned how to do on YouTube. So, it was a big summer of learning.

And it was really neat how God just really pulled those pieces together and sent us that young man who taught us so much. And it was just such a privilege to do life with him and to kind of launch out right into this ministry. Like, okay, God, I guess this is what we’re doing. We have a program.

Kelly: Yeah. That was a huge step of faith. It’s [00:16:00] just crazy how God just jump started everything.

Jen: Yes, that is, he jump started it for sure.

Kelly: Well, I love how the mission at Rockside so beautifully reflects the redemptive heart of God. That’s what you see there. You see love, you see community, you see care for people who are in crisis, and then you see hearts being…completely transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit that is at work there. And so I’m just wondering if you could share some of your favorite stories from a few of the guys that have passed through those doors.

Jen: Yes. Oh, so many favorite stories. It’s every time we get a new student or every time a student graduates, I think, I’ll never love another one like, I love that one. And then, you know, then more come. I think it’s like children, right? You just God just really increases your capacity to love. And, I am thinking of a graduate.[00:17:00] right now named Cain and he is very, very dear to us. He came here, actually, he was released from prison in the morning in South Dakota. And by the end of the day, by 11 PM that night, he was sleeping in a bed here at Rockside Ranch and he had been an IV drug user and just had really struggled for a long time being addicted to pain medication and then all kinds of things.

He had hit rock bottom kind of a few times, but, when he finally came to a place of wanting help and wanting to change, he said yes, to coming here, he met a mutual friend and this guy was like, you gotta go. And so he helped Cain get here. And while Cain was here, he just really had an encounter with the Holy spirit and God just picked him up and completely changed the direction of his life. Cain really excelled here. He became such a leader amongst the other students while he was in the program. And then he graduated and [00:18:00] he lived locally and, worked around our area here. And then he actually went to YWAM last April, which is youth with a mission.

It’s a discipleship training school. And he just got back this week from the Philippines where he was doing missionary work and he has a huge heart for evangelism. When you meet Cain, you just sense this joy that is, you know, just sort of flowing out of him. He’s really silly but so honest and so serious.

Like you need to meet Jesus. Let me tell you what Jesus has done for me. And let me tell yTou what he can do for you. And so I saw him today. He always has these shirts. oday, his shirt said, it has a big taco on it. And it says, want to talk about Jesus, there’s a great video of Cain on our, on our website that you can, watch him tell his testimony, but it’s, it’s incredible and such a privilege to see what God does in the lives of, I think all people who are willing to submit to his [00:19:00] spirit, right. Just changing, changing us.

And, and so Cain is someone who inspires me all the time. And I think the biggest thing that’s the most inspirational about Cain is how honest he is about how much he needs a savior. I need a savior just as much right? You know, we’re all sinners in need of a savior.

Kelly: I loved Cain’s story. It was fun hearing more, more to the story. And I will just add that I will put links in the show notes for some of the stories and also for Rockside Ranch. But I want you to also tell the story of Bowen. When he talked about your daughter, it just gave me, it gave me tears in my eyes. It was so emotional several times in his story.

Jen: It gives me tears in my eyes to just thinking about it. So Bowen is another student, that we had here. And he actually, he grew up in the faith and had kind of walked away.

He tells a story, that when he came here, he was, he did not want to come. And his family was like, come on, you should do it. And he was like, [00:20:00] okay, but He was very reluctant to let down his guard and, this is kind of common when students come here. There’s lots of kids and people and just a lot of stuff.

And if you’re feeling a little bit guarded, then it can be a little overwhelming. And so he was sitting on the couch one day down in the student house. And he tells the story that Hattie, my oldest daughter walked into the house and just started talking to him. And he said that Hattie was so kind that it made him think that, Oh, if she’s like this and she’s being raised by these people, then I guess I can trust these people.

There are so many moments like that happen with our children where it is so clear to me that our kids have this ministry that is really impactful because they don’t have these complicated, ideas about life, right?

They just see the students and they are so excited when they meet them. And so [00:21:00] Hattie and Bowen really, and actually all three of our kids and Bowen had a really special connection. He would always. Oh, just do silly things. He was kind of a wild guy. He would run and jump over the fence into our backyard.

And he would bring a goat on a rope up to the yard. Just be like, Hey, I brought the goat up to say hi. And watching that relationship form between him and so many of our students and our kids, it’s really powerful because I see so often, just how God says that we have to enter his kingdom like little kids because they just have such an uncomplicated faith.

And I think part of it too, is that our kids, I have this little sign in my kitchen that Hattie made. I think it was maybe even during Bowen’s time and it says no smoking, no drugs. And it hangs on the wall of our, of our kitchen. And, so our kids hear these stories that the guys share about their lives when they were doing drugs or when they were, really depressed or when they were just not doing so [00:22:00] great.

I just love that our kids are getting to see God’s redemption firsthand and that’s impacting our kids in a huge way. And I love that’s also impacting the students and that it’s just, so sweet to hear Bowen say that because we feel the same way, about him.

Kelly: Yeah, the way he described her when he said he’d never in his life had somebody be so kind to him, he just felt valued and sought after and enjoyed by this little girl. It is so amazing to me, just so cool that your kids can have that kind of ministry at such a young age. God is so big that he can do these amazing things.

Another thing I really loved about your story the first time we connected was all the crazy ways that God met your needs. I mean, in a ranch, this huge hundred acre, working ranch. You guys have had a lot of needs. You’ve had a lot of financial needs. You’ve had a lot of [00:23:00] manpower needs and housing needs and all kinds of smaller needs in between. And so I wonder if you could just share some of the ways that God’s faithfulness was revealed as he pretty creatively met some of those needs.

Jen: One of my favorite stories about God meeting our needs is about a septic tank. It’s another thing that makes me laugh. Like my teenage self could never have imagined my current self. Right. But, um,

Kelly: right. You have a faithfulness story about a septic tank. Oh, good for you, adult Jen. Can’t wait to be you.

Jen: Exactly. So after that first student came, we were just like, okay, God, we’re going to really do this. And so the next season, some friends sort of surfaced that were like, Hey, we want to come and live there and help. And so there were 2 other families that came and lived here at the ranch and wanted to really help develop this program and we had these three guys that wanted to come

so of course, in true rock [00:24:00] side fashion, we said yes, but we didn’t have anywhere for them to live because we had these other staff families living here. And, we were trying to really develop this program where the guys would kind of be able to have their own little community. So, we bought a shipping container and I know so much about like alternative housing.

You could put people in a rail car or a shipping container or a yurt or whatever. So we did all this research. So we bought a shipping container that was like finished on the inside and that was going to be our student housing. The students are coming in 2 months, so we buy the shipping container and everyone is asking us, well, what are you going to do for a bathroom?

And we were just like, I don’t know. God, what are we going to do for a bathroom? And within a week of sort of asking the question, our friends called and they said, Hey, we have four days off. We want to come up and do a plumbing project. So we were like, great. We need a bathroom. So our friends came and they put this bathroom in the shipping container.

But of course, the most important thing about a bathroom is that it has [00:25:00] somewhere to plug into. Right? You can’t just have a bathroom. You need a septic tank. So, we had the shipping container, we had the bathroom, but we didn’t have a septic tank and we didn’t really have any resources to put a septic tank in.

It’s quite a big project. And Craig looked at me and said, I want you to just pray that there’s already one there. I really looked at him like Craig. You’ve gone too far. This is crazy. It’s already in place. You can’t pray that you can’t pray that that’s crazy. I remember it so well, we were driving in the car.

He’s like, just pray, pray that there’s already one there. And so we prayed together, we’re like, Lord, just. Let it be so. And so we called the former landowner and we said, Hey, he’s, he’s just a dear, dear friend. So helpful, you know, in this process. And he’s like, you know what? There, there was an old RV hookup down, down in that area where you’re talking.

He’s like, I have no idea where it is. But he said, , there used to be, [00:26:00] there used to be a septic tank. There was an RV hookup. So I think there was a septic tank at some point, but I don’t know where it is. So Craig called all the local people who would have installed it. It was from 30 years ago that it would have gone in.

Craig called all the people. Nobody knew. Nobody remembered putting it in. Nobody knew where it was. Around here, people kind of know everyone’s business. So he’s just calling the neighbors. Anybody know? Nobody knew. So Craig took a shovel and he went down into the area where we were hoping it was, and he just started digging.

And like for three days, he’s digging. And people are coming in and everyone who knows what he’s doing is like, Craig, you’re nuts. You’re never going to find it. You’re just wasting your time. And he got a little discouraged and he prayed finally after three days of digging with a shovel, digging 30 holes down in this area.

He said, Lord, nobody in the world knows where the septic tank is. Can you just put it under my shovel and he stuck his shovel [00:27:00] in the ground and there it was…found the septic tank and wouldn’t you know it was in the exact perfect location for if we had installed one for that shipping container where we had already placed it. It couldn’t be moved and the septic tank was in the exact right spot. For it. So we just hooked it up and it was like two days later that our students showed up.

Kelly: Wow. That is so crazy. I can’t wait to get to heaven and have God show me how that story played out, you know?

Jen: Yes. I know. As I always say that, like before I was born, God put a septic tank in the ground for this ministry. It blows my mind.

Kelly: Yes. Yes, I love the truth that God goes before us. He is ahead of us. He’s behind us. He’s surrounding us, but he has already put into place all the provisions and protections that we’re going to [00:28:00] need up ahead. So why do we worry? That is just the craziest story of all time, just put the septic tank under my shovel.

Boom. Oh, there it is. Yes. Okay. It reminds me of this quote I’ve been meditating on. It’s by A. W. Tozer. It says, how completely satisfying to turn from our limitations to a God who has none. God never hurries. There are no deadlines against which he must work. And I would just add, there’s no need too great or too small, not even a plumbing need.

Jen: Yes. It’s like that verse in Ephesians that God can do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine. Like I looked at Craig and just said, you can’t pray that there’s not one there. And he, Craig was so faithful to say, we’re going to believe that there is. And when God meets you in that moment, it’s kind of mind blowing. You’re like, God, I didn’t think this was possible, [00:29:00] but you did it.

Kelly: Yeah, that’s just crazy.But I’m curious and it sounds like we’ve been talking about a lot of this already, but what have you learned about the Lord now that you didn’t know before all of this began and any verse or any other story that you want to share that illustrates that?

Jen: I think about the ways that God has challenged us and allowed us to struggle in this journey, I think, have been kind of the best parts of it. And I say that from a. Like a godly vision, right? Perspective of best parts in the sense of God, giving us his grace to teach us things.

So, after the septic tank happened right after God, just flung open the doors and we’re doing this and provision and everything’s happening. It got really, really hard. So. Not even that long after the septic tank and we had the students and we have these families here and everyone’s [00:30:00] getting excited about this ministry and I got pregnant and we lost our first pregnancy halfway through and it was this very, just a very traumatic experience.

And right after that, Craig’s dog, his just very special, beloved dog got hit on the highway, right in front of him. And not long after that, we realized that we had no money. We had no money left. We like had just spent every last penny. And. It was like, and then after that, so we had no money.

And then that second year of raising chickens, all of our chickens started dying. They just, it was like the first year, everything went so great. We’ve raised all these animals and everything lived and everything was thriving. And we were like, Oh, we’re so good at this, you know? And, that next year when it was just like, boom, boom, boom, all the animals are dying, we have no money, our, we lost our baby, our dog [00:31:00] died, it was like almost just insulting, you know, it was like, God, why, why is this so hard?

I thought that we were being faithful to you. I thought we were walking with you and you’re supposed to like, make a way. And that season was very, very painful, but I was remembering this beautiful moment that I had the next year. So when all of our chickens died, we put them in a compost pile and this is kind of what you do.

You have to do something right with all of this, just really sad, like heartbreaking bodies of your chickens. So we put them in this compost pile, is very farmy. Okay. So they, and then we buried them and, but it not buried them in the ground. We buried them and then we turned it. So, with the hope of using the material for compost.

So the next spring, it was like, boom, [00:32:00] boom, boom. All these things happen. And the year goes by of just really, really difficult things. And the spring comes and I go to the compost pile where we had buried all of the dead chickens. And what I found there was no dead chickens. All that I found was black soil.

And so the compost pile and God’s amazing natural process. had taken all of that death, had taken just that, that really huge heartache and transformed it into this black soil that was exactly what we needed to nourish everything on the farm. This black soil, this compost that is actually It’s essential.

You can’t grow anything without amending your soil and that the amending your soil with that compost is what brings nutrition to every, every single element [00:33:00] of your farm and I really sat there on that compost pile and I just wept because I was like, God, how do you do this? I thought that this was the end of the story.

I thought the death and the heartache of this was the end of the story. And it makes me think of this verse that, um, that I wanted to share it’s, it’s from Habakkuk and it’s though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will be joyful in God, my Savior.

And that’s Habakkuk 317. And that was the verse that God really gave me in that hard season, and as I look back on that season, I think of what a privilege it is to be able to read that verse and say. Yet I will rejoice in the Lord. And so to have seen God’s [00:34:00] faithfulness in that season, I think, wow, God met me there.

He never left me alone. And he takes all of that hard, really gut wrenching stuff and he turns it into exactly what is needed to nourish the soil around me to nourish the relationships in my life, to nourish my own soul. And so I think that, that has also really transformed me in the way that I see our ministry here in the way that I love our students because they’ve really had some pretty hard things happen in their lives.

And so I, I think now, like, God, thank you. Thank you for letting me walk through that really, really painful season, because now I just see things. Very differently.

Kelly: Yeah, that was so profound. Just that picture of God bringing life from death.

Jen: And I think so often , he takes those parts [00:35:00] of our lives that are the most painful and he uses them to bind us together, right? With other people, because we all suffer. And I think of this other verse that I love so much that it’s in 2 Corinthians 4: 16, therefore we do not lose heart though outwardly we are wasting away yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day for our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all so we fix our eyes not on what is seen.

But what is unseen since what is seen as temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. I think that’s that perspective, right? That when we have walked through and seen what God can do with our brokenness, we can say, Oh, light and momentary troubles. These are just light and momentary in, in the. Perspective of eternity and what our God is capable of doing.

Kelly: That is a beautiful story Thank you so much. [00:36:00]

I just want you to share with me what God did with you in the area of surrendering this dream to Him when things just looked impossible and it seemed like everywhere you look, there were huge blockades and barriers to this dream moving forward.

Jen: Yeah, I really think that in that season of just really difficult struggle that God kind of ripped the dream out of our hands. And you just like pried my hands open, took it out. And because like the way that that happened, it allowed us to really see it as no, this is God’s.

This does not belong to us. This is not by our strength. This is not by anything that we have to offer, except our surrender. As God did that, I think it really shaped the way that we saw Rockside, the way that we kind of envision ourselves here, that this is not our kingdom. This is not our empire that we are building here.

No, this belongs to God. And if he doesn’t show up, it’s not going to [00:37:00] go. In this season that we’re in now, we’re actually just in the season of growth and multiplication and. Last year, we, bought a bakery for our graduates so that we could employ them and we have these other sites happening and there’s just this beautiful kind of fruit that’s coming to pass and I think of, wow, God, you really prepared us for this, not by making us think that we could do it, but you prepared us for this by showing us, no, this is all you, God, this is all you.

Kelly: You know what I love about that story is that you weren’t imitating anybody else. You surrendered and out of your surrender, you saw the creativity of God give birth to parts of this ministry you never could have imagined.

Jen: Absolutely. Like the septic tank, right? This just mind blowing of God’s creativity and things that I could not have, I couldn’t have fathomed the Rockside bakery

Kelly: No, that’s, yeah. That is so cool.

So, I’m thinking about [00:38:00] people who might be listening and who have someone who they love who’s in crisis or somebody listening who is in crisis. What would you want to say to them?

Jen: S, I would say that there’s hope. That we really believe that God is a God of restoration. He is a God of endless chances. It’s not just second chances, third or fourth, endless. And that there is a community here at Rockside Ranch. And actually now we have three sites. So we have a site here in Etna one in South Dakota and one in Michigan.

And, we’re working on a women’s site. And so God is a God of restoration and it is really a matter of saying yes, even if you, even if you don’t think it’s possible, right? Believing that God can do it. And so, I would say, get in touch with us.  if you know someone, if you have a child in crisis or a friend that is how students come into our program really is just word of mouth, just [00:39:00] hearing about it and getting in touch with us.

So we have a website Rockside ranch.org and you can find all of our contact info there. You could email me Jen at Rockside ranch.org and I’d love to get you in touch with the right people to get you plugged in or get, get your loved 1 plugged into one of our programs.

Kelly: Thank you so much for sharing your story of God’s goodness with us. And I just want to close with the declaration from Ephesians 3:20, that you’ve already mentioned, that God is able to do far more abundantly than all we can ask or think, or even imagine. Like your septic tank story way more than we could ever imagine. He is a right here, right now kind of God. Nothing is impossible with him.

Jen: Thank you so much, Kelly. Loved being with you today.

Kelly: Thanks for listening to the Unshakable Hope Podcast. If you enjoyed today’s episode, please [00:40:00] subscribe and leave a review. To continue the conversation and for free resources, be sure to visit me at kellyhall. org. Thanks so much.

Subscribe to the Podcast
  • Apple
  • Spotify
  • Android
  • Email
  • RSS