Homesick for Heaven - Hannah Onley
In May of 2017 I flew from Atlanta to Texas for the first time. A short 24 hours later I was in Van, TX pulling into the North Gate of Sky Ranch, sitting in the Pogue auditorium, listening to John Morgan kick off this summer’s staff training.
In the weeks to follow I would learn more about biblical community, work experience, spiritual formation and leadership than I had ever anticipated learning and had a lot of fun doing it too! A handful of my dear friends that I met that summer spoke often about, and highly of, something called the Legacy Fellowship Program, a discipleship program centered around the four pillars of Biblical Community, Work Experience, Spiritual Formation and Leadership, that they had completed in the years prior… They shared stories of their roommates, 21 day challenges they were completing, scripture they had memorized, jobs they did around camp and the many relationships that were forged and fortified through being a part of this program. I read many of the blog posts that they had written during their time as Fellows, always thinking in the back of my head how surreal it would be to experience some of the same things that they were writing about. Sure enough, two years, two summers at Sky and 1 week later, I once again pulled into the gates of Sky Ranch, this time as an XIV Legacy Fellow.
For the next 5 months I would eat in the same dining hall that I did during my first summer, but this time alongside thirteen friends that quickly become my family. We now light fires at the cabin I lived in for 2 months where some of my campers came to know Christ, rake leaves along the pathways I used to walk on with my cabin on our way to the lake and pray over each other on trash walks around the Legacy building where hundreds of campers are dropped off for their week of camp. Sky Ranch is a place where people come to encounter Jesus in ways that places outside of our gates often times don’t have the capacity to do. It has been a still, quiet place for me to reflect on the truth of God’s character in the mountains of Colorado. It has been a loud, busy environment where I’ve experience the fullness of joy found in the presence of the Lord (Psalm 16). It has been a place where I’ve learned the importance of scripture memory and how to practice it. It was here on the floor of a cabin, when I experienced firsthand the beautiful effects of John 1:5, as light shone into the darkness of my heart and the sin I coveted could no longer exist. I was surrounded by women in and of the Word that spoke of and modeled the evidence of the freedom that God’s grace brings every day. Jesus has used Sky Ranch to grow and mold me into a devoted disciple of Christ, as a summer staffer and now a Fellow.
My fellow ‘Fellows’ here at the Ranch frequently speak of these effects in our lives that we have witnessed during the Fellowship so far, and it is by far the absolute best part of my job! Getting to share and process the life that we see flowing out of one another is an unmatched joy and honor. Each day we encounter numerous opportunities for growth and a deeper intimacy with Christ. Whether that be how we choose to speak to a guest on a crowded activity platform or how we treat one another after a long work day, it is impossible to not see each moment as a rich opportunity to look more like Jesus and not ourselves. The Fellowship is celebrating our victories, it’s weeping in our loses and rejoicing with Jesus in the slow and steady growth of a group of broken, depraved humans that are hungry to know Christ and make Him known in the world.
What you learn as a Fellow can be best described in this passage from 2 Corinthians 2– “But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for JESUS’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh” (v. 7-11). Knowing and pursuing God is our greatest treasure as an XIV Fellow. None of us deserve the privilege of holding these jars of clay, but He graciously placed them in our hands and simply asked us to walk, step by step IN the spirit (Galatians 5:16), for the remainder of our year together, and beyond. We’ve pledged to always continue giving ourselves over to death for Jesus’ sake in order that He may be known and manifested deeply into every life that we encounter.
Earlier today I stood outside of my little home with another member of my Fellowship. We were speaking of pain caused by loss on this side of heaven and what we were choosing to do with it, reminding each other of the unchanging gift of fortifying grace that the cross brings us. Then it began to rain, but only for a moment. We laughed through tears that brimmed our eyelids and fell down her cheeks, remembering that our souls are terribly homesick for heaven and that while we wait to return to our Father, His grace falls like the rain: “Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until He comes and showers His righteousness on you.” - (Hosea 10:12). So we continue to work in this tiny town, at a camp in East TX, walking joyfully in step with the spirit side by side, each holding our own stories about how we got here, all valuable and precious in the Lord’s eyes. We work for the glory and second coming of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, confident in His promises that will not return void – trusting that His grace falls like the rain.