In October, 1959, I was 23 years old, one year out of the Navy, and back in the Ozarks. I had joined with my Uncle Bob Johnson, my Mother’s brother, to start a Boys Ranch for homeless boys. By Christmas time we had taken about 10 boys, and all had heartbreak stories in their young lives. These were not Juvenile Delinquents, these were boys left homeless through no fault of their own. One boy, Ricky, was 8 years old and had been living in an alley in a small Ozark town, sleeping in a big cardboard box. Another group of three brothers had been found by a County Sheriff, in their rural home, alone with the body of their Mother who had been beaten to death by their drunken Father, who then fled, leaving the boys, from 4 years to 12 years, behind. We took all three brothers so they could stay together and not be separated.
In those startup days, The Good Samaritan Boys Ranch, which was a 110 acre farm with an old farm house and a couple of barns, was just barely getting by… a work of Faith and very little operating capital. I had taken a ball point pen and drawn the vision that Uncle Bob had for the Ranch, but in those very beginning start up days we were a long way from that, In fact, by that December’s Christmas Eve, we really did not know where the money was going to come from to feed the boys we had taken in.
That first Christmas Eve, 1959, as we gathered in the Old Farm House, around a scrawny Evergreen tree that we had decorated with strings of popcorn and tinsel, with a couple strings of colored lights, a fire popping in the background from the piece of Oak firewood that was burning in the Fireplace… Uncle Bob read the Christmas story to the boys, and I played my guitar and sang all the Christmas songs I could remember… all the while wondering, in my mind, how we were going to provide a good Christmas meal for these boys. Ya, see, in those days we were just operating on a shoestring, raising the money to take care of the boys as best we could, taking no money at all from the Government so we could continue to teach the Love of Jesus to the boys, relying on the gifts of people who shared our passion to help the helpless. We passed out some gifts we had bought for the boys and finally called it a night and went to bed.
Christmas day dawned bright and cold, as the boys dressed for the day and started coming in to the living room. Suddenly, I heard someone out front honking their horn. I went out on the front porch and saw an old farm truck pulled up next to the house. A local farmer got out and carried a half of a Beef that he had fed and butchered, packaged up and brought over. While he was talking to us on the front porch, another old pickup pulled into the drive and another neighbor and his wife got out with bags of taters from their garden, and a whole bunch of canned goods that the Lady had canned that Fall.
A little later, a Springfield business man came out and gave us a check that kept us going for several months. It was a wonderful Christmas Day, 1959.
We always called it the Christmas Miracle, after that, for it provided us with one of the most delicious Christmas Dinners I can remember, plus money to survive the Winter.
Today, The Good Samaritan Boys Ranch is a thriving work for troubled youth. I am very Thankful that I got to be in on the very first Christmas at the Ranch, and that the Memory of that years Christmas will always be precious to me. In 1962, I left the Ranch and moved to Nashville to follow a Music Dream, but those start-up years of service to the boys remain as my very favorite times. Thank you Lord for using the Simple folks to do your work, for giving strength to the weak, and Faith to do the impossible.