Saturday night was a blessed time of fun and fellowship, smiles and silliness with all the students and staff at the ranch. After the sun had faded and all the hard work was finished, the real purpose of our time came into full light.
Plates full of hamburgers and hot dogs, we, students, staff, and JFBC folks, got to know one another family style - in conversation gathered around the dinner table.
Although we had planned to cap the evening off with a bonfire and fireworks, we had to make other arrangements. (Sevierville has been in a drought and it was considered to risky to burn.) This, as so many things turn out to be, was blessing in disguise. Instead we all headed down to "the shelter" to play basketball, dodgeball, 9 square, and many many other games. The children were pleased to show us their talents and the 'grown-ups' were all too eager to join in the game. Everyone from the smallest to the oldest came away full of laughter.
After closing out the games (congratulations to the ranch kids on beating us in everything!) we headed back to the dining hall for some ice cream made right there on the ranch! With bellies full, we headed to bed.
Sunday morning we were invited to worship at the church that meets right there on the ranch property. The pastor's message seemed a perfect way to sum up the weekend - a message honed in on one of the attributes of God: love. God is love, he gently reminded us. He IS love. Reflecting on this, one couldn't help but remember how incredible it is that we have been redeemed ourselves by this everlasting love, and how He loves these precious children with His unfailing, unending, unrelenting love. How love never fails, because our God never fails.
As we headed home, I couldn't help but be thankful for the opportunity to love His kids, the ones He has chosen, this weekend.