Changing the way America saves at-risk youth

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August 31, 2020
Several of the boys have been in summer school for tutoring and credit recovery. One of the boys worked diligently to complete four credits which will allow him to graduate high school next year. As he reached the halfway point in his summer course work, he commented, "Graduation, here I come!" It's great to see a boy demonstrate the focus and determination to reach a goal.

July 20, 2020
The first cutting of our hay season is over! A lot of rain has brought an abundance of hay for us to harvest. The staff and boys have been busy working together to gather hay from the fields and store it in the barns. Teamwork is a key component to doing it successfully.

Along with hay, summer also is a time for gardening of both vegetables and flowers. The garden area has been sectioned off into smaller plots for the ranch and staff families to maintain. Several of the boys help with the care and weeding. We are hoping to enjoy a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the summer. Ken, Sheila, and a couple of the boys have been diligently working on creating a new flower garden in front of the Trades Building. Each piece of the garden represents a piece of LUC's story. We can't wait for you to see it!

One of our sweet nine year olds was answering a Bible question and he was sharing why we shouldn't blame God for bad things that happen to us because God loves us. Then went on to explain that Adam and Eve made the wrong choice in the Garden of Eden and now people suffer the consequence but God sent His Son Jesus to help us through our trials. Wow—out of the mouth of babes!

On Wednesday night, I meet with all our guys to do four things. Pray with them, hear what they've seen their peers do well, listen to any concerns or frustrations, and then tell them a story with an object lesson intertwined in it. On a recent Wednesday, our 9 year old's prayer request was: "When I'm working off my consequences because I told a lie, help me to keep reminding myself not to lie again." He's figured out the two solutions to all our bad choices: I need God's help, and I have to remind myself before and during consequences, that I don't want to do what I know is wrong.

I was going to the dining room for supper when I noticed our golf cart had been backed into a ditch and was stuck. I asked one of the guys how that happened and was told, "It wouldn't go forward when I told it to." I wish I had thought of that reason all the times when I got stuck or was in a ditch!

We routinely get calls or notes from employers who use our guys' help. A recent note went like this:

"I want you to know how very impressed we are with the quality of work done by the boys and the entire staff of Lives Under Construction Boys Ranch. What a pleasure it is, in this day and age, to see young men with a great attitude, a good work ethic, and respect for those they come into contact with. It's been most gratifying to work with the boys and I plan to continue our relationship, as LUC has been a real blessing to us. You're indeed changing troubled boys into productive young men."

Every night after supper, we have a 15-minute devotion. During the last week of every month, right after devotions, the guys give a report on what they learned in their trades area for that month. Last month, the guys in the woodshop learned to wood burn freehand designs and use the scroll saw to make intricate wooden clock frames. After three of our guys had given their demonstrations, Will got up to report on what he learned during the last month while he was teaching the three guys to do the things he'd already learned in woodshop a year ago. Will's report began: "I learned patience! In fact, I may have my first two gray hairs!" Will has a lot of woodworking talent, so it was a challenging but rewarding experience for him to help others learn some of what comes easily to him.

One of our rules at the ranch is that everyone has to eat at least one tablespoon of everything the cook makes. That includes vegetables. You might be surprised to know that most of our guys have a problem with this rule when they come. One new boy struggled to eat most food besides sweets. On our way to church, I heard a couple of boys telling him that he needed to just give in and eat everything because most of the time our fears are worse than what's real and you won't get by with not doing it anyway.
March 9, 2020

All winter we've been busy every day with two crews and we're still booked up over a month in advance. We're getting calls from over an hour away but can't usually go that far to help people out. We've helped people move, picked up trash out of ditches, cleared brush, cleaned yards and houses, raked leaves, cut up dead trees, trimmed bushes, etc. Now with the grass starting to grow—we're gearing up for non-stop grass mowing, in addition to all the above.
March 7, 2020

Thank you so much for your prayers for the Ranch. Weather here is beautiful and bulbs are growing and a few are blooming. I am teaching our two youngest Ranch boys to work with plants and get rid of weeds. Today we added manure dirt, planted a few bulbs, raked leaves, and dug out weeds. It was tiring but they are ready to come again next week because they said they learn so much!

The other boys are doing brush and yard cleaning. Several of the people they have helped in the last two weeks brag about how well they do. One developer said he has had crews coming over the last 25 years and never before had as good a crew working for him.

Boys are doing great in school also. Some behaviors still need correcting. It has been a little over a week now for our newest boy who is about 12. In his whole life, he has hardly eaten food except for peanut butter and milk with honey in it. His parents even had to take him to the hospital for lack of food. Now the first night, he refused to eat anything. So he chose instead to go out and do some consequences. The next breakfast he still had his night-before meal and had to eat ONLY one tablespoon of each of four items and so he finally did. The next meal we showed him the good dessert of chocolate chip cookies and reminded him that he could have the reward to eat a cookie if he ate his tablespoon of each, and so with a little coaxing he received his cookie and a smile came over his face. Each meal now, he eats more and more. His face has fewer blemishes on it, and he is starting to be a happier fellow.

If anyone has the opportunity, come join us for an evening meal and see and hear how well they are doing. I am amazed at the 9 year old who can tell you all about the first sin and how we have salvation today.

Have a blessed week.
Sheila Ortman

January 4, 2020

I want to send out a Happy New Year to all of our followers of the Lives Under Construction Boys Ranch. Each year, we have HUNDREDS of volunteers who come to stay at the Ranch and help us with various needs. You are here and interact with the staff and the boys and you get to see all that goes on and ask questions. Many of you come year after year and can see the changes in the hearts and lives of not only the boys but also the staff. You encourage us with your selfless giving, your words, your testimonies, and love. Many of you come year after year and even bring others. Then besides all of that, you give to help this ministry because you know that is the foundation of our support.

Even though we were licensed by DSS since the late 1980s, we did not take any funds from them but followed their regulations. They suggested that we operate under the religious exemption, but in 1988, we were told that we were not allowed to. However, we still follow those rules.

Continue to PRAY for the Ranch and the staff because as you know, rewards in doing well are not always noticed right away. It warms our hearts when boys we have worked with come to visit us and bring their families, share their testimonies with everyone here, and then in many cases have become staff to help other boys along their journey. So a BIG THANK YOU TO YOU!!!!

To those who are just getting to know us, our doors are always open and we invite you and your church groups to come and see the REAL LUC Ranch and join us for our evening meal at 5:30 p.m. We always have room for a couple more. If coming with a large group, please call a day in advance to 417-779-5374. May the Lord Bless you in this new year!
Sheila Ortman