Kim Meeder: When I was nine years old my parents were going through a divorce and there was domestic violence in our home. Being the youngest of three kids, I was the one who saw the least, but even though I was not aware of it at the time, there was that aspect in our family.
One day a friend of my father’s came to my grade school and picked me up to drive me to my grandparent’s house and as we picked up my two older sisters no one spoke at all. My grandparents lived quite a distance away and as we drove to their house it became very apparent that my parents were dead.
We entered the house and their were many grieving people and I remember someone telling me, “Your father has just murdered your mother and has just killed himself” and they were trying to hug me. I remember fighting and fighting and I finally got away and ran out through the back door of the house, and I was running through this orchard, which had all been plowed and all the trees were bare, and I remember trying to outrun the unthinkable. I just ran and ran until I fell down in the dust and I remember screaming, “Jesus, help me. Jesus, help me!” and He did. My life has never been the same since.
Several days after that, instead of going to the funeral, I opted to ride horses with my cousins instead, because I didn’t want that memory in my head. That was one of my first memories of ever riding a horse, so for me, between the unconditional love of a little horse and a merciful God, my life has been saved.
I’ve spent a lifetime trying to comprehend what happened that day and truly what the Lord has done for me … my very life could not be a gift too small. Everything I have, every joy I’ve ever known, every good thing has all come from Him and I am so, so enormously grateful.
So truly, the day I came to know Christ was the day that my dad ended up murdering my mother and then taking his own life. That was the beginning of what some people would call the end but truly in Christ it was the beginning—I just didn’t know it at the time. That was the breaking of my life into pieces that God could use and put back together in a way that was far more powerful in Him than what it had been before.
Isn’t it like the Lord to take our brokenness and our little shattered pieces, and we all come before Christ holding up our hands full of all these pieces, and God is the one who takes those pieces and puts them back together. I always think of stained glass and this beautiful pattern that only God could create, and we have to trust Him with our brokenness and our little pieces.
Mercy Hope: I’d like you to share how Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch came to be, what the vision behind it is, and how the Lord is using it in the lives of broken kids today.
Kim Meeder: My husband and I bought the ranch property in 1992 because it was the only piece we could afford. It was actually being mined for cinders in Central Oregon. Cinders are used to put on the road in the wintertime as road base to keep you from slipping off the road, so the property was so ruined that no one else wanted it.
So we bought this broken property and my husband is a landscape contractor so he started bringing home all this organic material to help put down something that would support life, and then he started bringing home all these broken trees that were the wrong type, or in the wrong place, or blocking someone’s view, or were going to be bulldozed for parking lots … So all these trees started finding their way to our home as well, and we started planting these trees. Then in 1995 we actually rescued our first two horses. One of them was missing about a third of her body weight. She was so thin that I could not fit my fist between her front legs, I mean, she was really in bad shape.
The second horse came from the same property. I saw the owner beat her so badly that he had to call a vet to come sew up her face! I was there and saw the whole thing. He was such a vindictive person and that’s when I decided, “I will get this horse from you somehow.” It took me about a year to finally talk this guy out of this horse so that I could buy her.
So we brought these two horses home in 1995 and then this miraculous thing began to happen in the hands of God. We started to see these kids coming to the ranch, and they weren’t coming for what they could get (because they couldn’t ride the horses, the horses weren’t strong enough) they really were coming for what they could give, and it was in their giving that the kids themselves started getting better. So we started to witness this really remarkable thing happening; that God would take this broken property, and fill it with all these broken trees, and then the broken horses and make it this perfect fit for the hearts of broken kids. That’s how it got started.
Today the ranch is still on the same property. We have nine acres and have been involved in the rescue of over 300 horses. The ranch now sees between 4000-5000 visitors a year. It’s a tiny acreage that’s really, really busy.
The ranch is very unique in its structure and is the only one of its type so far in the U.S., in that we pair a rescued horse with a disadvantaged kid, and have one leader, one horse, one child, one hundred percent of the time. So it is within this on-on-one relationship that we begin to find out, “Why are these kids here?” and “What is the nature of their brokenness?” and “What can we do to ease their pain and show them the love of Jesus Christ?” and “How can we live that out in front of them in a way that’s tangible that they can see?” It’s a very unique and special program, and we do this free of charge. No one pays anything, ever. The kids that come to the ranch are actually getting free riding lessons and one-on-one attention—and it’s free. So the kids who really need it the most are the kids who can come. We see so much that beautiful things and beautiful places shouldn’t just belong to those who can afford them, but really should be for all children, and that’s what we’ve worked so hard to provide.
Primarily our ranch works with disadvantaged children so people often say, “Oh, then we can’t come because my children aren’t disadvantaged,” but I think that disadvantagement comes in many shapes and sizes and often times we think of it in terms of the physical or emotional, but it can also be social and financial. Probably 80% of the kids who use our ranch are very, very, low income and have very little in this life and what they need doesn’t cost anything at all; it’s absolutely free. What they need is hope and love and that doesn’t cost the giver anything at all.
Again, isn’t it like the Lord to fit all of our brokenness together to build something of beauty for His glory?
The horses play a big part as well because the horses are rescued too, so probably 80% or more of the horses on the property are horses that have been very close to death or have been battered in some way, and it is just fascinating to me how we see over and over and over how these horses and children will find each other that have basically lived parallel lives and didn’t realize it until they started spending time together. I’ve see many times a horse that has been beaten so badly and cannot be touched by anyone but me, and when I take kids into the corral to socialize these horses and have these horses choose a child out of seventy-five that is the most like them (and that would be the pairing) it’s like watching parallel halves of a bridge come together—they were incomplete without the other until they found each other, and together they understand each other better than anyone could understand either one of them and it becomes this very safe match for them to grow and to heal and to become what Jesus Christ is calling them to be. It’s just beautiful, absolutely beautiful.
Mercy Hope: Could you share a recent story that would exemplify what Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch is all about?
Kim Meeder: We recently rescued a Porter horse, which as anyone would know is pretty large horse, probably 800-1,000 pounds, but this horse, at two-and-a-half years old, is the size of a five-month-old. Her hoof doesn’t even fill the palm of my hand and when we weighed her when we got home she weighed about 450 pounds, maybe.
The girl that helped me with this rescue is going through some very, very difficult times in her life. You know, the black makeup and all the safety pins, and she was harming herself by cutting and things, so we went in and very cautiously approached the owner of this horse and were able to buy the horse from them that day and brought the horse home. It was January, and there was snow on the ground and this little horse was so exhausted that although usually they are terrified this horse was so weak and so sick that it just went and laid down in the corral. I wasn’t sure if she was going to die, so this girl who was equally broken went in and just laid down with her in the snow and the horse laid down flat and went to sleep—she was just so exhausted. And this broken girl (who is hardly a girl, she’s as big as I am) laid in the snow next to her and she said, “I watched this horse start to dream, and she would twitch and jerk and blink. I never knew that horses had dreams, and it made me realize that I had forgotten my dreams,” and she shared with me that “As I laid there I realized that I hadn’t been still before the Lord in a long time, and it was there, laying by that broken little horse, that I could hear God really speaking to my heart, and God kept saying, ‘It’s time to let go. It’s time to let go’” and she said, “I knew in my mind that that meant the knife that I had been using to hurt myself. Isn’t that interesting that that would be the moment that God would tell me that ‘it’s time’? I think He’s right.”
That was the moment she said, “I’m done, I’m moving on.” It’s not anything that I could have arranged or orchestrated. It had nothing to do with what I did and everything to do with what God had in mind and that He’ll use anything that we’ll give, and it was God’s timing. For this broken child to lay in the snow with this broken horse and to set about comforting each other—that is the God that we serve. In His hands brokenness becomes sometimes our greatest gift and as we come to God with this handful of all these broken pieces that are valueless, in God’s hands He arranges our uselessness into something that has purpose and value. Only God can do that.
Mercy Hope: To offer this for free to these children must take a huge amount of resources. How can people get involved and help support this?
Kim Meeder: I would say initially that everyone can pray. Prayer costs us nothing but our time and our willingness. So many times people write me letters and say, “This is where I’m at financially and I can’t help you but I want to,” and I would just encourage people to pray for our ranch that the Lord would continue to guide us in His way and give us wisdom and protection and the financing that we need to make sure that the ranch continues to stay free.
As anyone knows, because a program is free, doesn’t mean it is free. Running an operation like that takes plenty. Financially, all help is certainly appreciated, but what I know every person can do is pray. People say all the time, “The least I can do is pray!” when in reality that’s the very most we can do.
I would really encourage folks to seek the Lord and find out what God would have them do, not only to help this ministry, but any ministry that they’re involved in.
Mercy Hope: Would you share some practical help for people who would like to make a difference in the lives of hurting, broken children in their own sphere of influence but really feel inadequate or simply don’t know where to begin?
Kim Meeder: Many times people contact me with perhaps some sadness and confusion of, “I want to help but I don’t know how and I really don’t have any gifts or talents, and I don’t think I have anything to offer God.” What I would tell them unequivocally, what I know, is that they are wrong. They are absolutely wrong! What I know is that Jesus Christ will use whatever you give, no matter what it is, He will use whatever you give.
It might seem ridiculous to say, “Well, Lord, I have a rock pit, it’s so destroyed that it’s a demolition site and no one wants it,” and yet, look what God has made it! God’s ways are not our ways and what’s impossible with man is possible with God.
I have someone in my life who I love very, very much and she shared with me that earlier in her life her family was just blown to pieces by a pretty catastrophic event. The event was so horrific that she had to be taken out of her home and transplanted into another home, and that meant going to another high school. She was a junior in high school at the time, and to be moved midseason was horrible. She shared with me that her first day at this new high school, not only did no one talk to her, no one even looked at her.
She went home and she was already devastated, but the fact that she had now become this invisible person was even more devastating. One day turned into two, and then a week, and then a month, and then several months that no one even looked at this beautiful young woman. So there in her math class in fourth period she decided that, “It’s time for me to go now. No one will even know that I died because no one ever knew that I lived.” She made this decision to go home and take her life, thinking, “No one will ever miss me, because no one knows me now.” She decided that, “This is more pain than I can bear, and it’s time now.” So she made that decision, the bell rang, she picked up her books, went out into the hall and was going down the hallway when the person in front of her stopped and she nearly ran into them and she looked up and there was a blond girl across the hall that looked at her and they kind of cranked their necks around to look at each other as they went around each other and this broken girl was so moved by that that she went home and told the Lord, “I think I’ll wait one more day.” She went back to school again and there between fourth and fifth period comes the blond girl again. Pretty soon this broken girl would get up in the morning knowing that, “If I can just wait until that gap between fourth and fifth period I’ll get to see someone who cares that I’m alive, and that was enough.
The season ended and this blond girl never met her, they never knew each other’s names, and she will never know that she saved the life of this other young woman by doing nothing more than dedicating her smile to God, and that was enough to save this girl’s life! All she did was smile and anyone can do that!
I would just encourage people, just give God whatever you have, and He will make it become what it needs to be to bring Him honor and glory. Sometimes we have a very small idea of what God can and cannot do in our life, but what is impossible with man is possible with God.
Sometimes hope comes in very small packages, and hope is like light against darkness—it doesn’t take much for it to change everything—especially for someone who is in darkness. I spend a lot of time in the wilderness and I can tell you that on a very dark night the light from a single match (a flame that is one inch high) can be seen for seventeen miles. Seventeen miles! That’s how I want to be. I want to be that match in the darkness, and in the case of the story of my friend, it was a smile, a very small thing, and everyone can do that. I would encourage people to just lay it out before the Lord. Give it to Him, and He will be the one to make it be loaves and fishes. He will be the one to make it become something extraordinary that brings Him honor. It’s not up to us to decide, it’s up to us to be faithful.
Mercy Hope: Talk about your book, “Hope Rising”.
Kim Meeder: The book is about triumph. It’s about understanding that there is no pain, no sorrow, no despair so great that God’s love for us is not greater still. The book is a compilation of all these miraculous things that I’ve witnessed that God has done between children and horses and it is POWERFUL. I feel like I have an angel’s view everyday where I get to peek over the shoulder of a horse and see something remarkable. I’ve seen horses do things that there is no explanation for—other than they understand far more than we think they’re able. It’s a very, very powerful book because of what God has done. I just got to be the one to write it down. I’m just the messenger.
Personal note from Mercy Hope: Since this interview I’ve had a chance to read Kim’s book and I just have to say, if you have ever prayed, as I have, “Lord, let my heart be broken by the things that break Your heart,” this book will be an answer to prayer. I promise you that your heart will be DEEPLY stirred and you will walk away with a greater understanding of the amazing love and mercy of our Heavenly Father for the broken, and in the process I believe you will find your own heart expanding greatly.
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