Thirty-five years ago today I arrived at The Lord’s Ranch right after finishing my first year of college at Franciscan University in Steubenville, Ohio. I came on a 3 week mission trip, after which I was to return to Hawaii, work at home for the summer, and then return to Steubenville to continue my college eduction. At least, that was my plan. But God had a big surprise for me.
During my first week here, I started getting the uncomfortable sense that the Lord was calling me to stay. I was horrified! I had never before been to the desert or experienced dry, swelteringly hot weather. I was born and raised in the tropical paradise of Hawaii, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, palm trees and an abundance of flowers and rain forests. The Ranch, on the other hand, is surrounded by mesquite bushes, tumbleweed and a parched semi-arid landscape.
“Lord, you’ve got the wrong person in mind,” I cried out in my prayer. “I could never live here, never hack this life of hard manual labor, no air conditioning, and very few creature comforts. Choose someone else, not me!”
But the strong feeling that God was calling me to a radical departure from my carefully planned-out life kept growing in me. One day in the chapel at the Ranch, I received this reading from the book of Ruth:
I have heard what you have done… you have left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and have come to a people whom previously you did not know. May the Lord reward what you have done! May you receive a full reward from the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come for refuge.” Ruth 2:12-13
I slammed the Bible shut. I did not like where this was going!
After the second week of wrestling with the Lord, I stopped praying. I didn’t like what He was saying. I was sure He had gotten the wrong girl. I was only 18 years old! Too young, too inexperienced, too much of a wimp, not tough enough. My excuses sounded good to me.
So I threw down a fleece (like Gideon did in Judges 6:36ff). “Lord, if you are really serious, speak to me through Sister.” Sister Mary Virginia was the nun who co-led the community with Fr. Rick Thomas. She had an authentic gift of prophecy and would share inspired words at the prayer gatherings. That week at prayer meeting, she stood up and said, “I have a prophecy for the young women from Steubenville.” That got my attention. I don’t remember anything she said, except for the words, “Follow the example of the women in the Old Testament.” Ouch! I thought immediately of my reading in Ruth.
“Okay, Lord. This is getting too real.” So out comes another fleece: “If you are really serious, have Sister Mary Virginia say something to me directly.” There, I thought. That should do it.
Sister used to speak individually with all the visitors who came through The Lord’s Ranch, so it was not unusual that she asked to meet with me that weekend. We had a nice chat, with her asking me about my family, my background, what led me to the Ranch, etc. She said a prayer at the end of our conversation, and I got up to leave. “Whew, dodged a bullet,” I was thinking, when suddenly she said, “Have you ever thought about staying here?”
My heart sank. I couldn’t respond so just nodded yes. All she told me was, “I’ll pray for you.” And I sadly walked out the door.
I’ll continue the story next week. Stay tuned for part 2.