2021–2023 Mission Grant #1 “Deaconess Ministry Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch” $81,680

Hope and Healing — Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch

By Tammy Noteboom, Vice President of Communications at Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch with Cheri Fish, Mission Editor

“Growing up, I coped with my feelings the same way my Mom did — drugs. I thought it was normal. When I was 11, my Mom gave me up to the state, and I was in and out of foster homes until I was 13. I didn’t believe anyone really wanted me,” says one former resident.

“When I came to Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, I was pretty much the same way I was everywhere else — I would scream, swear, hit, kick, and bite anyone in my path. But then I kinda realized that the staff are not here to get me mad or to ruin my life. They are here to help. I finally feel like I belong somewhere. My life is still hard, and my future is still very uncertain, but now I have hope.”  

Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch is a Christ-centered, residential, treatment, and educational center for children ages 10 to 18. Children who are served at the three North Dakota campuses have experienced severe trauma, psychiatric issues, and/or developmental challenges; come from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and religions; and have had numerous foster care and residential treatment placements. While at the Ranch, kids overcome challenges such as conduct disorder, autism spectrum disorder, personality disorder, depression, anxiety, chemical dependency, and issues related to trauma, abuse, and neglect. 

With the help of highly trained and qualified staff who are readily available 24/7, children at the Ranch have a structured and safe environment in which to live, learn, and heal. They have access to resources they can't get anywhere else. The Ranch’s on-site clinical staff includes therapists, nurses, psychologists, addiction counselors, occupational therapists, and a psychiatrist. 

Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch President/CEO, Joy Ryan, said, “For some of our kids, this is the first time they have slept in a bed, not gone to bed hungry, or had anyone listen to their deepest pains and fears. For many, it is the first time they have been told of Christ’s love for them. The kids come here with psychiatric and behavioral problems of the highest degree, but, if we look at where they have come from, we can understand them and help them to heal. Because of the gifts we receive from generous donors, these children can see the world differently, and feel the love of God through those who care for them.”  

A spiritual foundation has always been at the heart of the services to children. The Christian values children learn at the Ranch aid in their healing and provide a foundation of hope that often stays with them their entire lives. Understanding who they are in Christ helps the boys and girls succeed in treatment and positively shapes and influences their future. At the Ranch, these precious children, who have endured so much, have an opportunity to learn about Jesus and grow in their relationship with God through worship, Bible study, fellowship, music, and faith conversations. 

As her time at the Ranch was coming to a close, Sierra, a former resident, said, “I’ve grown so much in my faith, and I believe God is all-healing. He took my anxiety away and I haven’t had it for weeks. I had a huge breakthrough in my faith while I was at the Ranch. I know there is nothing I can’t do without God.”

We are thankful to God for the support of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League over the years. At the Lexington convention this past June, we were awarded a mission grant for our specialized Deaconess ministry. This ministry will bridge the gap for children — from their hard to handle trust-related issues to the transformational, powerful care of Christ.

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This story was originally featured in the Winter 2021 Lutheran Woman's Quarterly. Order your subscription here.

For more information about this mission grant, view the individual mission grant page here.

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