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This month we want to tell you more about the Deaconess Ministry of Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch, recipients of an $81,680 grant from Lutheran Women in Mission (LWM) in the 2019–2021 biennium.

Since 1952, the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch has touched the lives of more than 34,000 at-risk youth and their families. As a Recognized Service Organization (RSO) of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, the Ranch brings Christ-centered hope and healing to children from across the nation who have experienced severe psychiatric, emotional, behavioral and developmental challenges due to abuse, neglect and violence. At the North Dakota campuses in Minot, Bismarck and Fargo, the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch combines best-in-class psychiatric care with best-in-class Christ-centered spiritual care, unlike any other organization in the nation.

Children ages 10–18 and their families find new futures as they seek healing, hope and new beginnings at the Ranch. With their Christ-centered Lutheran heritage and mercy-focused care, the Ranch becomes a place of stability, hope and comfort for those they serve. During their time at the Ranch, the children learn to see the world differently, feel the love of God through those who care for them and begin to look to the future with hope. The discovery of the Savior’s mercy is often the most vital component of a child’s healing.

Nearly all of the Ranch’s female residents have been traumatized in some way, and in almost all cases the perpetrator was male. Most of the young men who have been subjected to violence or abuse have also experienced it at the hands of a male figure. This simple reality creates immediate trust issues with male chaplains that can be difficult for a child to bridge. In 2018, recognizing the need to minister directly to the hearts of victimized young girls and boys, the Ranch called an LCMS deaconess, Kelly Bristow, to complement the work of the Spiritual Life Staff. Her work quickly began to bridge many of the gaps that often hinder a child’s healing.

This incredible relationship of trust became a turning point in children’s lives. When the children complete their treatment and move on from the Ranch, they leave knowing God loves them and that His love will never change. Many of the children have written Deaconess Kelly, thanking her for everything she had done in the healing process. Many have found a church home where their faith remains rock solid.

The specialized ministry of the Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch impacts more than 1,400 children and families each year, from all corners of the United States. The deaconess ministry is part of the Ranch’s overall Spiritual Life Program, and it impacts more than 300 residential children annually. Two-thirds of the children receive services at the Minot campus. With this grant, Dakota Boys and Girls Ranch will be able to fund one full year of deaconess ministry in Minot, North Dakota.

Lutheran Women in Mission (LWM) is the official women’s auxiliary of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Since 1942, LWM has focused on affirming each woman’s relationship with Christ, encouraging and equipping women to live out their Christian lives in active mission ministries and by supporting global missions. For more information on each month’s mission focus, visit Saint John’s Lutheran Women in Mission (Mission Guild) meets the first Tuesday of each month at 10:30 AM in Room 301. All ladies of the congregation are invited to attend.