Redeemed Ranch Camp features youth activity

By Mary K. Hamner
Journal Correspondent

A long line of train cars in the distance seemed out of place behind acres of pastureland dotted with cows, horses, and bucking bulls. My eyes are always drawn to the train, no matter how many times I travel Highway 371 south of Sibley. Finally, with the encouragement of a fellow explorer, we turned left on Woodmill Road and took a look.

The initial drive-by led past signs indicating that this was the home of Redeemed Ranch Camp.

Redeemed Ranch Camp, I later learned, is a non-profit, interdenominational Christian Ministry operated by Joe and Delores Robinson. The Robinson's mission is to share the love of Jesus Christ with children and youth. This is done through many activities such as horseback riding, horsemanship education, swimming, fishing, nature activities, team building, and archery, all central to their 236-acre ranch. The Robinsons had both been involved with children and youth ministry through church and rodeos for 15 years before they opened the camp in 2000. In 1995, cowboy Bible studies had been started at the ranch and home, and from there it grew into camping.

The house, a remodeled dogtrot, was built in the 1920s and was formerly owned by Joe's parents, Howard and Betty Robinson. Memorabilia on inside walls chronicles the history of the family and the ranch. "Our four grandchildren are the 6th generation at the ranch and all of us have had a part in the development and ministry of the camp," Joe said.

A guided tour led past the camp office, a mobile home renovated with cypress siding that fit well into the woodland scene. A turn onto a white rock road went past an obstacle course in the edge of the woods, a course designed for both fun and teaching. A pond was ahead with posts arranged along one side. "The posts are to encourage campers to stay in one spot and not tangle their fishing lines," Joe said. "When one person catches a fish, everybody wants to go fish in their spot," he laughed. "The pond is also used when we host an all girls horsemanship camp during Spring Break (this year the dates are March 28-April 1). In this five day camp they spend time riding, learning to groom and saddle horses.

"When the Lord put it on our hearts to build the camp," Robinson continued, " housing was a major concern. A trucker friend of ours knowing the need, noticed the train cars while on a trip out to Texas. It was a former worker's train and the workers had all been laid off. After getting a loan, we bought the cars for the camp from Progressive Rail in Waskom, Texas and began moving them to our site. At 75 feet long and 85,000 pounds each, relocating ten railroad cars was no small challenge."

The train cars today are not on rails but are arranged in orderly sequence with steps leading up to the entrances. Inside the attractive interiors are bunks lined on both sides accommodating ten campers and two counselors. Cabinets above the bunks serve as storage for clothing and personal items; and the bathrooms are at the end. "Volunteers from Living Word Worship Center in Minden support the camp in many ways," Delores said. "They painted the outside of the train cars last year."

Other accommodations at the ranch include swimming pool, pavilion, two arenas, and a "Ranch Café". The "Café" is not only used for dining, but for ministry, crafts and skits by their wonderful staff. "Claudia Redding and her family are an essential part of the ministry at the camp," Delores said. "Claudia has been the "camp chef" for approximately 10 years. She always has a smiling face and a loving attitude toward the campers and staff." Another family that is a blessing to the Robinsons and campers are the Sanders. Jay and Monica are the archery instructors, teaching the campers to hit the target. When you miss the mark, it is called "sin" (an archery & Biblical term).

Redeemed Ranch Camp is a fully functioning cattle ranch. "We run about thirty head of horses, sixty head of cows, and fifty head of bucking bulls. We grow the bulls for sale." Joe Robinson said. "Our camp is a Christian equestrian overnight camp and it includes fellowship, teaching, worship around bonfires, and hayrides. We teach honesty, integrity, self-esteem, and other Christian qualities being guided by the Holy Scriptures. It seems our camp memories are endless. Best of all is the personal relationship that we develop with our Lord. That's forever."

The camp offers summer camps. It is available to individual campers ages 8-17, scouts, and church groups. It is located on Woodmill Road in Heflin, La.