(Cleveland)-In May, a team of nine from TMU traveled to Eagles’ Wings Youth Ranch in the quiet cow town of Mountainair, New Mexico to prepare it for the 90-100 campers who come each summer. Alongside Executive Director, Todd Sledge and his family, students and staff donned their work boots and old jeans to groom horses, paint barns, shovel mulch, and renovate facilities under the warm western sun.
Founded in 1992 by Albert and Diane Hagan, Eagles’ Wings Youth Ranch seeks to reach the underprivileged and vulnerable youth of central New Mexico with the love of God. Today, Todd, together with his wife, Jennifer, shoulder the many responsibilities of running a working ranch while also developing robust summer camp programs and year-long outreach activities.
With its southwest charm and rugged landscape, the camp offers a unique experience to campers who are often strangers to the wild and wondrous beauty of the Creator’s outdoors. Without the distraction of cell phones and other electronics, campers from elementary-school ages to high school are exposed to the truth of God’s love as well as the power of Christ to heal and transform. Discipleship is a key element of the camp, being implemented daily through Bible study and personal relationships. Oftentimes, the challenge given to campers is making the right choice in life’s circumstances. Simple, yet profound, the message of right decision-making encourages meaningful and authentic conversations with campers that often lead to the Gospel’s influence in their lives.
Additionally, kids have the opportunity to participate in a myriad of activities on the ranch such as: archery, horseback riding, volleyball, hiking, outdoor skills, and more. However, Todd often reflects that campers most look forward to their one-on-one time with their counselors that is intentionally built into each day’s itinerary.
“Part of what separates Eagles’ Wings from other camps is that we provide a unique opportunity for campers to experience friendship with a summer staffer in a low camper to staffer ratio. One of the campers’ favorite time of the day is our one-to-one time when they get to choose what activity they do with one staffer.”
To maximize their outreach, Eagles’ Wings offers the camp experience with no cost to campers, thanks to the generous donations of supporters, patrons, and other ministries. Additionally, Eagles’ Wings implements a regular follow-up program as well as mentorship strategies to add continual encouragement to campers throughout the year.
Truett McConnell was first connected to Eagles’ Wings through TMU alum, Preston Fowler in 2017. Five years later, TMU students are still being impacted by the very ministry they come to serve. History major, Maddie Bolick, decided to join this year’s team in a week of hard work, fellowship, and relationship-building.
She reflects, “Eagles’ Wings is not just a place where kids are shuttled in and out of camp for a week; it’s a place of authentic love and care. Even while we were there as just a work team, Todd and Jennifer were genuinely interested in getting to know us, embracing us into their family life. It was refreshing to see a family whose love for the Lord shines through everything they do, touching the lives of anyone who has the privilege of being at Eagles’ Wings Ranch.”
Anyone who would like to support the work at Eagles’ Wings Youth Ranch can visit https://www.ewyouthranch.org/and give in a variety of ways. Due to COVID-19, the camp has been forced to reduce program offerings for the summer; however, work teams are valued and appreciated to help upgrade and expand facilities for future camp seasons. For college students, check out the internship opportunities offered each year.
Havilah Miller is the Assistant Director of Student Development.