Kim Meeder, co-founder of Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, shares inspirational stories from her ranch, which rescues abused horses and pairs them with hurting children for mutual healing. (Part 1 of 2)
Mrs. Kim Meeder: And these kids weren’t coming for what they could get; the horses weren’t rideable; they weren’t trained; they weren’t strong enough. They were coming for what they could give. And we started seeing that the children, in their efforts to make the horses stronger, that the children themselves started getting stronger, and healing started happening between their hearts, just as it did in my own heart.
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John Fuller: That’s Kim Meeder, and she’s with us today on “Focus on the Family.” I’m John Fuller, and your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly.
Jim Daly: John, this year we’re celebrating 40 years of family ministry at Focus on the Family, and as part of that celebration, we’re bringing back some of our favorite guests to talk with us again, and Kim Meeder is one of those favorites. And I know people are going, “Yes, Kim! She’s back!” She was here years ago talking about her ministry using horses to connect with at-risk children. And her ministry, along with her story, has continued to grow, and the Lord has blessed her, and we’re going to not only get an update today, but we’re gonna talk about what motivated her to get involved, how did the Lord really inspire her to use horses in this way. And it’s gonna be fun, enlightening, and I think insightful.
John: And you might grab a tissue, as well.
Jim: I’m sure.
John: There are probably some tears along the way. Kim has an amazing ability to tell stories of God’s work. She and her husband, Troy, started the Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, and they rescue abused and neglected horses. They bring them back to health, and those same horses are used in the ranch’s riding program for children, as Jim mentioned, and you’re gonna hear about some remarkable things.
Jim: We are. Kim, welcome back to Focus.
Kim: It is so good to be here. Thank you.
Jim: Good to see you again and your smiling face, that effervescent spirit that the Lord has put in you. You know, I want to start with that foundation, because you and I share that orphan label, and yours was a tragic story—not that any orphan story isn’t tragic, but yours had such pain with it. Let’s start in that place that began to shape who you are today and how God has used you as a 9-year-old girl. What was happening?
Kim: I would begin by saying we serve an awesome God, and what the world views as tragic, Jesus Christ uses for His glory. And so often almost every life will be called to walk through the fiery furnace, and we dread it and we fear it and our natural instinct is to pray, “Oh God, no, please. No, please. I don’t want to walk through that.” And yet, it is when we step into the flame of adversity that we meet Jesus Christ face to face. If we will trust Him enough to walk through, that’s when we meet Him. And that’s where so many stories of hope in Jesus begin.
My story of knowing Jesus Christ and the hope that only He can bring started at nine years of age. And at nine years of age, I would look at my mother and think, Oh my goodness, you’re the most beautiful woman in the world. I want to grow up and be just like you. And I knew in my child’s mind that my dad was a super hero. There was nothing he couldn’t do, and from my child’s perspective, he wore a cape and could fly. And I grew up in the castle of their combined love, and it was during that season of time that I remember my dad’s best friend coming to my little grade school and picking me up, and he didn’t say a word, and picked up my two older sisters. And all three of us are lined up in the back seat of his car, and we just started to drive this very familiar road to my grandparents’ house in utter silence. And during that drive, I remember having this choking feeling that [Gasps] I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe. I know that something terrible has happened and no one will tell me what it is.
And I looked up at my older sister’s face, who was sitting next to me, and she was just streaming silent tears. She knew, too. And we drove the long distance to my grandparents’ house and down the long driveway, and I could see all these cars parked all over the place. And you could literally feel grief streaming from the house. And I remember thinking, I don’t want to go in there. Don’t make me go in, and just being grabbed by my shoulders and pushed in through the door, into the arms of a woman that I recognized, but didn’t know.
And this woman was crying so hard. The house was filled with grieving people and crying and wailing, and she was one of them. And she finally just kind of put her hands up and said, “I’m sorry. I don’t know how to tell you this, but your father has just murdered your mother and taken his own life. I’m sorry.”
Jim: And you were 9.
Kim: I remember looking at her, and my first thought was, My dad loves my mom, and he loves me, and he would never do that. Liar! And I just hit her in the chest with both of my hands and broke out of her arms and just ran out the back door.
And I remember I was running through an orchard. It was in February and the orchard had been just plowed, and running until there was just nothing left. And it wasn’t very far, and just falling face first down in the dirt and crying and screaming and gagging and inhaling dirt and retching and holding onto handfuls of dirt in this little girl’s effort to hold on to the memory of her parents, until finally I could hear like these animal sounds and didn’t even recognize the sound of my own voice, and I started to say, “Jesus, help me. Jesus, help me. I need you now, Jesus. I need you now.”
And at that time in my life, I didn’t even know who Jesus was. I think I only have remembrance of going to church twice before that time, and all I knew is I think He’s the guy on the cross and what I now know is that it doesn’t matter who you are, how you were raised, what culture you were raised in, the truth of God’s Word in Romans 10 is true today. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, and that salvation is as near as your lips and your heart. If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that He is the son of God, you will be saved.
And what I now know is, that as I cried out to the only One who could redeem this broken heart, that the Lord of all creation came down and crossed the expanse of heaven and knelt in the dirt beside a breaking child and took the hand that was reaching up to Him and my Jesus has never let go.
Kim: He has never let go. And I didn’t know the fullness of that moment then. All I knew in that moment is I’m not alone. I’m not alone. And there’s an ignition of hope in this heart that is saying, “You will get through this, because I am with you.”
And that day, my sisters and I moved in with my grandparents, who had just lost their daughter. And in the days that followed, I knew that going to my parents’ funeral were images that I did not ever wish to have in my mind, and I told my blessed grandmother, “I’m not going,” and in her great wisdom, five feet of concrete, just pure love and wisdom--the older I get the more wise she becomes-- and she just looked at me and said, “Honey, you don’t have to go,” and so I opted instead to ride horses with my two cousins, and in my mind I was just gonna gallop away and never come back. I lost everything, everything, and in my effort to run away, I ran right into the all-consuming love of Jesus Christ, and between His love and the friendship of a little horse with crooked front legs, this wild child’s heart was redeemed.
Jim: Wow. That is such a powerful story, I mean right there I can see why our listeners love you, Kim, because of that conviction and that desire to please the Lord, to live with the Lord, live by the Lord’s standards. All of it. It’s so terrific. And you know I can only imagine someone’s listening who is in their valley. I love that Scripture, which I’m sure you share, “God loves those who are broken and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” That was you in the dirt in that orchard. And there’s something about the Lord’s Spirit, when like the radar is up, that holy radar, and I think particularly with children, that brokenness grieves His heart. I mean Jesus cried with Lazarus’s death. He feels emotion. He knows. We’re made in His image, and I just think when the throne room is filled with that news of a 9-year-old girl, a 9-year-old boy, whatever the circumstance, I just think His Spirit responds and says, “She is mine!”--
Jim: --and comes in and grabs you by the collar and says, “Walk with Me, child. I love you.” But you’ve got to say yes.
Jim: He will not pull you; He will walk with you and that’s the difference.
Kim: In that fiery furnace where what the enemy means for destruction, if we will call on His name in that inferno, it is Jesus Christ Himself who will turn that into the very moment, the very fulcrum of our life as it tips toward His saving grace. When we enter that fiery furnace, we think we’re going to die, and if we call on His name, that, in fact, becomes the ignition of a new life in Him. Only Jesus can do that. You’re correct. I believe it’s Psalm 34 that says that God is near to the brokenhearted, and He saves those who are crushed in spirit, and which one of us will not walk through this life and be that person—brokenhearted, crushed in spirit? Every single one of us. And God’s Word is true. It is true.
Jim: So true. Kim, right now I mean folks are listening and they may be in their point of despair, and I want to make sure people know you can call us here at Focus for counseling. Boy, I tell you, the supporters that help Focus go, have enabled us to be able to afford to pay for those counselors there, so call us. We’ll put resources in your hands; we’ll do whatever we can do to help you in this moment and be able to, hopefully, throw you that lifeline so you can come out of that pit, empowered by the Spirit of God like you were, Kim, as a 9-year-old girl. Such a powerful and beautiful story, I love that. Nobody’s gonna rob you of what you have in Christ.
Jim: And I can feel it. It radiates from you. And that’s where we should be living as believers. So if you’re struggling, get ahold of us.
John: Yeah, and just give us a call. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY and you can also go online for a variety of resources to meet you where you’re at, www.focusonthefamily.com/radio. And while you’re there, look for the article called “Coming Home,” which talks about walking with Jesus and you’ll understand more about what Kim is sharing here.
Jim: Kim, now we’ve got to, I mean I’m not sure, but we need to transition into horses and what you and your husband, Troy, have done. But man, keep the fervor. I know you well. You were riding horses at the ranch there that day you got the news and the funeral of your mom, I mean that seems to be a part of your life in a unique way. What connected spiritual healing and horses in your mind, and how has that become your passion?
Kim: In that season of grief, I remember sitting on the bus, riding home from my little grade school and just staring at the door and just [thinking], “Open the door, open the door, let me out! I’ve got to go!” And I would run all the way home. I would be throwing things down, running through the front door, and just right through the house, out the back door, down the hill to where my little horse was. Because at that time in my life, I knew that there was no safer place to cry than on my horse’s neck, and that she never said, “I’m sorry, you’re not pretty enough. You’re not smart enough. You don’t have the right clothes or the right friends.” In her wordless horse way, her ears would go up and her head would swing around, and she’d say, “Ah, there you are! I’ve been waiting for you!”
And I would get on her back with just a halter and gallop and gallop like a crazy child, and jumping creeks and ducking under branches and jumping logs in this child’s effort of outrunning all the pain that was trying to crush my heart, and I always imagined that it wasn’t fast enough to keep up, and somehow it would get lost in the woods behind me. And it was in those moments that my heart felt safe enough to start listening to the truth of God’s Word that I was reading at that time in my life every day, even as a child every day and I was not saved by a horse; I was saved by Jesus Christ on the back of a horse.
I couldn’t have known then what God was going to do. I met and married my husband. We moved to Bend, Oregon. We bought the only piece of property that we could afford, which was so destroyed, no one else wanted it. And when I say “destroyed,” it was being mined for cinder, which is basically volcanic glass. They crush it and put it on the roads for traction. And so, we literally bought a hole in the ground, and to watch these former owners the day we signed the papers, it was like watching Laurel and Hardy, “Quick! Have them sign it before they change their mind, oh my!” It was so ruined that there was no trees [sic], no grass, no dirt. We were so broke, we didn’t even have dirt. (Laughter) And so, we started going to all the ranches around and asking for organic material to put on the floor of the stone to help the property recover. It doesn’t matter how barren property is or horses are or human hearts are, before Jesus Christ, you can always recover, always, when you turn to Him.
And so, we started filling the property with anything organic that we could find, and we were so broke, my husband was a landscape contractor, and he started bringing home all the trees that were unacceptable because they weren’t perfect, or they had been bulldozed for parking lots or they were broken and they were flat-sided or blocking someone’s view. And we started planting all these trees on the property, and we did this for two years, and then in 1995 we rescued our first two horses from a ranch on the road.
Jim: For those that don’t know the horse world, why does a horse need to be rescued? What’s the condition of the horse? What does that look like to non-animal people?
Kim: Horses carry such a special place in the heart of God. Of all the animal kingdom, Jesus Christ has chosen a horse to come back on, and they are precious to Him. And when it comes to rescue and this is just my personal sense, how much the enemy attacks them because he hates them, because Jesus’ victorious re-entry is going to be on a horse. And in this realm of men, horses suffer greatly. They suffer greatly and they suffer through starvation because they’re large animals that eat a lot, and they suffer through battery and abuse because they are large animals and people fear them and don’t understand them.
What they don’t understand is, they are one of the meekest animals on the planet, and the Hebrew word for meekness comes from a stallion under control, and that this powerful, powerful 1,200-pound animal will let the smallest child guide and direct them. And s, in the early years of the ranch, we rescued our first two horses, one of which was missing 1/3 of her normal body weight, 350 pounds. If you did the math on yourself, you would die. Horses have a chest and front legs. This horse, her front legs were so close together, I could not put my closed fist between her knees.
Jim: Oh, my goodness.
Kim: She was so emaciated. And the second horse, I saw the former owner beat so badly. I was there; I saw it with my own eyes. He beat her so badly that he had to call a vet to come and sew up her face. My horse has an 8-inch scar between her eyes to this day. And those were the first two horses to come to “the ranch,” which was a hole in the ground. Anybody, I mean “passer-byers” probably thought the need to be rescued from us. And yet, we had a corral and a hitching post, and we had a boulder the size of my truck with two halters on it, and in God’s hands, that was enough.
And so we started to see children coming, and they weren’t children we even knew. We were volunteering at a youth group, and apparently we had shared with some of the kids that we had rescued two horses, and if you’d like to come out and help us, feel free.
Jim: So that was the very beginning right there.
Kim: We had no clue what God was going to do. And apparently they told their friends, and their friends, and their friends, and pretty soon all these kids are coming up the driveway, and they all looked exactly alike. And their heads were down, their eyes were down, their shoulders were forward. No eye contact. And they’d be wringing their little hands and, “Um, um, we heard that you had some horses that needed some help, and we were wondering if we could come and help.” They wouldn’t even look at me. They, too, were that broken horse. They, too, were looking for a herd belong to that was bigger than they were, and that they could feel loved and feel accepted and drawn into something that was safe.
And these kids weren’t coming for what they could get; the horses weren’t rideable; they weren’t trained; they weren’t strong enough. They were coming for what they could give. And we started seeing that the children, in their efforts to make the horses stronger, that the children themselves started getting stronger, and healing started happening between their hearts, just as it did in my own heart.
Jim: And Kim, to put particular details to that, Mason and Chad were two boys that you mentioned in your book. Describe their story.
Kim: They came out with a school group that was for children who were falling through the cracks. And I remember the school bus driving up to the ranch and all the kids piling out, and there was so much excitement and anticipation, and I was aware that there were two young boys in the back of the bus, and their counselor had to ask them to come forward, and they came out and they were all dressed in black and all the chains and all the bracelets. And they got out of the bus, and one of them looked at me and he all but poked me in the chest and said, “What are you gonna do about us? Horses are so dumb and that we just think this is just stupid.”
And I remember my prayer was nothing more than, “Jesus, lead. Jesus, lead. You know their hearts. You know where they’re coming from.” And what I know is that when people project a very hardened tough front, it’s like tissue paper, and right behind that is a little boy that is saying, “Please don’t reject me. I’m gonna reject you first, because I don’t want to be rejected and hurt one more time. Please don’t reject me.”
And I could feel that, and so I kind of ignored their posturing and I just said, “Hey you guys, we just rescued this horse and her story is terrible. It’s terrible. She was so badly neglected that she aborted a foal, and they didn’t even know about it for days. And they came out to feed her and she’s standing over the body of her infant. And then they gave her to us, and she’s just grieving. She’s lost everything and she’s so alone. Her eyes are so inward. Even though she’s in a herd of horses, she stands alone, and I just need your help to reach her. Can you help me?”
And their hands are shoved down in their pockets, and the little shoulders, “Yeah, whatever.” And so, I went and got this beautiful, tiny little quarter horse mare and brought her out and I brought a pan of grain, and I put it right in their lap, and I said, “Just put your hands on her and let her eat in your presence.”
And then I kind of circled at a distance and I could see them just putting their hands on this horse, and you could see their little hardened faces changing, and that furrow between their eyes leaving. And one of the boys left, and I came over to the other one and he just had his hand on her cheeks, and before I came, he had a palm on each of this horse’s cheeks as she was eating, and he just had his forehead against hers.
And I came over and I sat next to him, and I didn’t say anything. I just put my hand on his back and just did the mama rub between his shoulders, and he kind of looked at me and gave me this little smile, and he really wanted to put his head on my shoulder, but because his friends were there, he didn’t. But I could feel that, and all that “chainy-ness” that he came with, all those chains were broken in that moment where a broken little boy was genuinely loved by a broken little girl [horse] and for him to recognize that his love matters and it has a place in this world, and that depression and oppression and anxiety always originate in the same place, and that’s a hyper focus on everything we think we lack instead of everything we already have and to turn that focus around into, “Don’t you know, little man, your love matters and you can make a difference in this world? And it begins right now.”
Jim: Kim, man, it just keeps coming. I don’t want to stop. I’m out of tissue, though; we’ve got to resupply our tissue here. We’ve got to have you back next time, tomorrow, and continue the discussion. And I just feel the power of the Spirit is working in people listening right now. And again, if you need help, no matter what your situation, you might be that 14-year-old boy or girl, and we want to be there for you. And certainly mom and dad we want to be there for you, too. Call us if you need help. If what Kim has shared with you today applies to your life, that you feel like you’re at the bottom and you don’t feel the Lord, call us and let us help you understand spiritually where things are at. It’s our privilege to do it, and this is what God calls us to do as believers, is to carry one another’s burdens, and we do count it a privilege to do that.
I also want to put Kim’s incredible book, Hope Rising, into your hands. So cover the postage. If you can’t afford it, just call and we’ll send it to you, and for a gift of any amount, our way of saying “thank you” will be to send Kim’s book to you, Hope Rising. The book is full of illustrations that I think will give you hope and will raise you up to want to serve the Lord in better, greater ways.
John: And you can donate and get a copy of Kim’s book, Hope Rising, at http://focusonthefamily.com/radio. Or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY; 1-800-232-6459.
Jim: Kim, if I could ask you to pray for those folks who are struggling right now, I mean there’s no better thing to do than to pray. We may not know your name, but we know you’re there, and Kim, lift them up in prayer.
Kim: Jesus, I speak the power and authority of your holy, loving name over everyone who is listening today, and I pray, Holy Spirit, that you would kneel next to them right now, and they would feel your arms around them. They would experience your presence like never before as they say,“Jesus, I need your help. Will You help me now? Jesus, will You come in and be my Lord and Savior? I am getting off the throne of my heart. My life is a mess and my heart is so full of pain and suffering and fear and anger and unforgiveness. It’s a burden I cannot carry for another minute. Jesus, I give it to You. I pour out the burden of my heart before You.
Come now, Holy Spirit, and fill my heart. Jesus, from this day forward I am giving my life to You, and I will follow You wherever You go, and I will do whatever You tell me to do. Your Word is true. Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” Dear Lord Jesus, let today, this moment, right now—whether people are in a field or in an office or in their car or their kitchen--right now they would just kneel before You and put their hands up and say, “Jesus, I need You today. Come in and heal this broken life. Take these hands that are being raised to You. I’m coming, Jesus. Get ready for my run and jump. I’m coming.” We ask all these things, Jesus, by the power and for the glory of Your great, holy, mighty, beautiful name, Jesus.
Jim: Amen. Kim, come back tomorrow. Let’s pick it up.
Jim: All right, let’s do it.
John: And on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team here at Focus on the Family, thanks so much for listening. Join us tomorrow for more from Kim as we once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.
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Kim MeederView Bio
Kim Meeder and her husband, Troy, are the co-founders of Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, a non-profit organization that rescues abused horses and pairs them with hurting kids for mutual healing. Kim is also a motivational speaker and the author of several books including Hope Rising and Bridge Called Hope, which feature inspirational stories from her ranch. She is a recipient of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award and the Red Cross Local Heroes Award, two prestigious honors given for public and community service. Kim is also a gifted athlete who has set two world records in power lifting and participated in the U.S. Olympics biathalon trials.