A gentle breeze blows through the palm trees. Mercy D. squints in the sun. Since the volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii isn’t spewing ash, the ocean shines in the distance.
The 11-year-old girl hurries down a cinder path toward a corral full of horses. Green pastures spread out around her. The horses seem especially active this morning, eager for the children to arrive.
Just another hot day at Heart Ranch, Mercy thinks. Hawaii has a long tradition of hard-working paniolos, or cowboys. But Heart Ranch isn’t that kind of ranch. It’s a place of healing, where kids and teenagers can build confidence as they grow physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Not Horsing Around
As a participant at Heart Ranch, Mercy has work to do. She quickly does her chores: scooping horse manure and pulling weeds. Then she hustles over to Abe, her favorite horse.
The kids at Heart Ranch gave Abe the nickname “the gentle giant.” He’s so big that most kids need to use a stepstool to mount him. Despite his size, he has the gentlest nature. He lives to make kids happy. That’s what Mercy likes most about Abe.
Mercy gently brushes Abe’s soft, brown coat.
“It’s nice to help Aunty Fronda and Uncle Tony [the founders of Heart Ranch] with the not-so-fun jobs,” she whispers in Abe’s ear. “But now it’s time for fun. Let’s go on a ride!”
Mercy goes to the barn and grabs a saddle. Kids walk toward the riding arena. All 12 rideable horses are tied up, waiting to be loved on by one of the kids.
Mercy has just finished putting the saddle on Abe, when Aunty Fronda approaches her.
“Mercy,” Aunty Fronda says, “I know you were about to ride Abe, but I wanted to see if you could give up your time so this little girl could try to ride him.”
Mercy stops and leans her head against Abe. She can feel his belly move with each breath. This is Mercy’s only chance this week to ride Abe. She has already put a lot of time into chores, brushing and saddling him. But all Mercy thinks is, What would Jesus do?
Her parents taught her that phrase. She knows Jesus was asked by His Father to do a lot harder stuff than what Aunty Fronda is asking of her. And she’s learned a lot about servant leadership from Aunty Fronda.
“Servant leadership is leading by sacrificing your will to help someone else,” Mercy remembers Aunty Fronda saying in one of their Friday night youth meetings.
Mercy smiles a big smile as she hands the purple lead line to the little girl.
“I know you will love him, and I know he will love you,” Mercy says.
Mercy watches as the little girl leads Abe out to the arena to begin her lesson. As the little girl climbs the stepstool and slowly swings one leg over the saddle, Mercy smiles. Instead of feeling disappointed for not being the one in the saddle, Mercy feels an overwhelming sense of joy. The little girl is smiling ear to ear. Abe’s ears are turned forward too (a sign of contentment for a horse). Mercy stands in the sun, her heart full.
State of Grace
Mercy loves seeing God take care of others, just like He has always taken care of her.
She was born in Uganda. After a few years, her parents couldn’t care for her, so she spent several years in an orphanage. Sticks and rocks served as her toys. A typical meal was a bowl of beans and rice. Mercy enjoyed playing hopscotch with her friends and learning about animals, especially elephants.
Workers at the orphanage not only took care of Mercy, they also taught her about Jesus. At an early age, she understood how much Jesus loved her and that He died on the Cross for her sins.
By God’s grace, Mercy was adopted when she was 6 years old. She moved with her new parents from Africa to the United States.
“My life would have been very different had I not learned about Jesus,” Mercy says.
Because Mercy continually puts aside her desires to help others, Aunty Fronda asked her to be a volunteer. She is the youngest servant leader at Heart Ranch. For about a year, Mercy has even helped raise money for the ministry. She makes bracelets, which are sold online and at a local store in Hawaii. In just that amount of time, she’s brought in over $500.
“It costs a lot of money and takes a lot of time to run a ranch like this,” Mercy says. “God has given me so much that I love giving back. No matter what your age, you can make a positive difference.”
Bible verse: “The training of the body has a limited benefit, but godliness is beneficial in every way, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.” -1 Timothy 4:8
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