Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children

James Browning

stories from the book
by James V. Browning

These Touched My Life

Frederick E. Zachary

As I look back on my life at Boys Ranch Town, I can’t help but be grateful to the wonderful people who touched my life while I lived there. I remember the circumstances that placed me at the Ranch. I was 11 years old, and thinking that I knew all there was to know about life. I had gotten in trouble at school, and my relationship with my mother wasn’t the greatest. I was somewhat violent towards her. I went to live at the Ranch, not really thinking they would ever be able to help me—I didn’t really think I needed help, anyway.

My first year at the Ranch was a very interesting one. I was used to being away from home, due to traveling, and staying with friends. I didn’t really know what was going to happen, but I thought it can’t be all that bad. My transition to a different school went okay, I guess. I wasn’t doing too great. I had three F’s at the end of the first semester. My first houseparents were Mr. and Mrs. Myers. They were really good to me, and Mr. Myers filled that role of the father-figure I never had. It was really neat to have a strong man in my life, and to experience the joys of doing one-on-one activities. Mr. Myers taught me welding and we worked on various projects together. He was a very positive impact on my life.

The cook at our cottage was Mrs. Ward. She is another individual who had a profound impact on me. I had the opportunity of getting to know her quite well. One thing was for sure, while I lived at the Ranch, I loved to eat. I would help Mrs. Ward in the kitchen, so naturally, I could sample the food before dinner time. She had to stop me sometimes, because I would get carried away.

Another aspect of the Ranch that had a long-lasting impact on me was the emphasis on having a personal relationship with Jesus. I had always gone to church as a youngster, but never really grasped the concept of what it was all about. I considered myself to be a Christian, but was not exactly living up to what was expected of me in the sight of God. While at the Ranch, my relationship with God reached a high that I really can’t explain, other than to say it changed my life. I was fortunate to be in a setting where we had devotions every night, and we attended church three times a week. While at the Ranch, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity of attending three different churches where the love of Christ shined so brightly through His servants. Waterloo Road Baptist Church, where Bro. Tim Richardson was the pastor, was my first experience with a Southern Baptist church. I was overwhelmed at how welcome the congregation made me and the other boys from the Ranch feel. It was there that I met the youth directors, George & Sherry McDonnell. They truly cared about my welfare, and when I had any questions or concerns, they were more than happy to assist me. I can sum up my experience as one that I will never forget.

My life has been impacted in many ways, thanks in part to the many people who my path has crossed as a result of my living at the Ranch. First Baptist Church of Edmond will always be a positive memory in my life. As I mentioned earlier, I have always attended church, and had professed a faith in Christ at the age of 6. But it was while I was attending a revival that I realized I did not know what I was doing at the age of 6. As Kelly Green was speaking during the revival, I made my profession of faith for real. I wanted to be safe rather than sorry. Shortly after that, I was baptized by Dr. Alan Day, and my life really began to change. I had a spiritual awakening. Not only was I eager to take part in the nightly devotions we had at the Ranch, but I also read my Bible each and every morning.

There are so many more experiences that touched my life while I was a resident at the Ranch. I remember going to Falls Creek every year. One year while attending Falls Creek, I ran into a friend with whom I had gone to school in Edmond. He had moved to Claremore and attended First Baptist Church there. It was so neat. I quickly was accepted into their church family. As a result, it seemed like we would go to Falls Creek the same time every year. I even noticed that Claremore First Baptist Church had increased its giving to the Mother’s Day Offering significantly.

I have so many stories of how I made a difference in the lives of those friends I made at Falls Creek. God was able to use me to make a difference. I even attended Falls Creek with First Baptist Church of Claremore one year. That was the complete highlight to my life. //It was neat to see how friendships grow and what course they take in one’s life. Falls Creek also played another important role in my life, for it was there in 1988 that I felt and accepted God’s calling into the ministry.

It was a neat situation that occurred. I was there with the Ranch group, and for some reason, I asked our chaperon, Mr. Cross, how he knew God had called him into the ministry. He explained and I prayed to God, “If You want me to be a preacher, then show me some signs.” The first thing that happened was my friends and I decided to go to a different Bible study class than we had been attending. Out of nowhere, the instructor asked me to give my testimony. So I figured this was the first sign. Then that night, the speaker preached about being called into the ministry. Well, that was enough for me, and I accepted God’s calling on my life. As you can see, being at the Ranch provided me with many opportunities to be in the right place at the right time.

My school life also got better, as well. By the end of my first year, I had only one F. The next year, I had all C’s, and it just kept getting better. There were so many people on the education side of my experience that I couldn’t name them all, but they know who they are. I was blessed to have been accepted as I was and given that extra push to set goals, then achieve them.

My five years at the Ranch were some of the best that I have had in my life. I am not going to try to paint a picture that everything was always perfect, because it wasn’t. But it was very realistic. I learned about change, because things changed a lot out there. There was no denying that adjustment was something you really had to be able to do, or you wouldn’t like your time at the Ranch. It was very fast-paced and if you were strong, you could make it. That is one of the reasons why the Christian emphasis was so important. Not only could you know that people at the Ranch had your best interests at heart, but God was a part of it, as well. I look back at the many churches where I have spoken, representing the Child Care Ministries, and I am touched that there are so many Oklahoma Baptists out there who care enough to support a noble cause.

  • Continued...

    One thing I always tell students I train in my current job, is that you should never forget those who have influenced your life. As a matter of fact, because of the kindness of Oklahoma Baptists, I began living my life by a quote that George Bernard Shaw once made, “When a man gives you his money, all you have is his money, but when a man gives you his time, you have a part of his life.” And that is exactly how I feel about my experience at the Ranch. The staff of that wonderful institution and in the churches invested their time in me, and that is worth more than any amount of money that could have been given to me. I have learned a lot through my experiences at the Ranch, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

    By the time I was 15 and getting ready to leave the Ranch, my life had completely changed. No longer did I see myself as a statistic. I saw a young man who had been given a chance to make a difference. I was so blessed that God had allowed me to achieve things I never thought possible. God gave me the courage and the strength to persevere. And God did it through His servants. I was amazed at the accomplishments of my life.

    While I was in school, I was on the Track Team, was a Student Council officer, and voted Mr. Edmond Central Mid High. It was the highlight of my high school career while living at the Ranch, and then I decided to leave it all. My decision to leave the Ranch was very difficult. My freshman year, I prayed to God, “If You want me to stay in Edmond one more year, then You’ll bless me to be Student Council President. If You want me to leave now, then I won’t get the office, and I’ll leave—no questions asked. Needless to say, I was blessed with the office, and I had the greatest year of my life. I then left the Ranch as I agreed.

    While I was Student Council President at Central Mid High, I was interested in becoming a National Student Council Regional Representative. I filled out the appropriate paperwork, and set this a high-priority goal. I remember going to the state convention in Broken Arrow, and waiting anxiously to find out if my hard work had paid off. The announcement wasn’t made until the end of the convention, so I was on pins and needles. The time finally came for the announcement to be made. I had pictured it in my mind hundreds of time. I just knew they were going to call out my name. All that anticipation would make you think that if I had not been chosen for the position, that I would be pretty let down. Contrary to that, when my name wasn’t called as the chosen person, the words that came out of my mouth were, “maybe God has something better for me.” At that time, those words were just that, words. It would only take two years for those words to come true.

    I had already left the Ranch, and was getting situated to being a junior at Del City High School. I wanted to work, so I got in the work release program for the class called Marketing Education. I didn’t want to do Student Council anymore, so I joined the marketing club called DECA. At that time, it was known as the Distributive Education Clubs of America. I ran for Junior Vice President, which would seem to be only fitting since I was a junior. I was elected and began working my feverish pace to make a difference. While I was in that office, I had the unique opportunity to attend leadership conferences, where I would sit in on interesting sessions for becoming an Oklahoma DECA state officer. I didn’t really give it much thought until my instructor, Nancy Sullivan, and a few of the current state officers asked me to give it some consideration. Well, here we go again. I began working on a campaign for state office. I wanted to be the Vice President. Of course, Mrs. Sullivan said I should go for the presidency. Nonetheless, I went through all of the interviews and was slated as a candidate for state President. I enlisted the help of my state representative, Gary Bastin. He provided me with a wealth of information that not only helped me in my campaign, but also in my understanding of the Oklahoma education system. March finally arrived and with it state conference time. Now everything that I had worked for would be put to the test. I talked and smiled and shook so many hands during that campaign. It paid off. I was elected as Oklahoma State DECA President. This is where ”God has something better” comes in. It was August and for some reason, I was thinking about a National Office. I realized that the opportunity right in front of me was what God was giving me that was better. I decided at that time to run for National Office. Talk about a lot of work. I enlisted the help of a friend I had made while running for state office. Leland Bickerstaff would become my campaign manager, and together we worked long and hard to raise money. We tried to get celebrity endorsements and all, but the approximately $3,000 that was raised for my campaign, came from many people whom I met while I was at the Ranch. Picture this---Anaheim, California, at the Disneyland Hotel. That was where the excitement was. I was prepared to run for National President of DECA—the greatest feat in my life. I again campaigned long and hard, and when they did call my name as the new National President, I remembered what had happened at that Student Council convention, just two years prior.

    I continue to live my life from the George Bernard Shaw quote, “When a man gives you his money, all you have is his money, but when a man gives you his time, you have a part of his life.”

    I cherish those words because so many people have touched my life through my experiences at the Ranch. Some know who they are, and many do not. I always carry that light in my heart, for I will never forget those who helped me attain the position in life I have today.

    I want to say thank you to everyone who has touched my life both directly and indirectly. I have nothing but love for each of you. I can’t really explain the events of my life, other than God bringing people in my life that He knew would help me. I humbly praise God for Oklahoma Baptist Homes for Children, and pray that as long as there are kids with problems, there will always be an organization such as this to meet their needs.

Go to top of page

Your gifts help provide hope and homes for children.