A Faulkner County group called Voices for Recovery met monthly during 2008, bringing together individuals and groups concerned about the effects of drugs and alcohol on our community. Discussions for what we might do during these meetings were in several directions, i.e. post prison ministry, youth, female, etc. In early 2009 Bryan Tuggle, Director of John 3:16 Recovery Ministry near Batesville Arkansas was invited to speak to the Voices for Recovery group by Danica Smith. When Bryan finished his inspiring story about John 3:16 and how lives were being changed by their efforts and the Word being taught there, Larry Pillow responded and said, “This (A ministry like John 3:16) is what I want to do. If you want to join me in this effort then let’s have a brief meeting afterwards.” (The first and last brief meeting!) Even before this initial meeting God had placed seeds of hope in our hearts, had arranged relationships, circumstances and events to begin His ministry that is today called Renewal Ranch.

This initial committee became the original board members for Renewal Ranch consisting of Chris Allen, Danica Smith, Rickey and Marsha Rawls, David Stobaugh, David Crow and Larry Pillow. Later Vickie Critcher, Brian Poppe, Kim Hogue and Paul Hudson were added and helped get RR off the ground. We weathered marathon meetings, disagreements, conflicts, obstacles and a few seemingly dead ends.

One of the first decisions was to find a Director, someone who had experienced freedom from drugs and who also had a passion for others struggling with addiction. James Loy (July 2009) came to us with just that passion and proved it with his willingness to move from Batesville to lead RR. By faith, he transferred his job to Conway and in August 2009 moved into the house we rented for them at 110 Lake Drive which Lewis and Sharon Bishop later purchased. James worked tirelessly to help us move RR from a dream to a reality. From August 2009 to December 2010 James worked from 4 A.M. to 1:00 P.M. at Home Depot and from 1:00 P.M. until bedtime promoting RR. After a year of searching for land and multiple failed attempts to buy the current property we finally closed on the 90 plus acres now called RR in May of 2010. Nine months later on January 30, 2011, we opened the first bunkhouse/lodge with nine residents. Praise be to God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit for making it possible.

Some significant “turning points” along the way:
a. Voices of Recovery (V of R). Locals involved in recovery meeting to network and share.
b. Danica inviting Bryan Tuggle to speak to Voices of Recovery.
c. Formation of RR Board from members of V of R.
d. “Calling” James to lead RR.
e. Vickie Critcher’s encouragement to the RR board with a “we can do it” message on speaker phone in one of our many meetings when we were discouraged. Keep in mind, at this time, all we had was a dream. No donors. No land. Nothing but a dream in our hearts to help men and their families.
f, Many churches have helped RR but none any more than FLBC and Pastor Neil Winstead.
g. Brian Poppe offering to buy the “wedge” of land to make our first attempt to buy the land possible.
h. Lewis and Sharon Bishop joining the ministry and playing a major role in land purchase and purchase of the lower house as a residence for themselves.
i. Marsha Rawls relentlessly pursuing the 501 C application until it was finally approved.
j. Kim Hogue calling a meeting and “forcing” us to deal with conflicts, issues, poor communication, etc within RR board.
k. Home Depot giving us a $20,000 material grant for the first building.
l. First Christmas Celebration (2009) hosted by Pat Ott, emceed by Brian Poppe which netted RR $3700.
m. Al Major, Larry Hogue, Gary Metheney, Jerry James, Travis Parsley and key volunteers joining RR.
n. Mark and Abigail Williams providing leadership to plan and construct the first bunkhouse/lodge that set the bar for excellence in all we do.
o. The countless prayers, donations, support from pastors, volunteers and fund raising events has made it all possible.
p. Outstanding job of promoting the ministry and cooperation from the media such as the Log Cabin Democrat, 501 Magazine, River Valley Edition of Arkansas Democrat Gazette, and Little Rock TV Stations 4, 7 and 11.

Early on RR made a commitment to establish and operate the ministry so it was not dependent on any one person. RR also put policies and procedures in place to manage money and services donated in a honorable and ethical manner. From the original idea in 2009 to the time of this writing in July 2012 God has provided a total of approximately $500,000 in donations including $5,0000 plus in monthly pledges. We continue to seek to do RR ministry with unity, integrity and excellence and appreciate all of our “partners” who help us.