As featured in Good Life Magazine, Mar/Apr 2018
By Steve Finn
There is no better place than to come to the realization that you are standing right where God wants you. However, it often takes years of traveling on the journey He has placed you on before you understand that every step has been purposeful. I came to know Christ when I was around 10. My mom was and is a prayer warrior who kept the spiritual compass of our family on True North. My father found Christ in a very real way when cancer entered in. Over the course of two years, I saw his focus shift from the goal of retirement to the goal of salvation. During this time, God planted a seed in my heart through the words of my dad. One night, while the meds were keeping him awake, my father told me that he had a vision to build a home for children one day in West Virginia. But that seed would lay dormant for two decades.
The last thing we did as father and son was get baptized together, two weeks before his death. I was 13. Losing my father at that age devastated my teen years. I lost interest in church. I was angry. I was wounded. When I was 21, the questions hit me … What was my purpose in life? Did God have plans for me? Was the spirit of my earthly father able to watch my life? Then, one night, God just shook me to the core, and I realized that I needed to start pursuing a life that was pleasing to Him. As I began seeking what that would look like, I kept coming across scriptures like Ephesians 2:10 and James 1 :27 that talk about doing good works and how true religion involves attending to widows and orphans. But I didn’t know how to live out those verses at the time.
God initially called me to a career in law enforcement, and I loved every minute of it. Policing in metro-Atlanta was exciting, and God was using my 12 years as a cop to mold my heart for what was to come.
Over time, my wife and I beganto seek insight from influential and business-minded individuals on how we could make an even greater impact with our lives. Those meetings developed into a vision and business plans, and then led to the two of us becoming houseparents for three years at Eagle Ranch, a children’s home in North Georgia. Steps of faith, prayer and petition, seeking counsel, and asking God to use us became routine as we hungered for more. We were driven to serve, and had a desire to focus on the youth. We wanted to do so in a place that needed the most help. So we began researching where in our country were the highest drop-out rates, suicide rates, poverty rates, and opioid use rates and it was West Virginia that kept jumping off the map.
In 2005, we moved from metro-Atlanta to the hills of West Virginia. We had no idea what God was going to do with this vision, but the seed that was planted so many years ago demanded a step of faith. When we first moved here, there was a tremendous amount of unexpected opposition to our plans from the community. I even had a pastor tell me, “Let me give you some advice, son. Why don’t you go back to Georgia where you came from? We West Virginians can handle our own:’ After a year, when our money was drying up, no doors were opening, and we were preparing to move back to Atlanta empty-handed, God suddenly opened the floodgates, providing the 225-acre tract of property and helping us raise $720 thousand to pay for it in full in just nine weeks!
After years of work developing the infrastructure, handling legal issues, and beginning to build facilities, we finally got to witness our first boys enter the Chestnut Mountain Ranch school in 2011. These are children with wounds that are deep and generational. It was amazing to begin seeing young men being restored and families finding hope in Christ.
To date, we’ve had about 50 boys go through the program, and God has continued to provide miracle after miracle. He has built the ministry of Chestnut Mountain Ranch debt-free. We have two boys’ homes built and are planning to build five more. Each would cost $1 million to build, but we’ve been able to cut that to $350 thousand each through volunteer labor from missions teams ( one of our greatest continual needs) and through donated materials.
As the ranch has grown-and continues to grow-in this miraculous way, people frequently ask us, “How did you do it?” As we found ourselves conveying the same principles again and again, a stirring began in me to write a book, Seed To Vision, to share the tools and steps God used in our journey, in hopes of inspiring others who feel God preparing them for more.
Everyone may not have a definitive seed in their life. I certainly didn’t realize mine until later. But when God begins to stir you, don’t wait for something to fall in your lap. Find out where God is moving, find out where there is a need, and get involved.
For the full story of Chestnut Mountain Ranch and insights for seeing God-inspired ideas become reality, go get a copy of Seed to Vision by Steve Finn on Amazon. To find out more about the ranch, and for opportunities for yourself or a group to come serve at the ranch, visit cmrwv.org.