A Visit to the Lighthouse Ranch, April 1996
Before going to Portland for a meeting, I had the opportunity to spend a couple of days in Eureka, and one of those days I spent at the Ranch. After a great breakfast and visit with one of the few families living there, I spent most of the day roaming about the Ranch savoring old memories, and just praying and communing with the Holy Spirit. It was a really wonderful time with the Lord, and I felt recently that I should share with you a few of the many impressions I received, as I believe them to be pertinent to where we are at this time.
I started off at the north edge of the Bluff, and as I wandered along, stopping frequently to be grateful for the wind and the solitude, I found myself flooded with the impression of the hundreds and probably thousands of people like myself whose lives had been deeply touched by the hand of God on those few acres. Just that fact was overwhelming to me, and I could feel within me as if in a concentrated way the moving of the Spirit in so many lives and so many ways.
How many miracles had taken place there over the years, how many men and women, children and families, churches and ministries had their foundations built in that place? And in this revery I was very conscious that the Ranch itself was a representation of the whole ministry in its earlier days - Carlotta Mansion, Living Waters Ranch, Mendocino, the communal houses and many outreaches. What fervor boiled in our veins! What a testimony of God's love and grace.
As I made my way down the path to the beach, I couldn't help but notice in its present state of neglect how much work and creativity had gone into the building of that trail. There were countless stairs, retaining walls that had to be tied into the cliff side, handrails built of curious driftwood shapes and many other details. All of these things spoke of the combined effort of many hands and hearts invested with great love of God, and certainly some trials of the soul as well, to bring life to the community that thrived there.
However the current condition of things also spoke of our present situation. The passing of years, the growth and change of our responsibilities in families and ministries or jobs, the distance of miles and ongoing busyness of life with its consequent shortness of time have also taken their toll on us as a family of friends and churches. Yet when we're together, what glorious times as we experienced at Jim Durkin's funeral!
Throughout my meandering route around the Ranch, which took me several hours, my eyes were repeatedly drawn to the large square building closest to the road. Many of the shakes on the sides had long since been blown off, and it looked like it was ready to collapse or that it would go up in smoke in about five minutes if it were ever really dry enough to burn. There was something about that building that seemed to draw me, but I didn't understand what it was.
At the end of my route I finally came up to this old building, curious to know what was inside. On the side by the road I found a large window frame set into a little recess, and stepped up have have a look. What I saw was a huge round contrete platform well over a foot thick. It stood about the height of my waist, and was supported by pillars sunk into the ground perhaps three or four feet apart. I was astonished at such a massive and solid foundation for something. It was so strong it seemed that even if an A-bomb were dropped on it nothing would happen to it!
As I stood there puzzling over this, I noticed several thick metal hoops that lay around the base of the platform, and stacked up on the far side were huge redwood planks. Then I realized that this had been a huge water tank like a giant barrel that once stood upon the platform, and had been disassembled by someone.
Several thoughts went through my mind. First was just the stark contrast between the shabby outward appearance of the building itself, and this inmoveable structure on the inside. Then I thought that this could be the base for a whole new lighthouse, but not a little wooden thing like the original one, but a more like a traditional lighthouse ... tall and imposing, built of solid concrete, one that would stand out on the coastline. Or we could even have it be a prayer tower, complete with guest rooms with all it's own facilities, and use the upper floors like observation decks for retreats and prayer and worship rooms! In the midst of these and other thoughts, the Lord began to impress on my spirit what I was really seeing. He began to show what it was that had so drawn my attention towards this building:
Just as the visible condition of this building would indicate it was about to disintegrate, so we could look at the actual condition of the Lighthouse Ranch. During the past few years we have received occasional letters that have talked of a new vision for the Ranch. Then there would be no news for a long time,and then another letter with another new focus would come. But to see the place basically abandoned and lifeless compared to what it had been years before made a pretty dismal impression.
It was also representative of Gospel Outreach itself. The building looked like it would be best to just torch it! And there have been some opinions expressed to that effect. Just as the many shingles that have been blown off or just fallen off perhaps for the lack of a nail or t wo, many people and churches have just disappeared. We're only a handfull left, and some of us aren't sure if we're standing on solid ground or a fading illusion that we once shared.
Here the Lord showed me that this solid foundation represented the basic apostolic teachings that we have been built upon. The reality and importance of the operational five-fold ministry gifts for the church are the unshakeable platform of truth that has sustained it throughout the ages. That is our heritage. Even though we look around at the current status of our ministry and could easily become discouraged, the overwhelming impression I got was that the Lord is building His church, and that He has given us a solid foundation.
The concept of the five-fold equipping gifts have been at the forefront of our teaching and doctrine, but somehow actual working of the gifts themselves has escaped us. It would seem we haven't learned yet how to really make it all work. "For we know in part, and we prophesy in part." as it says in 1st Corinthians 3:9, and so we have only seen a parcial result. But the assurance I received from the Lord is that as He will complete the work He started in us and through us. We need just to trust, and to give ourselves to searching Him out. He is doing a glorious work throughout the earth in these present times, and He's not planning to leave us out!
What this means for us, though, is change. In the same way also with the church at large there is a great need for change. But again, it is God who will bring in the change as long as we remain flexible for Him to do as He needs with each of us. As we give ourselves to being with Him, and not just being busy in HIs "work", we ourselves will be changed. His plan and His desire is that we be pliable and obedient to the leading of the Spirit, conformed to the image of Jesus, and not that we conform to or derive our sense of identity or "ministry" from our part or position in an imperfect structure. And as change and growth continues to take place in us as individuals, so must the organization be flexible enough to permit and promote that growth like a new wineskin.
Corinthians goes on to say in verse 10, "when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away." But meanwhile "that which is perfect" is coming, "now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."
Back to my other writings, etc.
Joan Pritchard's Gospel Outreach Alumni pages