living hope, sunset

Living Hope

The greatest lessons of my life have come through the difficult seasons. As 2019 closed and we headed into 2020, I was praying for God to lead us boldly into a new season of ministry and growth at Cookson Hills. We had made a smooth transition in leadership, we were seeing amazing stories written in the lives of our kids, but we were not content. Therefore, We asked our supporters to pray for houseparents and the ability to serve more students in 2020. We were anticipating just how God would hear from heaven and fill our homes with parents and children.  

A year unexpected

The calendar turned, 2020 came, and it was not what any of us expected. Instead of more workers and children, we got a pandemic. Our prayers seemed to have bounced off the ceiling of heaven. I thought of farmers who plant their seeds and then pray for rain without an answer. How do you respond to a year like 2020?  Do you plow up the seeds you have planted, give up on the prayers you have prayed? No, we hope.

The Bible calls us to a “living hope” that withstands the tests and trials of life (1 Peter 1:3-9.)  This living hope is the unwavering faith that God will be faithful to keep all his promises.  As Peter went on to write there will be times we don’t see God in the way or timing that we want, yet we love Him, believe in Him, and rejoice in what He will do.

prayer, walks, living hope
Taking daily prayer walks became a part of Ron’s routine. He prayed for our campus and the ministry as well as the children’s bio families and our supporters.

It was hard this past year to see how God was going to answer our prayers. At times I felt like a tourist riding the whitewater rapids never knowing what was coming around the next turn. How do you run a children’s home and school during a pandemic? What will happen if the virus comes to our campus? How will we keep our children and staff safe? What do we do to enroll children safely? How will we be able to get new houseparents to come? What is happening in the lives of supporters? A lot of questions and unknowns that each presented challenges. 

God Provides

The days dragged by so slowly from late February to the end of April, with few answers. And then like thunder in the distance that tells you rain is on the way, we began to see God’s answers to our prayers. Two houseparent couples were hired in May, and two more before the end of the year.  We enrolled nine new students from May to September, and then three more came that fall. 

Donations were falling behind most of the year. As a result, we entered November seeing a gap of $553,000.  Would it be too much to ask for God to close this gap in funding?  We prayed He would answer one more prayer. We shared the need and our donors responded!  With tears in our eyes, we rejoiced as we counted the final receipts of $556,000. Just like that, God did what He is famous for. He answered our prayers and provided for His children.

Over the door of my office is a verse of scripture from Exodus 14:14. The words are from the story of Israel’s Exodus when Moses and Israelites are between an ocean and an army. God says, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.” (Exodus 14:14) When we are between a rock and a hard place, a virus or a quarantine, God says, “Still your mind, calm your fears, stop talking, watch, listen, and trust me.” I will never doubt that God hears my prayers, God sees my needs, and God will do immeasurably more than I could ever imagine.  I have learned much during the last year, but most of all I have learned the joy of living hope.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR — Ron Riley, Executive Director, is from Council Bluffs, Iowa. After serving on the Cookson Hills Board for 2 years, he became Executive Director in July of 2019. He enjoys reading or listening to books, watching football, and spending time with his family.