“My Shelterwood story starts in the summer of 1993 at Kanakuk in Branson.”

I had just finished college at the University of Arkansas and was working at K-West in the kitchen when a man with the loudest Hawaiian shirt I’d ever seen came running in singing, “Jean, Jean, the dancing machine!”

Instantly our usually grumpy head cook transformed before my eyes, moving her feet in rhythm, and smiling from ear to ear.

I had met Richard Beach.

Later that summer with nothing planned for the fall, I found myself interviewing for a job at Richard’s Doulos ministry in Branson. My work experience as a youth assistant at my church and at Young Life and Athletes in Action won me the job, but when I showed up to pick up my packets, I was told I’d be heading to their Colorado location along with 13 other recent college graduates.

When we arrived, we learned two things: we’d be the first class to live at the location, and it needed a lot of work to become livable! For weeks we worked into the late evening cutting down dead trees, cleaning and painting the inside, and washing out gutters.

Soon our class was serving others, helping move people, painting houses, and answering the needs of the inner-city church we were partnering with. We did everything together, and some of my closest friends for the past 27 years, including my husband Bruce, were part of this group of 14.

Through it all, Richard was always visiting us. He’d show God’s love to everyone. He witnessed to everyone. Every day. His personality and charisma were infectious, and his example of living the Jesus life, contagious.

“The experience makes you examine your true self daily. It also forged me into the person I am today.”

Richard also surrounded us with great spiritual leaders and teachers to guide us, and a married couple on campus to shepherd us through the good and challenging times.

By September, we received our first teen, the granddaughter of one of Richard’s donors. Then a couple of weeks later, our first boy. Soon we had enough kids in our care that our mentor group split into two: our “bigs” served the teens in the house, while the rest of us continued to go into the community to serve others.

Along with pouring into these teens, I did inner-city ministry and coached a girls’ basketball team. We partnered with the inner-city churches and worked Richards’ The Sky’s the Limit camp for underprivileged kids. I continued to work for Shelterwood as it grew, starting the admissions department as our teen intakes began to grow along with other responsibilities. After Doulos, I continued to work in ministry for a close friend of Richard’s.

My time as a mentor at Doulos tested and challenged my faith. The experience makes you examine your true self daily. It also forged me into the person I am today. Through Shelterwood’s commitment to the Doulos Leadership Institute, I see a return to the roots of the ministry and can’t help but smile knowing that Richard’s legacy of creating next generation faith leaders is alive and well.