Brett and Ashley (Ring) Bailey (’01): Boys and Girls Town of Missouri ranch directors
May 15, 2010
Evangel University Alumnus Brett Bailey (’01) and his wife Ashley (Ring ’01) Bailey, currently reside in Steelville, Missouri, a small rural town of 1,400 people. In this tiny town, Brett tackles large responsibilities as the director of the Boys and Girls Town of Missouri’s (BGTM) Meramec Adventure Learning Ranch (MALR).
The MALR is a 1200-acre property that serves youth, families and communities of BGTM, Edgewood Children’s Center and other Great Circle Agencies. Brett says the wilderness ranch runs “everything from 1- to 12-day therapeutic adventure and wilderness programs conducting backpacking trips, high-ropes challenge courses, land navigation, kayaking, mountain biking and team building, using these activities to inspire positive change in character and integrity.”
In the first year at the MALR, they had adventure programs that impacted 528 youth. After Brett’s diligent efforts to build the program, Brett and his team served more than 5,300 youth in 2009. All these youth were dealing with histories of severe abuse and neglect, emotional/behavioral disorders, sexual issues and/or substance abuse. Brett says the most difficult part of his job is “hearing about the atrocities that have been done to many of these kids and watching many relatives and adults continue to wound them.” He is determined to be the light and hope these children so desperately need and to allow God to work through him in their lives.
Brett and Ashley both attended Evangel University, graduating with degrees in Social Science Education/Missions Studies and Elementary Education respectively. After graduation in 2001, Brett served in active duty in the Army for five years. “God used my time in the Army to greatly develop my reliance on His power for protection and grace,” Brett says. “It taught us even more what it means to live a life of service to others.”
After his five years of active duty, Brett retired from the military with plans to move his family to Africa. Brett and Ashley wanted to become full-time missionaries to child-soldiers.
As Brett and Ashley pursued this call, doors leading to Africa kept closing. They began to pray about it, and Brett received a call from BGTM in Springfield asking him if he would consider becoming the director of their new adventure ranch in Steelville.
Ashley is now a stay-at-home mom with their two children, Molly (age 3) and Will (age 1), and works as contract guide and coordinator of all special events for the ranch. Brett values his wife as his “prayer partner and sounding board/voice of reason for all my hair-brained ideas.”
“I’ve always had a heart for kids, especially kids who were wounded by life,” says Ashley. “We dreamed that one day we could run some sort of camp for at-risk youth and let them experience the awesomeness of God’s great outdoors. Little did we know, our dream would become a reality much sooner than expected. We know that God has placed us here, and we couldn’t be any happier.”
Q-and-A with Brett and Ashley Bailey
Brett, how did your Evangel degrees prepare you for your career?
They gave me a strong foundation on which to work. More than anything else, we are teachers —teachers of skills, techniques, but mostly teachers of life. The young men and women we serve have never had people who cared or who could teach them how to be men and women of character, integrity and vision. Evangel taught us to be ever-alert to those fleeting teachable moments and how to facilitate the moments of discovery that leads to decisions and life changes. Probably the most important thing that my Missions major gave me was the ability to see all of life as a mission field and, even more importantly, instilled in me the importance of developing and nurturing trust and relationship as the key to service, evangelism and discipleship.
Ashley, how did your time at Evangel prepare you for your work at the Adventure Ranch?
Evangel prepared me for life in general. Not only did I receive an excellent education, but I received skills that taught me how to be better at everything I set my mind to. I learned how to push myself, to meet my goals, and take on new challenges. The friends I made, the educators who instructed me, and the countless other people I encountered at Evangel opened my eyes to the world. As fun as it was, Evangel still laid the ground work for everything else that was to come in the following years.
What was your first reaction when you were asked to fill the position of camp directors?
We were excited, but overwhelmed. We knew without a shadow of a doubt that it was where God was leading us, and because of that, we knew that He would provide us with everything we would need. However, we went into this job with a very clear understanding that in order to build a program from the ground up that served some of the most difficult youth around that we would need God’s wisdom, discernment, strength, protection and guidance every step of the way.
What is the most rewarding part of your work at the ranch?
Watching a young man or woman’s eyes light up when they realize that they are not fated to become the person they have been told they will be, or that their diagnosis says. To watch God begin the process of freeing these kids of unimaginable guilt, pain, emptiness and hurt and begin to fill them with hope. To see them smile genuinely, some of them for the first time, and experience things they never thought they would have the opportunity to experience.
Brett, would you recommend Evangel University for those planning a career in the military?
Without a doubt, I would. Not only does MSU/Evangel have one of the best and most well-respected ROTC programs in the country, Evangel’s focus of developing students’ internalization of their faith and of integrating that faith into whatever field God leads them prepares its students to be soldiers for their country and even more importantly, soldiers for their God.
What activities do you and your family most enjoy in spending time together?
Would you believe it if we said stuff outside? Camping and exploring — even though our hikes usually only cover about 50 feet an hour, since we stop to examine every bug, leaf, rock, sight and smell). We wouldn’t trade it for the world!
What advice would you give to prospective students?
Be open, be humble, jump on opportunities. Integrity is everything.