“…even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles…”
~ Isaiah 40:30-31
This passage from the Bible depicts a vivid picture of many children and their families that are in this world, many of whom are in the state of Arkansas. They stumble and fall because of their environment, but when given a chance in a positive and Christian environment, the sky becomes the limit. This is a verse that changed the life of the founder, Andrew Watson. God gave him this verse at one of the most difficult times in his life. God ultimately used this verse to lead him to start Soaring Wings Ranch.
Soaring Wings Ranch began as a dream in 1997 when Andrew began working with children in the area of juvenile probation. An internship turned into a caseworker position for him at Community Service, Inc. in Conway, Arkansas while attending the University of Central Arkansas. It was during this time that Andrew began to see that the answer to many of the problems that the children faced would be best dealt with if they were removed from the environment they were in and given a loving, stable HOME.
Andrew received his Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of Central Arkansas, and later attended Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary where he received his Masters degree in Christian Education with an emphasis on students. Andrew and his wife, Marla, were later given the opportunity to serve at a children’s home in Gadsden, Alabama as relief house parents. They were able to gain the valuable experience and knowledge they need to start Soaring Wings Ranch.
Andrew and Marla moved back to Arkansas in June 2002, to begin work on founding Soaring Wings Ranch. With less than $1,000 in a designated bank account and a dream from God, Andrew began working on building a board of directors and finding a piece of property to house his dream. After several closed doors on other pieces of property, Andrew found the 198 acres in Holland, Arkansas that would later become Soaring Wings Ranch. After walking the property the first time, he and Marla stopped by a tree near the pond, and prayed that God would give them the property. The Board of Directors and the family who owned the property entered an agreement that the family would hold the land for 18 months while Andrew attempted to secure the funds needed to purchase the property. In faith, some generous donors provided the $30,000 needed for a down payment, and the faith walk began to raise the remaining $400,000.
Over the course of the next 18 months, Andrew and the Board of Directors worked tirelessly spreading the word about Soaring Wings Ranch. With only one month left in the contract, there was still $217,000 left to raise. With only 6 days left, there was still $150,000 unaccounted for. Finally on the day that the contract was due, there was $15,760 still needed for the purchase of the land. Without a minute to spare, and in God’s perfect timing, at 10:00 a.m. that morning, the final amount was committed and Soaring Wings Ranch was able to purchase the 198 acres!
On August 1, 2007, we welcomed the first three children home to Soaring Wings Ranch, a sibling group made up of two boys and a girl. Since that time, we have been blessed to welcome many other children, many of whom are siblings, into our family. We have seen many children come to know Christ, make drastic changes in their lives, and resolve to break the cycle of abuse, neglect, and dysfunction that had been their family history. New family histories are being written here at Soaring Wings Ranch, giving hope not only to the children who live here for a season of their lives, but also to their children and grandchildren, and the generations that will come.
From the very beginning, Soaring Wings Ranch has been committed to remaining debt free. God has always honored that philosophy, and He has always miraculously provided for our every need. Our first two homes were provided for in ways we could have never orchestrated. In 2014, we were able to open our two newest homes, doubling our capacity from 16 to 32 children!
Such is our legacy at Soaring Wings Ranch. The stories of our origin will be told to our children for years to come. We exist to share the wonderful message with hurting children that God loves them; God will take care of them and provide for them; God will heal their hurts and allow them to “soar on wings like eagles!”