Empowering Lives in the Verde Valley
Written for and published in Copa Monitor, February 16, 2016. Reprinted with author’s permission.
by Pastor David Zimmerman, Faith Baptist Church of Maricopa, Arizona
Last month, I was introduced to an amazing Christian ministry called Rainbow Acres. Nestled in the Verde Valley, not far above the Verde River, Rainbow Acres provides homes and care for adults with Down Syndrome, Autism, Prader-Willis syndrome, and other conditions that cause mental handicaps and developmental delays. More than simply providing homes, the staff and volunteers have established a proven record of empowering the residents of Rainbow Acres (called Ranchers) to live productive lives of dignity and purpose. Operating from a core belief that every person possesses God-given potential and a divine purpose to fulfill, Rainbow Acres has become a first class community of hope in Arizona for the developmentally disabled.
Rainbow Acres was founded in 1974 by Rev. Ralph Showers, an American Baptist pastor who spent much of his childhood struggling to cope with learning disabilities, including dyslexia. This experience gave him a unique compassion for others like himself. Out of this compassion grew a vision of creating a place that would offer help and hope to the developmentally disabled in an environment of dignity, respect, and spiritual strength. As I toured the homes and workshops and was introduced to some of the Ranchers, I rapidly developed a deep appreciation for this ministry. Men and women who were once written off as hopeless cases by some have been helped to thrive both in and out of the Rainbow Acres community.
Drawing upon biblical principles, Rainbow Acres takes a holistic approach to the care to the Ranchers. Each Rancher is assigned daily responsibilities to fulfill, according to his or her abilities. This is an important first step in adding purpose to their lives. Then, each Rancher is provided with vocational training through a wide variety of activities. Some work in greenhouses, growing vegetables that supplement their meals. Others help with the groundskeeping, assist in the dining hall, serve in the kitchen, or work with livestock. Through these tasks, ranchers are given a sense of dignity and self-worth. Additionally, the staff and volunteers provide educational opportunities and instruction in a wide variety of arts, crafts, and skills. Ranchers help operate a small radio station that broadcasts solely for the benefit of their community. A weaving studio transforms donated materials into rugs, placemats, scarves, bags and more which are sold through local markets. Donated stained glass is used to make beautiful mosaic stepping stones. Ranchers can learn to paint, sing in a choir, make beaded hangings, or learn basic landscaping skills. Many are employed by businesses in Sedona, Cottonwood, and Camp Verde. There are so many opportunities for the Ranchers to thrive in life that they love to call Rainbow Acres “Home.” Men and women who often felt as if they had no place in the world now live with a sense of purpose.
I would like to recommend that you get acquainted with this ministry. It is a 50-acre, state-of-the-art campus caring for the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual needs of the Ranchers. Located less than 5 minutes of Interstate 17 on the outskirts of Camp Verde, it would be worth your time to stop in, meet some of the staff, and pick up a brochure or two. You may know someone who could benefit from this ministry. Additionally, Rainbow Acres is always looking for volunteers willing to serve in many capacities. You just never know how God might use you to be part of a miracle in someone’s life.
Pastor David Zimmerman