FAIRMOUNT — The Double HH Ranch near Fairmount is known as a ranch of hope and healing, and that is exactly what it is. Rebecca Hampton, who owns the property, is the driving force behind the Cowboy Church in Jerusalem, the one-room schoolhouse, and the horse therapy that takes place on her ranch.
Hampton is an equine therapist who has rescued dozens of horses from abuse and neglect. She then uses the horses as a means of helping troubled youth who are otherwise therapy resistant.
Equine therapists will use their expertise to show troubled youth how horses learn, react, and follow instructions. The therapy includes involving youth in activities such as grooming, feeding, training, and leading a horse. The goal of horse therapy is to help the youths develop needed emotional and behavioral attributes such as confidence, accountability, responsibility, self-control, and purpose.
Through the years children and teenagers have gravitated toward Hampton and she became concerned with how impoverished and disadvantaged they were. Pickens County, where the ranch is located, has the dubious distinction of having 51% of its girls getting pregnant before their 19th birthday. The county also is among the counties where the use of methamphetamines is extraordinarily high.
One student confessed that she rarely sees her grandfather because he is addicted to heroine. The needs of the county’s youth have been enormous, but the solutions have been minimal.
Hampton approached Rebecca Morris, wife of GBC Associational Missionary Alan Morris, about starting a school for at-risk children and low-income students in the Pickens County area. The school was started last September by the North Central Area Missions office and is a tuition-free Christian school.
Morris started educating 15 children ranging in age from 5 to16 in eight different grade levels; and she teaches all of them together in a 19th century style one-room schoolhouse. The students come from various levels of brokenness and poverty and statistically do not succeed in traditional forms of education. Morris is endeavoring to do the “impossible” for these students who come from impossible situations. And she is not struggling to find students. In fact, she has 14 children and teenagers on a waiting list to get into the academy.
The children in Morris’ school are from impoverished families where abuse, addiction, and mental illness are prevalent. Most of them are from single parent homes. Each morning they are fed a wholesome breakfast and the school provides a good meal for the children at lunch.
The school day is started with prayer and Bible study. Scripture memorization is a part of the day’s lesson plan along with reading, spelling, math, history, and science. Morris has used Christian material to build the curriculum for the school.
The curriculum is taught four days a week, but Wednesdays are referred to as “Wonderful Wednesdays.” On Wednesdays Hampton teaches horse riding, gardening, healthy cooking, hygiene, clogging, etc.
Morris, however, is loaded with responsibilities as the primary teacher for all the students and essentially has to prepare to teach seven subjects on eight different grade levels, grade papers, and serve as the school administrator. Hope Morris, Rebecca’s assistant teacher, relieves her on Fridays so that she is free to prepare lessons for the next week.
Madison Crawford, age 11, stated, “This school has helped me learn about God. I like the Bible study at the beginning of each day and the horse riding.
“Ms. Rebecca teaches us about God and it is easy to tell she is a good Christian. I have accepted Christ here and I am a Cowboy Kid. That means I am on the praise, dance, and drill teams for the Cowboy Church.”
The children in Morris’ school are from impoverished families where abuse, addiction, and mental illness are prevalent.
At the beginning of each worship service at the Cowboy Church the horses and riders line up along the driveway to the church and then perform certain drills they have practiced for the Saturday services.
Keirsten Freeman, age 14, explained, “I was bullied at my school before I came here. People called me nasty names and stole my stuff. Since I coming to this school my grades have improved from Cs to As. Math used to be my worst subject. Now I love it. I feel like I am free. I have no worries about being bullied here.
“I love being in the same class with the smaller children, because I have been able to relearn the things they are being taught and I enjoy helping them with their studies.
“I have accepted Christ at the Cowboy Church, and being here has helped me grow in my faith. Ms. Rebecca is the sweetest person. She not only gets us prepared for tests, but she is getting us prepared for life. Anyone would be blessed to have her as his/her teacher.”
The Cowboy Church in Jerusalem meets on the 1st, 3rd, and 5th Saturday each month and hosts a significant number of events and activities. Each year the church has an International Day on the Saturday prior to the Fourth of July. Last year the church had seven nationalities present for the service. Alan Morris, the associational missionary for the Etowah –North Central Area, is the chaplain for the Cowboy Church and is a regular preacher for their Saturday gatherings.
Since the church was founded three years ago there have been 110 professions of faith recorded and 80 have been baptized in the horse pond on the HH Ranch property.
“Since I began coming to this school my grades have improved from Cs to As. Math used to be my worst subject. Now I love it. I feel like I am free. I have no worries about being bullied here.”
Kiersten Freeman, 14
Recently a team of high school students from Grace Christian Academy in Anchorage, AK gave up their spring break to come to Georgia in an “Alaska to Appalachia” mission trip to assist Morris and Hampton in tutoring and mentoring the students, working at the Cowboy Church and mending fences.
It takes an enormous amount of work to accomplish what is being achieved at the Double HH Ranch, but the fruit being produced is amazing.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of churches in Georgia that sit idle all week long with scores of at-risk children within a shadow of their buildings and yet these churches are not doing anything to break the cycle of abuse and poverty that often exists in traditional education.