“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”
— Martin Luther King Jr.
When young women first step onto the campus of The Ranch of Opportunity in Fayette County, they have often already come a long way, having lived in perhaps a dozen transient homes before, and arrive only with a bag of select items. Sometimes that means only clothing and a few stuffed animals, according to director Terry Hopkins, but the one thing that they almost always bring with them is their faith.
“When the girls come to The Ranch of Opportunity they often come in with their Bibles as one of their most prized possessions,” said Nena Bauman, director of development at The Ranch of Opportunity.
As a residential treatment center, The Ranch of Opportunity is home for about 25 young women somewhere between the ages of 13 and 18-years-old. The Ranch of Opportunity is a space for the girls to live while they recover from trauma and learn how to cope with any mental illnesses, and begin to take the next steps in their lives. In taking the next steps, The Ranch of Opportunity fosters not only the young women but their religious preferences, as well. Case study after case study has proven that faith in religion and spirituality plays an important role in health.
Religious and spiritual beliefs are associated with better mental health and decreased signs of depression, according to research gathered by the National Institute of Mental Health in peer-reviewed studies, and helps in the process of healing childhood trauma. In one study, 21 doctors surveyed agreed that religion influences health. Published by the Southern Medical Journal in 2005, the 21 doctors interviewed said the “faith-health connection” gives people a paradigm in which to organize and understand their illnesses and manage treatment.
Kristy Bowers, The Ranch of Opportunity’s community development director, said that if the girls at The Ranch of Opportunity are looking for a religious connection, the staff looks for people in the nearby area to help facilitate those religious services.
“If they have a religion that they want to delve into or be a part of, we do our utmost to make that a part of their lives and we never want to take that away from them,” said Bowers. “That is their option but that is something that we work hard to maintain for them. Anything we can do to keep faith in themselves and in their religion, and anything that is going to help them grow, that’s what we do at The Ranch of Opportunity.”
Hopkins said The Ranch of Opportunity is happy to assist the girls in finding their faith through religious and spiritual connections as they take the necessary steps through their healing process.
“These traumatized girls process information completely different than you or me because they’ve learned to survive all of this abuse. It’s either fight or flight after learning to deal with the abuse for so long. What we do at The Ranch of Opportunity is say, ‘Use your coping skills. This is what you do.’ There are some girls who disassociate, they shut down, so we work with them to be able to deal with it and keep on moving. You can’t just turn it off and stay in your room for days,” Hopkins said.
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