In 1963 God gave two families a vision to start a Christian youth ranch whose primary focus would be to share the gospel of Christ through horses and a western atmosphere. In the spring of 1963, Dale and Opal Linebaugh along with Dutch and Phyllis Sickler purchased over 600+ acres of land in Spring Creek, Pennsylvania. The property originally included a farmhouse and cottage, as well as two barns. By the next summer, new additions included a 50-foot multi-purpose building with a kitchen/dining hall, snack shack and game room, plus two bunkhouses for the campers, a corral and an arena for the horsemanship classes.
Miracle Mountain Ranch was dedicated on July 4th, 1964 and on July 6th the first week of summer camp began, as 23 boys and girls arrived from New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Georgia. By the end of that first summer season, 135 ranchers had attended a week of camp and 15 made decisions for salvation.
In the upcoming years, additional buildings were added to meet the demands of the growing enrollment, including new bunkhouses, a pole-barn chapel, and a new horse barn with an indoor arena. Along with changes to the facility, changes were also underway among the staff. In 1972, after 10 years of ministering together, Dutch and Phyllis Sickler left the Ranch and sold their share of the Ranch to Dale and Opal. A few years later, in 1977, when Dale Linebaugh decided to return to college, the directorship of the Ranch was turned over to his son-in-law and daughter, Lew and Melodie Sterrett.
Under their leadership, the Ranch continued to grow and develop in both facilities and ministry. Soon several new outreach ministries would impact many more lives for Christ in a whole new way. From the beginning, the Ranch’s goal was to impact the world for Christ through evangelism and outreach, combined with spiritual training and development. Lew’s heart was intrigued with the concept of a Christian discipleship school that used horses as training tools. He realized that the Ranch provided a perfect environment for such a discipleship program and in 1981, the Camp Apprentice Ministry Program began, a one-year program growing out of a vision and concern for meaningful discipleship training for young men and women, strengthening their spiritual walk and developing godly leaders to impact future generations. In the upcoming years, the Ranch would see the apprenticeship program grow from two students to over 35 students a year, with the staff and facilities also growing to meet the demands of this new ministry outreach. A milestone was reached in 2002 when, after many months of planning, paperwork and dealing with the proper authorities, God graciously allowed the apprenticeship program to be approved as a Private Licensed School in the state of Pennsylvania, providing academic integrity for the program and allowing the Ranch to provide student visas for foreign students. Recently renamed the School of Discipleship, the apprenticeship program at Miracle Mountain Ranch continues to offer young men and women a chance to establish their relationship with Christ, equipping them to extend their influence and evangelize those around them.
It was during the very first year of the apprenticeship program that another major ministry began, as Lew hosted a series of horse sermonettes in several public schools in Virginia, the beginning of what would become the Sermon on the Mount ministries. In the years to come, that ministry would develop into a nationwide outreach where horses are used to reach thousands for Christ, with visual illustrations and examples of Biblical truth that can be applied to life, can draw people to the gospel of Jesus Christ and can encourage growth and maturity in the lives of believers.
Along with the development of these two ministries, the Ranch continued to offer summer camps, retreats for youth and adults, and many other outreach ministries like Open House, Alumni Weekends, SALT and LIFE Conferences for teens, and in-training programs. Additional facilities continued to be added to meet the needs of the ministry. The Town Hall Chapel provided a worship center, office space, storage and a gymnasium, the Mustanger’s Feed & Seed provided hay storage, the Lone Star Livery became the new trail ride headquarters, the upper and lower Box Cross Arenas were constructed for summer camp and rodeos. Most recently, the Rafter K arena was constructed as a multi-purpose center for the various equestrian ministries, and construction began on the Operations Headquarters to provide support for all the operations and facilities of MMR.
In 2010, the Ranch underwent another major transition in leadership as Lew Sterrett resigned as Executive Director of MMR, relocating his Sermon on the Mount and Leader’s by HEART ministries to Oklahoma. By the fall, Matt Cox was introduced as the new Executive Director of MMR. With Matt now holding the reins, the Ranch continues to grow and develop, updating facilities and adding to the ministries of Miracle Mountain Ranch, seeking to develop the spiritual lives of all those who come. We look forward to watching God continue to bless His ministry here at Miracle Mountain Ranch.