History of Miracle Mountain Ranch

HistoryIn 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 ranchers (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 girlsarrived 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.  In 1975 and 76, Jed Linebaugh, the son of Dale and Opal took over the directorship. A few years later, in 1977, the directorship of the Ranch was turned over to Dale’s 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.The Ranch provided a perfect environment for such a discipleship program so in 1981, the Camp Apprentice Ministry Program began. The “Apprenticeship Program” was a one-year program developed to model discipleship training for young men and women, strengthening their spiritual walk and building godly leaders to impact future generations.   In the upcoming years, the Ranch would see the apprenticeship program grow from two students to close to 40 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, the apprenticeship program was 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 with truth, helping them extend into their communities 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 horsesermonettes 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, S.O.T.M. can draw people to the gospel of Jesus Christ and encourage growth and maturity in the lives of believers.  As this is Lew’s particular ministry, the Ranch now utilizes the title Message From the Mount and continues using these concepts to share the message of the Gospel of Christ.

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, SALT and LIFE Conferences for teens, a Mexico mission trip, 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, and the upper and lower Box Cross Arenas were constructed for summer camp and rodeos. The Rafter K arena was constructed as a multi-purpose center for the various equestrian ministries, and the Operations Headquarters was built 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 in place as the new Executive Director of MMR.  Matt had been serving on staff for 19 years at this point in a variety of roles. Along with the retirement of other long term staff, the Ranch adjusted to a new generation of staff.  Under Matt’s leadership, the Ranch also transitioned from being predominantly family owned to being purchased and owned by the ministry itself.  This can only be attributed to the provision of God and the support of so many donors that came alongside the ministry. In 2011, the decision was made to take a leap of faith and tear down our rustic bath house that was built in the 70’s.  In its place, there was constructed a 3 story building consisting of a learning center/classroom, laundry room and female dorms for our School of Discipleship, new restrooms with handicap access, and a nurse’s station with infirmary. 

In 2012 the Ranch experienced a devastating loss as a young man burnt three of our barns to the ground in an act of arson. 29 small animals lost their lives in the fires, but God used this tragic time to not only open up greater relationships with our community, but to also redeem the heart of this young man as he came to a saving knowledge of Christ’s work on his behalf.

In 2020, during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ranch transitioned into hosting its first ever Day Camps.  Opening our eyes to a whole group of Ranchers that are more comfortable just being away from home for the day, we plan to continue to offer this option.

The Ranch continued 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. On average, we have a staff of around 12 families and numerous singles, all working on mission support. We recognize fully that this ministry is sustained wholly by the gracious hand of God and blessed by the amazing community that supports our staff and facilities through their generous and faithful donations.