Emma Smith, an English author once wrote, “Life is like the river, sometimes it sweeps you gently along and sometimes the rapids come out of nowhere.” In the journey of a Christian life the same can be said. Psalm 1, in fact, talks about a person who listens to the law of the Lord as being like “a tree planted by the rivers of water that brings forth fruit in its season, whose leaves also shall not wither, and whatever he does shall prosper.” It’s the rivers of water that seem to be the driving force behind the tree’s health and growth, whether it’s swept us gently along or caught us up in the rapids.
Many years ago John Orr directed a youth camp at Peach Valley Christian Camp in Shiner, Texas. His approach to camp was simple…To make leaders out of the campers we host for a week. To show them how to lead as Christians in their church and in their lives. The campers came primarily from the Sweeny Church of Christ in Sweeny, Texas, and I was one of those campers.
I was caught up in that river those years going to camp, and it took me down a certain path towards the same course after my father stopped directing the camp. Before that happened, I had met my future wife, Loretta, through my father’s camp, though I didn’t attend his camp that year. To make a long story short, God brought Loretta and I together through the camp, and we in turn started our own camp called the Leadership Camp after being encouraged by another camp director, Charles Goodnight, who had asked us to teach a leadership class for teenagers still interested in attending his session at Peach Valley, Camp Emmaeus, which had previously only been for 8-12 years old.
Our first year of running our own camp was 2003, and since then we have had 15 years of camp. The purpose of the camp is simple…To create leaders who will carry the work of God forward as future leaders of the Lord’s Church. The year prior, Loretta decided to do a retreat for girls at the same camp site at Peach Valley, and then we added a Leadership retreat that went along with the camp a few years afterwards. There were times when our camp faced challenges and a change of locations, but God always seemed to help us each year to add more staff and bring more young people into leadership, as ministers, youth ministers, missionaries, and workers in the church became a part of God’s fruit in part due to the influence of our camp. To date there are over 20 former campers and staff who have entered into ministry positions or missions since we first started. That in itself would have been enough for us, but then we stopped being merely swept along gently. We got caught up in the rapids.
Two more retreats were added as an extension of what we started in 2003, this time by one of our former campers and now youth minister, Riley Watkins. He and one of our friends Priscilla Gregg started a retreat for young adults, then he started a guy’s retreat called Warrior Weekend. Soon, we were involved in four different retreats and a camp every year.
At the same time John, my dad, was writing material and had just published his first book and planned on creating more materials for the purpose of training leaders and church members on evangelism, worship, and leadership in the Church. Loretta wanted to add more girl’s retreats in other States to the retreat she was already doing, and also add a Ladies retreat. In February 2016 Loretta came up with an idea of how to organize and grow all of our camps, retreats, and outreaches all at once. That’s where the idea of OFM, or Orr Family Ministries, was born. We received our 501(c)(3), non-profit status from the IRS in March 2016.
The purpose of our organization has always been simple…To create leaders in the Lord’s Kingdom, and give leaders and church members the tools they needed to grow the Lord’s Church. The Leadership Camp, all the retreats we do, the curriculum we are currently in the process of creating, and more outreach and training opportunities cannot be accomplished by one or two people, but by an organization that supports all of these works and looks into ways to strengthen and add to the works God has done through our camps, retreats, and outreach we continue to do today. In a short amount of time God has brought forth a great deal of fruit in its season, and the river that drives us forward has carried us further than we ever thought we’d go. The future of OFM, or Orr Family Ministries, is anyone’s guess, but our goal is the same. We want to go where God leads us in equipping and creating leaders for the Lord, and as long as we hold to His word and His counsel, we believe God will continue to produce fruit in His kingdom.
May God bless our continued efforts,