By Heather Tompkins
I read this comment on FB the day after Mel died. “God tends to pick a nobody, to become a somebody, in front of EVERYBODY”. That sure sounds like Mel Stevens.
The next day I read Matt. 14:13 and it reminded me of Mel again. You all know the story of the disciples coming to Jesus all cranky and upset wanting him to send the people away- They said it was late, people were hungry. Jesus told them to feed the people. They said they had nothing…..oh yes, except a small basket of five loaves and two fish…so little for such a big task. But Jesus took that small offering lifted it to Heaven, prayed, blessed it, and multiplied it and fed over 5,000. Many years ago Mel Stevens lifted HIS small offering (his basket full of passion to tell others about Jesus) and offered it to God to be blessed. He then took his small family, a few suitcases, and travelled halfway around the world to share his love for Jesus. Mel’s small offering, alongside the Kingsmen, was greatly blessed as God multiplied it to feed hundreds of young lives as they started the first-ever Christian youth Ranch in Australia. Throughout the years Mel’s offering has multiplied over and overfeeding thousands of lives not only at Teen Ranch Canada and Teen Ranch Australia but also Teen Ranch Scotland, Teen Ranch Indonesia, and other parts of the World.… a “NOBODY” from Peterborough, who became a somebody to spiritually feed SO many.
Mel sure fed into my life in many ways and I’ve chosen just a few to share this morning, My first encounter with Mel was when our youth group from the big city rented the Ranch facility for our Youth Retreat. I didn’t realize then that Teen Ranch was NOT a facility but a MINISTRY! Before the weekend was over Mel had somehow convinced George, me, and our best friend Paul Allen to come back and volunteer on weekends….which led to many summer camps and eventually led to full-time ministry at TR for all three of us.
Mel had a PASSION FOR TRAVEL AND ADVENTURE….and before we knew it George and I had quit two well-paying jobs to VENTURE off with Mel to Australia. For our first two months, we travelled with Mel and The Kingsmen as they performed concerts in many Sydney Churches raising much-needed funds for Cobbity Teen Ranch. None of the money raised went into anyone’s pocket but all was given to the Ranch ministry.
Throughout Mel’s 53 years of serving God at Caledon Teen Ranch, I was attracted by his selfless giving. He faithfully and diligently worked tireless hours to help build beautiful accommodations like The Plough Inn, The Coach House, The Carriage House….much more glamorous than any of the three modest homes he lived in here on the property. Mel always gave generously and selflessly to the Ranch ministry….never for his gain.
Mel loved to “TAKING RISKS” and I was his eager follower. I remember clearly how encouraging Mel was when I told him about my desire to use the large empty upstairs room at the Ice Corral to host ladies’ events and invite the community to join us; providing another opportunity for the Ranch to spread God’s truth and love to the surrounding community. Mel was quickly onboard if I promised him not to add any financial burden to the Ranch. Then he promised me I could use “ANYTHING” around the property to decorate for those special evenings. One early morning George, Danny, Leta, and I were upstairs busily decorating for a drama about Corrie ten Boom’s life. Poor Mel was downstairs totally confused, upset, and concerned as to WHY & HOW had his large office desk and big buffet suddenly disappeared. In my enthusiasm, I had failed to tell him I needed some “ANYTHING” around the Ranch. Thankfully he calmed down when I brought him upstairs to see how his desk and buffet were being used to display Corrie’s, Father’s- the watchmaker “Watch Shop”.
Mel was our number ONE fan when the staff wanted to take a RISK and open WIDE the Ranch gates and welcome the community in to help celebrate our 30th Anniversary. We wanted to celebrate on Thanksgiving weekend as it would be such a wonderful opportunity for us to shout out thanks to God for the wonderful 30 years of GOD’S faithfulness to Teen Ranch. But we had SO little time, SO little finances…would the community even want to come? Thankfully, it was a huge success and from then until now, Teen Ranch has continued to keep its gates WIDE OPEN providing a large variety of community events throughout the year. Mel was right, taking risks is MORE THAN WORTH IT!!!
I decided to wear a black outfit on the day of Mel’s service to help represent how I think most of us were feeling. The BLACK skirt & BLACK COWBOY hat represent grief and sorrow…the sadness we feel knowing life will still go on without our Mel’s loving presence. Knowing Teen Ranch will never feel quite the same. The absence of Mel’s presence will be dearly and deeply missed by us all…. but none more than Mel’s wife, Betty. We are all so grateful to Betty for lovingly and faithfully taking such amazing care of Mel’s everyone needs 24/7. I wish I had a big trophy or a medal from all of us to thank Betty from the bottom of our hearts. We will be forever grateful. Without a doubt, Mel will be loved always, never forgotten. Now it’s our turn for those of us who knew and loved MEL to work together. Let’s help keep his legacy alive….his passion to share God’s love with others.
The bright colors on my top represent the “JOY” we feel knowing Mel, who suffered so much, especially in these last months, is now living free of pain, NO more limitations, the old is gone. It’s the JOY we can ALL feel as we imagine the wonderful welcome Mel received as he heard those words “ Well done, GOOD and FAITHFUL SERVANT”. And the crazy exciting welcome he received from all his precious loved ones who had gone before him. WOW, such unspeakable JOY for Mel who is FINALLY HOME.
Take a quiet moment and imagine Mel looking down on you – imagine him speaking directly to you. I think he is saying – “Will the ones who have gone before you – find YOU faithful?”
Heather (Ferris) Tompkins was first involved at Teen Ranch as a teenage volunteer on weekends and summer camps, and then alongside her family she worked full-time from 1975-1980 and again in 1995-2000. She enjoys returning each year to assist in facilitating a much-loved Mother/Daughter Retreat weekend. Heather has been energized serving the Lord in Canada, Australia (3x), Chicago (2x). Her life has been enriched, challenged, and greatly blessed not only in Christian camping, but as a teacher, missionary, pastor’s wife and a bereavement support chaplain for 20 years at the Coping Centre.
From the earliest days of marriage and throughout the years Heather and George’s family verse is ….”As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”. Today God has brought that verse into reality as all 3 for their children & families are serving the Lord in a variety of Christian ministries. Heather feels very thankful, incredibly blessed and unbelievably grateful to GOD for a life full of travel, exciting adventure and purposeful service.