By Jim Nieman
Jay Craig, who has served Shiloh Christian Children’s Ranch almost since its beginning in 1977, is retiring this week after nearly 40 years of service to about 700 youth who were once abused or neglected, but found refuge through the years at one of Shiloh’s six homes.
Craig came on as the ranch’s administrator on Jan. 1, 1980, and later transitioned to direct fund-raising for the Christian nonprofit. Shiloh has a $2 million budget and operates primarily through the generosity of churches and individuals. (The ranch receives virtually no government funding.)
Today about 50 children, ranging in age from birth to 18, live in four group homes at Shiloh’s Clarence, Mo., site—the original location—and two group homes at its Kahoka, Mo., site. A Christian married couple in each home supervises the children, providing around-the-clock care and support; together each household attends a local Christian church as a family.
The children attend school—some of them the onsite Christian school at Kahoka—and also have educational services, vocational training, and counseling services available to them.
Craig says almost all of the children have suffered some form of abuse before arriving at Shiloh—physical, emotional, sexual, or verbal. The home parents and staff provide the children with stable, loving environments and opportunities to learn, grow, and have fun. The ranches include livestock, gardens, and ponds.
Craig’s retirement follows his wife Marge’s by two years. Marge also served Shiloh for 38 years, and together they worked to raise money for the ministry by visiting churches in the region. While Jay Craig will continue to serve as a consultant for Shiloh, Jay and Marge’s son, Tim, is now serving as the ministry’s director of stewardship.
We asked Jay Craig to share some thoughts about his career at Shiloh Christian Children’s Ranch.
QUESTION: Shiloh had a single home at its Clarence site when you arrived as administrator, correct?
Yes, and as the ranch grew, more attention needed to be devoted to fund-raising, so I volunteered to do that. Since that time we’ve added five homes, counselors, a Christian school, vocational training, academic tutoring, and more.
What have been the most challenging and satisfying parts of your job?
The most challenging part of my work has been in raising additional funding fast enough to enable our growth. There aren’t many shortcuts in raising revenue.
The most satisfying part of my work has been to see the changes in the children. “Once they were blind, but now they can see.”
The Lord has blessed Shiloh with outstanding staff, [especially] our home parents, who serve on the front lines and in the fox holes. They’re the ones who really deserve credit. But we also have outstanding counselors, teachers, and office workers.
Is there one child who really stands out in your mind?
A girl named Elizabeth. She came to us from the Northwest part of the country approximately 15 years ago. She’d been abused. She’s now gone on to work in research at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. She’s a very bright girl, and a good mother to her daughter.
What would you say to the churches and individuals who have supported the ranch through the years?
Thank you! You’ve been so generous to us. And we’ve not let you down. Your dollars have enabled us to have some of the best home parents anywhere, who have raised and continue to raise fine Christian citizens who are making a quality life for themselves.
What will you miss the most?
I’ll miss feeling a part of the place. In a sense, I still am a part of Shiloh, but as I leave, I’m feeling less so. . . . That hurts a little, but as my dad would say, “All things must come to an end.”
Learn more about Shiloh Christian Children’s Ranch at www.shilohranch.org.
Jim Nieman serves as managing editor of Christian Standard.