Over the past 30 years, God has intricately woven people and circumstances together to demonstrate His love through Wears Valley Ranch. Bob and Jane Barker recently shared their amazing story. God was clearly in the details of their becoming supporters of Wears Valley Ranch.
In 2008, the Barkers visited the Ranch for the first time. But, their story began long before then…
As Exxon employees Bob and Jane Barker met by phone before Bob transferred to Houston in 1977 to work with Jane on a new computer project. It involved the use of a new Hewlett-Packard 3000 Series III “mini-computer.” The computer was actually the size of a side-by-side refrigerator-freezer with a separate disc drive the size of a dishwasher. For two years, Bob and Jane work long days on the new project. After a long friendship that led to courtship, they eventually married in 1982. Had they not been husband and wife, both would likely have been transferred to different cities by Exxon. In 1983, they each applied for and accepted new jobs at HP.
Wears Valley Ranch was founded in 1991. In September of that year, the Wood family moved to Wears Valley. Coincidentally, the Barkers were working to get double transfers with HP from Houston to Atlanta. The Barkers came to Atlanta for a computer class, but after-hours they scouted neighborhoods in northwest Atlanta. They unknowingly drove by Mt. Vernon Baptist Church several times, not realizing that the Woods were in the process of leaving there to move to Wears Valley. Soon after the Woods left Atlanta, a member of Mount Vernon Baptist Church shared with her friend, Pat Dickerson that her pastor’s entire family had moved to Tennessee to start a ministry for at-risk children. Pat was a successful realtor in Atlanta. As Pat was becoming familiar with the Ranch, the Barkers accepted new jobs in Atlanta.
Pat Dickerson was recommended to the Barkers to help with their Atlanta house hunt. In January 1992, Bob and Jane began their search for a new home. Pat was the key to their knowing about a new thing that God was doing in the mountains of east Tennessee, and a close friendship with the Barkers and Pat was formed.
In 1995, Bob and Jane began to anticipate their retirement. The couple came across an amusing ad for some undeveloped property in the north Georgia mountains. With the Pat’s help they determined this would be a good place for a retirement home, and they purchased the property. For the next two years, Bob and Jane designed their mountain dream home, and had it built by a local builder on their property. Realizing they could work from home, they sold their home in Atlanta, and moved with their dog to their “retirement” home in the mountains.
In April 2000, the Barkers noticed that the value of their HP stock was rapidly skyrocketing. After an uneasy feeling, they decided to sell it and converted it to cash. Over the next year, during the dot-com bust, HP stock went from $106 to $12 per share. Shortly after, Bob and Jane decided they were burned out on the high-tech rat race, and both quit their jobs at HP. Over the next 3 ½ years, all four of their parents declined and passed away, teaching Bob and Jane valuable lessons about planning for their own eldercare.
Around 2006 or 2007, Pat Dickerson gave the Barkers a copy of Susan Wood’s book, A Place to Call Home. One night, when Bob was having trouble sleeping, he spent the of the night reading the book, and at the end screamed, “You can’t stop there! What happened next?” Eventually, they got Susan’s second book that tells the rest of the story, Living in the Promised Land. Bob and Jane learned from that book that building a chapel was a long-term goal at Wears Valley Ranch. If Pat Dickerson hadn’t given them the first book, the Barkers would likely never have known about the miraculous founding of the Ranch.
In 2007, they decided mountain life was more strenuous than anticipated, and they made a trip to Asheville, NC to investigate a retirement community. They put down a deposit to move there “many years in the future”. The Lord had other plans and provided a way for the couple to move to Asheville much sooner than anticipated. Due to an unexpected inheritance, Bob and Jane realized that they could donate their mountain property to the Ranch. Their goal was for the Ranch to sell the house to help fund the chapel.
Bob and Jane visited Wears Valley Ranch for the first time in October, 2008. The Barkers were deeply impressed with how well the children were cared for in home-like environments, and also impressed by the manner in which the Ranch handled its finances. The couple donated their mountain home in Hiawassee, Georgia to Wears Valley Ranch in September 2009. Given the real estate market during this time, it took some time for the house to sell. However, in October, 2015, the Ranch sold the Hiawassee property. They quickly broke ground on the new chapel. The groundbreaking fell on Bob’s birthday. Bob claims it was his best birthday ever! Saint Andrew’s Chapel at Wears Valley Ranch now welcomes children weekday mornings as a start to their school day.
The “why” the Barkers chose to support the Ranch starts with what they experienced on their first visit. “We saw smiling and happy children who were eager to talk to us,” explains Jane. “To see them, you would have no clue of what they had been through before coming to the Ranch.” Bob adds, “The campus is not institutional in its structures. The Ranch is providing a home, love and family that the kids there have almost exclusively lacked. They are experts in working with these kids. We have faith in their abilities as they have a mature learning curve.”
The Barkers are part of Legacy 145; a group of caring people who have demonstrated they value the ministry of the Ranch by letting us know they plan to leave a gift through their wills. The “145” is based on Psalm 145:4: One generation will declare Your works to the next and will proclaim Your mighty acts. “God has blessed us so richly that it’s the right thing to do,” shares Jane. “Because no government funds come in,” adds Bob, “the Ranch needs private donors to step up so they can operate. So, they need money more than other similar places. Plus, we like how they handle their finances.”
Their dream for the future of Wears Valley Ranch is simple. They pray for continued prosperity and the ability to keep pointing children to Christ. They pray that the Chapel will continue to be a blessing to people for generations to come. The Ranch is grateful that God provided so many people like the Barkers to join in sharing the mighty acts of Jesus to hurting children. The story of the Barkers is more than about them. God used several people who played a role in this story. But God was the One who orchestrated His plan, and HE gets the glory.
If you would like to share your story, please click on the “MY WHY” button below. You are invited to schedule a visit to the Ranch so you too may see firsthand how God is caring for children who need stability-who need to know about Him.