Featured Stories

Sanctuary leases ranch for youth/family facility

by: Submitted Photo - Jeremiah Blackwolf digs into birthday cake at a celebration of summer birthdays at the Sancturay ranch.


   The Sanctuary church has acquired a five-year renewable contract to lease 1,200 acres of tribal land for a facility, according to Madras resident Chris Buller, who directs the Sanctuary and Faith Trails organizations.
   Located near the Pelton Dam turnoff from U.S. Highway 26, the acreage was formerly known as the Shone-Hagen Ranch. The group also has a second lease which allows them access to the nearby Willow Creek Ranch and the Dry Creek area, owned by Gladys Grant.
   Sanctuary is a nondenominational church which uses horses, ranch life, outdoor experiences and stewardship of the land as the nucleus for people to gather around as they learn about God.
   Faith Trails is the secular arm which allows Buller and helpers to do nonchurch-related work including a study hall program, meals program, as well as providing kids with computers, and applying for grants. Faith Trails also subleases use of the ranch.
   A core group of around 100 kids and adults from Native American, Hispanic and Anglo backgrounds participate in worship and recreation activities through Sanctuary.
   The church meets two Sundays a month for a devotional time, and then family recreation on the ranch. Every Wednesday night a candlelight service is held at sunset on a hilltop at the ranch, where prayer concerns are shared.
   Beginning riding lessons are also offered on Wednesdays for kids ages 4 to 8, using two gentle horses at the ranch. The activities are open to everybody. For information, contact Buller at 460-0177 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
   On July 21-23, Sanctuary will be hosting 45 visitors from the Coquille tribe in Coos Bay and 15 from a Methodist Church in Portland. "The Coquille group was holding a tribal outing and camping at Simtustus Campground and found out about us," Buller said, explaining how they got connected.
   Prior to that, 10 youths and four adults from Orange County, Calif., visited from June 29 to July 3, and had some new experiences.
   "They came to Warm Springs and ate rattlesnake, bucked bales, fixed fence and went to three family birthday parties while they were here. Some of the California kids were from well-off families, but said they had never been to a multigenerational birthday party before," Buller said, noting the importance of family in Warm Springs culture impressed them.
   Buller began doing ministry work with a horse riding club in Simnasho, on the far reaches of the Warm Springs reservation. Since then, the group has expanded to include families from the Madras area, and the new ranch is located halfway between.
   "This ranch has taken some of the pressure off of traveling," Buller admitted.
   Smith going to Scottsdale
   Johnny Smith, one of the original Simnasho members, will be leaving in two weeks for Scottsdale, Ariz., to work with Randy Paul, and Al Dunning, two of the top trainers in the reined cowhorse world.
   "Johnny is the first applicant under age 21 they've ever accepted, and they get applicants from all over the world. I consider that a miracle," Buller said.
   Last year, Buller's youth group took on the breaking and training of 39 wild mustangs, which were kept on a Warm Springs ranch.
   During a trip to ride in the Swallows Day Parade in California, the group raffled off one mustang for $5,000 and sold two others the kids had trained for $600 each.
   The remaining mustangs have been moved to Sanctuary's ranch and Buller said they will probably adopt one more herd this summer. Kids can earn a free horse through good grades and hard work, while any money earned from mustang sales goes back into the program.
   Ranch projects
   . At the ranch, Buller would like to build a cattle herd and already has had some cows donated. He said they will hold two cattle drives, moving the herd to graze at Willow Creek Ranch in the spring and back to the Sanctuary ranch in the fall. "Our goal is to go into winter this year with 20 (cow-calf) pairs," he said.
   While Buller is a horseman, Sanctuary board member Luis Sosa is in charge of animal husbandry and range management for the ranch.
   . For facilities, $8,000 worth of donated panels are being used to build a horse arena, a roping chute is being built and a bucking chute will be constructed for rough-stock events.
   "Horses have been a great access point to help get people involved, but we're trying to broaden that to include outdoor stewardship, fish habitat, ecology, a community garden, and working with kids and seniors," Buller said.
   . A community garden will be planted next year, with first graders at Buff Elementary raising the seedlings for them. Along with beef from the cattle herd, the garden will help the group provide healthy food boxes for those in need.
   . Basic Needs Packages, given out by Sanctuary, include lean protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, and basic hygiene items. "A lot of food pantries have hot dogs and foods with a lot of carbs. The Basic Needs Packages will help teach kids and families about healthy food," Buller said.
   . Buller would like to have a residence on the ranch by the end of the year.
   . Stewardship projects: Buller is looking for people interested in helping with stream restoration along the portion of Willow Creek that flows through the ranch.
   . Radio program: Partnering with Will Robbins and KWSO Radio in Warm Springs, Buller broadcasts the one-hour radio program "It's All Good," featuring contemporary Christian music and a 10-minute message. The program airs at 9 a.m., Sunday, 10 p.m., Tuesday, and 4 a.m., Wednesday for those working swing shift.
   . Club jackets: Noticing that several kids in the group were in need of a warm jacket, Buller arranged with a local company to produce hunter green, nylon, hooded jackets decorated with the owner's name and club logo. On the back, the jacket reads "Sanctuary, A Place of Light." When someone purchases one of the $80 jackets, they also provide one for a youth through the agreement. Call 460-0177 for details.
   Of the activities at the ranch, Buller said, "We see ourselves as a community facility. What we have is over a 1,000-acre church where people put on their best face, and that's what allows relationships to grow."