May 25, 2022

LifeDate Summer 2022

by Michelle Herman

Lutherans For Life national staff enjoyed getting together from around the country March 1-4, 2022, for a planning retreat and in-person fellowship at beautiful Wildwood Hills Ranch near St. Charles, Iowa. See photo above.

What a joy and honor it is to get to share with you what God is doing here at Wildwood Hills Ranch! Without fail, God is continuously working here and revealing Himself more clearly to us through the youth we serve and the lives He is changing. Wildwood is a youth development organization located in central Iowa that serves vulnerable youth that come from places of abuse, neglect, and impoverishment. Many of these students have never heard the Gospel or even know who Jesus is, so when we get to share the hope and healing that only Jesus can provide, the impact is immense and truly “immeasurably more than we could ask or imagine …” (Ephesians 3:20).

I’d like to share with you Rachel’s story …

“At age 10, I was physically, emotionally, and sexually abused by a non-biological caregiver. I avoided going home when my mother wasn’t there. I spent a lot of my time at friends’ houses or at the library just to get away from all of the darkness that awaited me at home. In 2013, my father suddenly died from a drug overdose. This was the moment my world truly came crashing down around me. I couldn’t understand why God’s plan had something so devastating in it. How could someone who loves me hurt me so badly? I became angry and isolated myself from friends and family. As I entered high school, I began hanging out with kids I had always stayed away from, kids who drank alcohol and did drugs. My grades were hurting, but I didn’t care about them anymore. Nothing seemed to matter anymore.

“It was around this time of not caring that I joined the Drill Team at Wildwood Hills Ranch. Lynn Winkelmann was (and still is) the instructor and instantly became a light in my life. I admired his work ethic, his teaching abilities, and the way he lived his life. I was met with a decision: to stay where I was and continue down darker paths or make a change. My behaviors were not aligned with the contract I signed to be on the team. So, I ended those toxic friendships and formed healthy ones. I started to complete my school work and became more involved in band and theatre. My faith grew as I listened to Lynn talk about God. Wildwood helped me realize that I was living for a purpose and that God has a plan. I am who I am today because of The Ranch.

“Today I’m currently attending Grand View University and working toward my psychology degree. I’ve got a lot of years left in school before I’m a psychiatrist, but I’m up for the challenge! I spend several nights a week at the barn either riding or helping Mr. Lynn with barn duties. As mentioned earlier, this summer I will be one of the directors at the barn for the 2022 summer session, and I am beyond excited! The Ranch has given me a lot of opportunities, so I try to give back as much as I can. I am very thankful for this place and everyone in it who continue to transform the lives of the students we see each summer.”

We are so inspired by students like Rachel and hope that you are, too! Would you consider partnering with us to change lives in Iowa through committing to pray for our youth and staff? Follow along at