By Shawn Kirkpatrick
“If you and Joe will stand and stand firm you will see, know and understand that I am God. And I will bring all things to your door.” This is what Shelley Tufts, founder of Exodus Ranch, said she heard God say to her leading her to opening the doors of the Exodus Ranch.
Tufts moved to Opelika in 2005. She said right away God started sending people across her path that were hurting and needing help. “So we just started helping and meeting the needs in the community. When 2010 rolled around I realized we’d helped close to 30 kids.”
As more and more children came along, Tufts said she started asking her pastor and Sunday school class to pray for her and her family. ”The Lord had given me a word to begin the ministry and the Exodus Ranch, and the Lord started opening doors. And the Exodus Ranch became a non-profit in 2012.”
The name came from a 13-year-old girl who was living with the Tufts at the time. “One night she came into my room and she said I think I know what the name of the home should be. She said I think it should be the Exodus Ranch,” Tufts explained. “I said I love it, but can you tell me why you think it should be the Exodus Ranch. She said because Exodus is where the Lord led the children of Israel out of slavery and into the Promise Land. And I think that is what he is going to do for every child that comes to the Exodus Ranch.”
The Tufts have housed up to 14 children at a time. “The kids that come they are, or their family is in a situation. Whether it’s six weeks or the kid’s lifetime we will help. Six weeks would be, hey we’ve lost our job, our apartment, could you just help us take care of our children. And then when they get a job and back on the road they come back to get their children.”
The Exodus Ranch is a non-profit that functions on private donations and help from volunteers. The Tufts are hoping to begin construction on an extension to the back of the house for a learning room and extra bedrooms this year. The bedrooms will be used to house the girls and the boys will stay in the main house upstairs.
Besides chores and homework, the children earn money by selling clothes at the Clothing Connection at the Village Thrift Store. “When the clothes don’t fit we go through them and see what we can keep and not keep. We price them, tag them and take them to the Clothing Connection and we get commission from sales,” said Tufts. “The kids help with all this and that’s the money they get for spending for Spring and Fall break, fun money.”
On the fence outside Exodus Ranch there is a banner that reads, “Serving the Children that God brings to our Door.” That phrase sums up Tufts passion and desire to serve all people. “Above everything that I do, I want to let these kids know that I love them. Whether it is a day or 10 years just love them and let them see that people love them.”
To donate or volunteer visit exodusranch.com.