Submitted by Karen Williams
Janelle Smith has a message for you. If you have a blessing, a hobby, a well-loved activity, you hold the keys to joy. But, you must open your hand.
Smith, a member of the Ooltewah Church in Ooltewah, Tennessee, has lived around horses since childhood. For most of that time she quietly kept her beloved horses to herself. Lately, however, if you drop by her house on a Thursday evening, you will likely find a cluster of young girls and their mothers talking quietly around a fire. They will have Bibles in their laps, or perhaps The Desire of Ages. Their study follows horseback riding and a potluck supper. The girls range from age three to 19 years, though most are somewhere closer to 10 or 12. Because of the friendship and the horses, it’s every girl’s dream of a well-spent afternoon. For their hostess, it is a new and pleasurable twist on a pastime she has long enjoyed.
“I felt very blessed as a child to have a horse,” Smith explains. “I knew it wasn’t the norm for most little girls my age. Much later, when my own little girl started having friends over who loved horses but weren’t able to have their own, I decided to start a “Horsey Night” Bible study ministry.
“I was once told that if our hands are open, then God is able to take from them as well as put into them. When I realized the blessing God has given me — to still have horses 34 years later — it all made sense. Why not bless these other girls with horses and God’s love all at the same time?”
Sara Danese certainly feels that blessing. As a 19-year-old freshman at Southern, she misses her horse and her family back home. But, since meeting Janelle at the Ooltewah Church, she has a family away from home. She eats Sabbath dinner with the Smith family, and also attends Horsey Night. “Horsey Night is definitely a highlight of my week,” she says. “It’s such a blessing to be able to interact with horses, but, even more, to fellowship, study, and pray with fellow believers. I feel so fortunate that God led me to the Horsey Night group.” As the oldest “girl” in the group, Sara mentors the younger ones and acts as a positive role model.
Moms appreciate the blessing of Smith’s ministry, as well.
Mom Sandy Hesler puts it like this: “What has Horsey Night meant to us? A time to make connections with friends, a time to grow stronger in overcoming fears, a time to be encouraged to turn our eyes upon Jesus and look fully in His face.”
Jaime Simulis, mom to the two youngest members of the group, adds, “I look forward to our Bible study on Thursdays and make it a priority. It allows me to have a more personal connection with our Creator. I really feel like the group is an extension of my family; I feel very comfortable expressing myself, and asking others questions. We have a fun time every week. I also appreciate that we can personalize it and change it however we like, but we’re still worshipping the Lord and bringing more focus on Him instead of ourselves. This group has changed my life and my heart.” Then she adds, “We all need to open our lives and hearts to God. Why not start a worship group that you can make your own?”
The number of people Horsey Night reaches is not large. The time spent is what’s significant. By opening her hand, by sharing what God has given her, Smith has discovered a unique ministry that fits her perfectly.
Georgia-Cumberland | December 2016