Hero Highlight: Ricky Leach
Meet Ricky Leach,
Last spring, 56-year-old Ricky Leach accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior and on March 10, 2011, he stood alongside his 11-year-old grandson Caden for one of the most important events of their lives—baptism. For Ricky, it was a moment that brought healing to a long-gone childhood marked by father abandonment. For Caden, it was a moment that will hopefully bring healing to the remaining years of childhood that are threatened by father abandonment. Grandfather and grandson—both marked by the wound of abandonment, but both now claimed by the blood of Christ. It is our pleasure to introduce you to Ricky Leach, Fathers in the Field Mentor Father and one of the heroes of our ministry.
You were saved at the age of 56! That is so unusual (and so awesome)! Tell us how that came about.
I wasn’t brought up in a Christian home. My dad left us when I was a boy, so I didn’t have a good male influence in my life. By the time I was 14, I was involved with drugs and alcohol and my life was a mess. I lived like there was no tomorrow! In fact, I figured I would die young, so I just lived it up through my adult years, not even looking for tomorrow.
I really didn’t want anything to do with God, especially after my baby grandson died of SIDS in October 2004. I was really angry at God for that. Several years later, I started having some health issues that threatened my ability to earn a living. And, my wife’s employment was also in jeopardy. Things got pretty tough. I hadn’t ever been a church-goer, but my wife went. So, I started going with her to College Heights Baptist Church in Casper, Wyo. I’ll tell you, it was like the pastor was talking to me every week. I even accused him one time of preaching directly to me. I told him, “I’m gonna quit coming if you don’t quit staring at me from the pulpit!” (laughs)
Well, with all of the bad things that were going on in our lives, I started praying that God would help us. And He did! It seemed like God got hold of the back of my neck and seat of my britches! He provided for us and just kept blessing us. So, I figured He was trustworthy and I accepted Christ as my Savior.
When you realized that you had a Father in Heaven who loved you enough to send His Son to die for your sins, how did your life and attitude change?
Knowing that has made a tremendous difference in my life! Especially since the only father I knew growing up had abandoned me. I don’t blame him for all of the bad things in my life. But his abandonment started me down a path that got worse and worse as I got older. It got to the point where I didn’t even want to leave my house. I was ashamed of my life and trapped in my own home by my failures.
But today I have hope and confidence. God has taken me down paths I never thought I would go. A few months after I was baptized last year I went on a mission trip to Zambia. I never had a desire to leave the country, let alone go to Africa to help someone else! Now, I have developed a relationship with some of the people over there and I’m going back in June to help them.
Before I accepted Christ I lived recklessly, but now I live with intention. It’s a great feeling.
Speaking of living with intention, you have also become a Fathers in the Field Mentor Father since your baptism. Tell us about that.
I got to see how powerful Fathers in the Field is through my grandson, Caden. His father has not been a consistent presence in his life and it definitely has impacted him. He carries the abandonment wound too. About a year ago, his Mentor Father, Jerry, began working with him and I was impressed. I was really glad to see the positive influence Jerry was having in Caden’s life. I decided I could do the same thing in another boy’s life.
My Field Buddy, JJ, has had a pretty tough childhood. His mom is in prison and his dad isn’t in the picture. He has never had a positive male influence in his life, and it shows. To be honest, I feel like I am WAY out of my element (or what used to be my element) as his Mentor Father…but it’s great. I’m having a ball! I never was much of a husband or a father for the first 20 years of my family. I am ashamed of that. But I know God can redeem it. With JJ, I may not be able to tell him all the right roads to take, but I can tell him the wrong roads.
It’s exciting to me to have the opportunity to help spare decades of pain for these boys. Honestly, I think God let me live through my prior life to do this. And, I am grateful.
Like JJ, your grandson has also had to struggle with father abandonment. What is your hope for Caden and JJ?
I hope they grow into good Christian men and decent fathers and husbands one day. I was about their age when I started getting out of control. So, I feel a sense of urgency for them now. I can recognize the abandonment wound in both of them. Both are reserved and cut off at times. You can just tell that they need a father in their lives.
I hope that we, as Mentor Fathers, can be that difference in their lives. And, I hope that by realizing that they have a Father in Heaven who loves them, they will be able to grow up and make different choices than I did.
What would you tell men and congregations that are considering getting involved with Fathers in the Field?
I would say don’t miss the opportunity to invest in a boy’s life. The gratification is great. It’s great when you go out with these kids. I went to JJ’s taekwondo practice and could just see in his face how much it meant to him. I’m getting as much out of this as he is…or more! It’s a little strange to mentor someone else’s kid…especially since I didn’t do that with my own. It’s almost a “do-over”… a second chance. I am so grateful for it.
Editor’s Note: Thank you for sharing your story, Ricky. Congratulations on your baptism and God’s blessings on you as you travel back to Africa this summer! And, thank you to all Mentor Fathers who are investing in the lives of fatherless boys. HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!
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