It all started in the heart of an evangelist named Wes Aarum. He was born in Buffalo, NY into a godly family and at 17 years of age accepted Christ into his life. At 18 years of age he was the lifeguard at Pine brook, a very unique teen camp in Pennsylvania whose founder was Percy Crawford. Percy, as he wanted to be called, was considered by many as the founder of the Christian Camping Ministry. Pine brook was a great soul-winning camp and that summer hundreds of teens accepted Christ. While at that camp Wes got to thinking that maybe someday he would be able to start a camp where young people could come to know Christ. Little did he realize that 23 years later God would let him have the desire of his heart. After Bible School, University and Seminary Wes went full time into the Lord’s work. He met Margaret Stevenson who had been born on a farm in Pennsylvania (which would prepare her for life at the Ranch). She was saved as a teenager, went to Buffalo and became a Registered Nurse. After meeting Wes and both of them realizing that someday they would be a team she went to Bible School to be better prepared to be the wife of a preacher. Shortly after her graduation they were married.
Wes had been a youth pastor, pastor, evangelist, leader in Youth for Christ and director of a Bible Conference. As an evangelist eh spoke at many youth camps during the summer and that desire to starta a camp grew even stronger. It finally became a reality when in 1968 he found the property where God wanted him to start that camp. The owner of this property was George Peterson who was a board member of the Bible Conference Wes directed. It was 50 miles south of Buffalo, NY on a 315 acre piece of land that had been a farm. Mr. Petereson was willing to sell the land for the price of the mortgage – $14,800. That was of the Lord. The camp was going to be a western town called Circle ‘C’ Ranch (Circle ‘C’ standing for Christ centered) and it would be legally owned by the Lord. It would have all the mystique of the Old West and it would look like a town in the 1800’s. It would have board-walks, hitching rails, a Sheriff’s office with two cells, an old country store, a dining hall, a chapel, cabins that could accommodate 192 campers plus 32 counselors, a swimming ‘hole’ (pond) and a corral that contained a herd of horses. There was over 100 acres of good haying land on this property so they had plenty of feed for the horses.
Now God would go to work and make this camp a reality. God knew that Wes would need a man that would be a confidant, a prayer partner, on who could give wise counsel and one who had the same soul-winning burden and vision for the camp that he had. That man was Mr. Ross Barker a businessman from Toronto. Ross had been a board member of Canadian Youth for Christ when Wes had been the President and was such a blessing to that ministry. Mr. Barker became the Vice-president and chairman fo the Circle ‘C’ Ranch Board adn has worked with Wes in that capacity up to this very day. They have been a team that Gdo brought together. Now there was a need for the total of $40,000 to get things moving. A friend of Ross & Wes was a man named Bob Lowe who was a very successful businessman. It was decided that he should be contacted and asked for a loan of $30,000. Bob asked how much interest? Wes said none it’s for the Lord. Bob asked when he would pay it back? Wes said he didn’t know. Bob asked what it was for? When told it was for a youth camp, Bob wrote out a check for the amount needed. A few months later Wes realized he needed $10,000 more. When he gave Bob a call, he said I suppose the same terms as before and then he wrote out a check fo the amount. When the camp went to pay Bob back he made it a gift to the ministry.
Wes held a crusade in Montana and there God gave him 2 men, Ken Strait & Russ Alexander who were great with horses and hammers and they came east to help build the camp. Ken’s wife Joann was an R.N and she worked in a local hospital to help support them while the camp was being built. Holding a crusade in a town nearby Wes was introduced to a man named Bill Daily who worked construction and was also a master stone worker. He wanted to give his last years to the Lord and became the head man of the construction of the town. Bill wanted to make sure that every building was winterized so the camp could operate year round. Little id any of us realize what a blessing that would be, as the Winter Snow Camps have brought in thousands of campers with hundreds of them accepting Christ.. While holding a crusade in Erie, PA Wes met a man named George Mckinley who asked him who was doing the plumbing for the camp? He said no one at the present and George said he would bring his crew up every weekend and do the job as a gift to the Lord. They travelled over 100 miles one way every weekend until the job as done and then they donated all the fixtures as well. On week ends there would be scores of men donating their time to help build the camp and Wes’ wife Marge was kept very busy feeding all these volunteers. Besides doing the cooking, she became the office manager, the accountant, head of the medical dept, and a mother to their 2 sons, Wes & Wayne. (Both boys are college graduates and are now full time in the ministry working with college as well as public and high school students.) Marge’s love for the Lord led her, along with her other jobs, to be the teacher of a women’s weekly Bible study. As Ross Barker said, “without Marge we would have never made it.” How true!
It’s a thrill to see what God has done over the years. Miracle after Miracle, God has provided for Circle C Ranch and as long as God continues to provide, we will continue to serve Him! Some things have changed but these three things will never change!