heartland-tower.jpg Lea and I had a wonderful day in Northeast Missouri last Saturday as we visited her sister, Kathy, and brother-in-law, Danny, who took us to experience Heartland Ministries, a sprawling community of farms, neighborhoods, industries, schools, and other ministries designed to glorify God.
Heartland is dedicated to helping people find an inner peace through Christ and to help them become assets to their communities through education, work programs, and vocational training.The goal at Heartland is to be a City of Refuge where emotionally damaged people can flee for refuge and restoration.
Through Moses, God directed the children of Israel to establish six Cities of Refuge. The purpose of these cities in the Old Testament (Joshua 20) was to provide a place of safety for those who had committed a murder accidentally, or unwittingly. These were not prison-cities, however. They were places of safety and restoration.
Each city was given to members of the tribe of Levi — the priesthood — meaning that those who fled to the city were surrounded by and ministered to by priests and their families, protected by the elders of that city from the avenger of blood (the nearest relative of a murdered person). They could dwell safely within the gates of the city for a predetermined length of time and eventually be able to return to their own homes, fully restored and ready to go on with life.
The growing Heartland ministries include recovery centers and group homes for men, women, and children. The founder, Reverend Charlie Sharpe, began shaping Heartland in 1993, which today includes programs that places men, women and students in an environment to witness the grace of God in their daily lives.
The students at Heartland follow a routine and schedule of daily chores, and are provided a Christ-centered education at Heartland Christian Academy. The school has also been providing this service to people in the Northeast Missouri area since 1996.The majority of the children in pre-Kindergarten through grade twelve are students in the recovery program.
The ministry also operates a number of farms and businesses within their far-flung operation. By modeling their work ethic before the men at the Recovery Center, and by providing vocational opportunities for those in their community, the staff strives to implement Godly principles in every aspect of their business.Heartland’s dairy started production with 20 milk cows on April 7.
Only four months after its launch, it became the largest dairy in the state. Currently the Dairy has about 4,500 cows milking, with several thousand more in the fields. The dairy houses one of the first rotary carousels in the United States, which makes it possible to milk up to 60 cows at one time.
The process is ongoing; cows enter the carousel in single file and occupy individual stalls. Once the cows are on the carousel, employees disinfect the milking utensils and the cow’s udder, attach the machine, and milk the cow. After the 10 minute rotation of the carousel, the cow exits and another cow is herded onto it in place of the one that has just exited.
Through this process, the dairy is able to produce 24,000 gallons of milk a day per 3,000 cows. The raw milk is sold to companies in Iowa, Illinois, and Missouri, who produce bottled milk, cheese, cream cheese, cottage cheese and ice cream.
In keeping with its goal to provide work for those in the surrounding community, Heartland Dairy employs a total of 60 men and women from the Recovery Center and the surrounding community to milk cows, feed baby calves, raise heifers, and feed cattle. The dairy is open to the public and viewing windows make it very convenient to observe the milking process in operation.
We were quite pleased to meet Reverend Charlie Sharpe that evening, while having dinner at the ministry’s Ozark Lodge & Steakhouse, where steaks are prepared tableside, gospel music playing over the sound system, and prayers being said at each dinner table. It was a wonderful experience, and recommend that if you are in Northeast Missouri you should call ahead for the tour of Heartland Ministries. Check out their website at heartland-ministries.org for more info.
Here’s a short piece of video I shot that shows the dairy cows entering and leaving the carousel at milking time.