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Dick Powell, president and CEO of Presbyterian Mo-Ranch Assembly, was awarded the distinguished graduate award from his alma mater, Austin Seminary.

On Feb. 5, Powell was presented with the distinction in front of family, friends, fellow alumni and Mo-Ranch staff during a luncheon at Austin Seminary.

“When they told me I was the recipient of this award, I was stunned,” he said. “Then I later found out that it was the staff of Mo-Ranch that asked that I be nominated. So, it is the staff that should be standing here, not me.”

Powell said his time at Mo has been focused on making the experience accessible to everyone — no matter their circumstances.

“We are told to proclaim the Gospel wherever you are, and sometimes there’s a need in foreign parts,” he said.

So, Powell spearheaded an effort to break down barriers and bring fellowship, friendship and fun — quintessential aspects of Mo-Ranch everyone knows to those who do not have the ability to travel to Hunt, Texas.

“Mo-Ranch has looked at the world and asked how can we be an institution in a foreign land,” he said. “How can we be an institution that reaches beyond the beautiful banks of the Guadalupe and goes out into the world? How can we be sensitive to those lost in spirit?”

The answer, he said, was packing up and taking Mo-Ranch Summer Camp to the Rio Grande Valley, in the border town of Edinburg.

Bill Poe, who nominated Dick and is a member of the Mo-Ranch Board of Trustees, put it simply.

“When Dick discovered there were a number of people who somewhat unjustly able to travel from the Rio Grande Valley to Mo-Ranch for camp, he decided it might be a good idea to take Mo-Ranch to them,” he said.

The inspiration came when Powell took a long, hard look at what Mo-Ranch and the people the ministry serves.

“We noticed a lot of the folks who were there looked a lot like us,” Powell said. “And at camp, there were folks who looked a lot like us, except there was one huge difference.”

The difference is that while the children who attend summer camp look similar, they often come from a variety of backgrounds, he said.

“Your child may be playing with the son of a bank trustee alongside the daughter of the bank robber,” Powell said. “We are able to bridge that gap in this country – those of us who are richly blessed and those who have so little.”

Thus, Camp in the Valley was born, and for the last four years, camp management and counselors bring the Mo-Ranch sleep-away camp experience to children in the Rio Grande Valley.

“It is that spirit that we were willing to take the risk without having any idea of how we were going to pay for it,” Powell said. “It was amazing when you follow the spirit, how things tend to fall into place.”

This summer, Powell met a high school student who attended camp all four years.

“She said to me, “I was told I will never be anything because I am simply a Mexican woman.” This is a little girl who could not go to Mo-Ranch because there’s an artificial barrier that says you can’t get past here,” Powell said. “That little girl is no longer just someone who can’t get past that barrier. That little girl is graduating in May. She is no longer just someone in the valley who is no one because they are just someone at the Valley.”

Next year, she will come to Mo-Ranch to be a summer camp counselor and has plans to go to college, he said.

Her story is Powell’s dream come to life.

“We had a vision of being an institution that can change the world, and will not be intimidated or afraid,” he said.

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