‘Mr. Dana’ is teaching more than just vocational skills; he’s teaching love of Jesus
By Carla Harper
Contributing Writer, B&R
MILLINGTON — When Dana Reed, now 72, left the prison where he worked as an employee in 2011, he began working at the Boys Ranch in Memphis, which is owned and operated by the Tennessee Baptist Children’s Homes.
Reed, known as “Mr. Dana” said his job at the Boys Ranch is the “best paying job I’ve ever had because of who I am working for.”
He actually is a volunteer at the Boys Ranch so he doesn’t get tangible pay. He said he works for the Lord and to help the boys at the ranch, who he loves very much.
By trade, Reed is a welder. That’s what he did when he worked at the prison, teaching inmates how to weld in a work program. He also taught inmates about the Lord. He actually stayed an extra seven months after he was due to retire from the prison because one of the inmates needed him a little longer.
“There was no way I could just retire and leave a new Christian at the prison, so I stayed there for seven months to help disciple him. That inmate is out of prison and doing well now,” said Reed, a member of Crosspointe Baptist Church in Millington.
Although Reed initially disliked working at the prison, he soon realized it was a ministry field. It also prepared him for helping at the ranch.
“I have seen prison life, and it is horrible. I tell the boys at the ranch what could happen to them if they don’t make the right choices. I warn them of what prison life is like; and then I tell them about Jesus and what a life with Christ is like,” said Dana.
He spends several hours a week at the ranch. He has taken his personal tools to the ranch and plans to leave them for whoever God brings to the ranch to take his place. “I don’t have any plans of leaving the ranch, but eventually the Lord will call me home; and the tools will stay here for the boys,” Dana said.
The boys affirm that they love “Mr. Dana” and they enjoy the time they spend working with him in the welding shop. Joseph, who is 16, said “Mr. Dana is a good person to work with and to pray with. He cares about us. He always talks to us about God and about what the Bible says, and he also teaches us a lot about welding and other things in the shop. He teaches us skills we can use now and later in life, and he is very encouraging to us.”
When he first started volunteering at the ranch, Reed made a habit of praying with the boys each day. Sometimes they will get busy working in the shop, and the time will pass quickly.
“If it is time for them to go, the boys won’t let me forget to end in prayer, and that blesses me,” he said.
“Something else I love is watching the boys make something out of nothing, meaning they will get an idea about something they would like to weld. When they have the finished product in their hands of something they designed, they swell with pride; and so do I,” he said.
Reed also noted the boys enjoy fixing what is broken, such as the tractors and other things.
Some sections of the welding shop resemble graffiti, but it has a much greater purpose than the typical graffiti.
When Dana gets someone on his mind to pray for, he writes their name using chalk on any surface that will hold it.
The boys often ask if they can add their own name or someone else’s name on the make-shift prayer lists.
Also written in the shop is Reed’s “Boy’s Ranch verse:” Psalm 71:18, “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, until I declare Your strength to this generation and Thy power to every one that is to come.”
His love for the boys and welding are not the only things Dana enjoys about the ranch.
“The houseparents here are amazing,” Dana said.
“Their love for the boys and the Lord is a blessing to witness every day,” he added. “Mr. Jeff (Epps, who is the vice president of residential care of the Boys Ranch) and his wife (Lisa) have been here for almost 20 years. It has been a joy to watch them raise their two girls in the middle of this mission field.”
The love and respect is mutual. Epps said Dana is “one of the best Christian men I will ever know. He is a true example of Christ. Nothing is about him. His life represents what a Christian follower should be.”