Jack Geer, 100, dedicated his lifetime to ministry

EVERETT — Jack Geer has a lifetime of memories. At 100, he takes his time sifting through them. One that comes quickly to mind is his start in youth ministry.

“We needed to share the word of God with kids. We had a Bible club for high school kids. At one time, we had 55 kids right in this living room,” Geer said.

Beginning with that teen club at his Everett home, Geer went on to start a camping ministry before founding Miracle Ranch, the first of two camps in Kitsap County now run by Crista Ministries.

He started the Christian camp near Gig Harbor in 1960. Geer, who knew nothing about horses but was involved with the King’s Garden ministry, felt called by God to open a dude ranch for kids.

“We’re still doing exactly what he started out to do,” said Doug Chase, vice president of Crista Camps, which also runs Island Lake Camp near Poulsbo.

On his 100th birthday May 19, Geer and his wife, Barbara McCoy Geer, sat in their Everett home sharing memories of his life in ministry. His work stretched from the teen group long ago to volunteering after retirement as a chaplain at the Snohomish County Jail.

Geer was urged to start the teen club by Mike Martin. At the time, Martin was Geer’s brother-in-law — the brother of Geer’s first wife, Doris. The couple had been married 60 years when Doris Geer died in 2002.

Martin was the founder of King’s Garden, a Christian group that grew into Crista Ministries. Today, the Shoreline-based organization oversees World Concern, King’s Schools, senior housing and the Christian radio station Spirit 105.3 FM, along with Crista Camps.

In the late 1940s, Martin opened a Christian youth home at what was once Firland Sanatorium. Seattle’s municipal tuberculosis hospital, Firland had moved to another site. What began as King’s Garden, at the old sanatorium, is now the campus of King’s Schools and Crista Ministries in Shoreline.

Geer said he was 35 when Martin “led me to the Lord.” He began hosting King’s Teens meetings at his Everett home on Wednesday nights. “Kids were coming to the Lord almost weekly,” he said.

After becoming youth ministries director for King’s Garden, Geer traveled to Bible clubs all over the region. He was on a weekly Christian radio broadcast. And he organized annual King’s Teens banquets. He remembers a banquet in a hangar at Sand Point Naval Air Station in Seattle in the early 1960s attended by more than 1,000 teens. “I still run into people who tell me they were saved at that banquet,” Geer said.

Geer’s most lasting achievement is the Crista Camps ministry.

It was through “miracles” and the generosity of a land owner, Geer said, that property on Horseshoe Lake near Port Orchard became Miracle Ranch in 1960. “Jack started out with 12 kids at the camp,” Chase said. In the 1970s, Crista took ownership of the second camp. Island Lake has trails for dirt bikes, an activity Geer said he started when he took his son’s motorcycle for teen campers to try.

Several years ago, the main office of Crista Camps, which is at Miracle Ranch, was renamed Geer House. Jack and Barbara Geer visited the camp. At age 97, the camp’s founder went horseback riding.

“We were showing him around the property — it was memory lane for him — and he wanted to get on a horse. We do therapeutic riding, and we have stairs to get on horses. Jack was not going to use those stairs. He put his foot in the stirrup and got on,” Chase said.

Today, the camps bring new generations of children outside for fun and fellowship. Chase said 28,000 young people will spend time at Crista Camps this year. “They started a program for children of military families. Hundreds of kids have come and heard the Gospel,” Geer said.

Barbara Geer met her future husband while working for what was once Medicine for Missions. That program, started in 1955, grew into World Concern, which helps the poor and provides emergency relief around the globe. “We worked in the same building at King’s Garden,” said Barbara, who married Jack a decade ago.

Jack Geer has clear memories of one inmate he visited as a volunteer chaplain at the county jail. The inmate, the son of a couple he knew from church, had felony charges and drug and alcohol problems, Geer said. He visited and prayed with the man for months.

“He got so cleaned up that when his parents went to see him they didn’t recognize him,” Barbara Geer said. They said the man’s criminal issues are in the past, and that he is now a church-going man. “We’re still in touch with his family,” Geer’s wife said.

On May 24, Geer was honored during an open house at New Life Church in Everett.

Looking back, the 100-year-old gives all credit to God.

“It’s all been good,” he said, lifting his hands in praise. “It’s all been the Lord’s work.”

Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; jmuhlstein@heraldnet.com.

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