A Miracle Story of Love, Family, and Restoration

Ricky praising

Most Sunday mornings, Ricky was in the front row of church, sitting next to his parents Jean and Don. Often Ricky would accompany the worship team by playing the drums, strategically placed for him next to his front-row seat. I’m told that at one time, he joined the praise band on stage.

Ricky and drums

When Dave and I moved to Garden Valley and started attending Crouch Community Church, we didn’t know the history of the Brown family. We did, however, immediately see the love this senior couple had for each other—always holding hands—and for their adult son, Ricky, who occasionally had to have his drumsticks quieted after the music had stopped playing.

You see Ricky was a very special son, and as the church overflowed with family and friends at Ricky’s memorial last week, we learned more about just how special he was. If you have a special person in your life who can’t communicate clearly, or at all, there’s probably a depth of spirit like Ricky displayed in unique ways. God has a way of gifting these special people with love, compassion, and spiritual insight.

Enjoy Ricky’s miracle story, shared at his memorial service, and his family now shares with you:


Ricky Lee Brown born August 28, 1956, passed from the arms of his parents to the arms of Jesus on Saturday March 19, 2016, at the age of 59. Ricky left behind . . . for now . . . his parents, Don and Jean Brown, his sisters Sheri, Cindy, and Lindi, and countless family and friends.

Ricky’s life story is one of restoration, the strong bond of a loving family, and the unending miracles of God.

Ricky is the firstborn, and only son, of Don and Jean Brown. At birth, he only weighed 4 lbs. 10 oz., and it took a month for him to gain enough weight to come home from the hospital. This was the beginning of nine and a half months in and out of hospitals.

During that time, doctors and family members suggested putting Ricky in Nampa State School. Doctors said with Ricky’s health and physical issues, he wouldn’t live past eleven or twelve and would never walk. With the overwhelming advice from doctors and family, Don and Jean went through the court system and made Ricky a ward of the state when he was 8 1/2 months old. It was the most painful thing that Don and Jean had ever done.

They visited Ricky regularly and introduced him to his three sisters Sheri, Cindy, and Lindi. Right from the beginning, Ricky was compassionate. Jean remembers one time when he was in the state home, a baby started to cry. Ricky pulled himself with his arms over to the crib and patted the baby, trying to comfort it.

To everyone’s amazement, Ricky miraculously started walking at age eleven—the age doctors had predicted he wouldn’t live past—and he finally stopped running a persistent high fever. His sister, Cindy, started working at the Nampa State School in her late teens so she could spend more time with Ricky.

In his twenties, the family moved Ricky to a group home in the Boise area as part of a new program to try to teach life and work skills to disabled individuals. After Ricky’s three sisters left home, the Browns were able to visit Ricky more frequently.

Ricky loved classic country music and liked listening to it loud!

He also loved to tear apart anything he could get his hands on—radios, bikes, and in later years, his clothes. He loved to gas up the car, even if it was only to top it off.

Ricky could only put five words together, at most, but he used those words to ask people: if they were going to work? If they had a payday? And if they were going to church? Ricky’s happy smile and his thumbs up were his trademarks!

smiling RickyRicky thumbs up

Another Miracle

When Ricky was thirty-seven, he became extremely ill while still living in the group home, so Don and Jean made the decision to bring him home. Doctors told the Browns they would just be taking him home to die, but they said, “So be it. He’s our son, and we want him with us.”

By the grace of God and the help of family, they discovered that the current health problems were yeast related. Jean found a book on how to treat yeast with diet, and she became vigilant with Ricky’s diet and nursed him back to health. This same son, who doctors said would not live past eleven or twelve, would never walk, and was sent home at thirty-seven to die, fully recovered from the “terminal” illness! That’s what God, love, and family can do!

Don and Jean couldn’t bear the thought of giving Ricky up again, so he continued to live with them and they started the parenting season all over again. The Lord redeemed the years they lost while Ricky was in group homes, and they had twenty-three glorious years living together as family.

Ricky and sisters

Ricky’s relationship with his sisters and other family members flourished as he became a part of family reunions, jam sessions, weddings, and birthday parties. As a trio, Don, Jean, and Ricky traveled the country playing music and enjoying countless adventures. One of Ricky’s greatest loves was the drums. He had a set in his room and spent hours listening to music and playing along. He also spent hours tearing his drum set apart. He loved smashing cans and taking them to the recycling center for a “payday,” which he promptly put in the offering box at church.

Family picture

Ricky and Don on horse


Ricky and Don camping

As Ricky got older, he enjoyed putting together puzzles and sorting coins or Legos. Amazingly, he was able to put puzzles together picture-side down on the table. For someone doctors said wouldn’t live past eleven, and would surely die at thirty-seven, Ricky enjoyed a long life of almost 60 years surrounded by his loving family, friends, and community.

Ricky touched many lives with his joyful spirit and his love for Jesus. Just as Jesus said in Matthew 18:3, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven,” Ricky was a great example of childlike innocent faith. We know that right now he is enthusiastically enjoying heaven.


The Brown family hopes that Ricky’s miracle story has been a blessing to you, and especially an encouragement to all who have a “Ricky” in their life. If you have a story to share with the Browns, or want to tell them how their sweet restoration story touched you, please leave a comment to encourage them and pray for them as they grieve the loss of their beloved son.

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A Veteran Mother and Mentor

Today is Veteran’s Day . . . a day we honor all the men and women who risk their lives for our freedom. My husband and son are both veterans and I’m so proud of both of them. As Christians, we know that there is also a spiritual battle taking place all around us . . . one that tries to keep us from the freedom that comes from knowing Christ as our personal Lord and Savior.

Our guest blogger today, Brenda Nixon, is a friend, fellow Leafwood Author, and veteran mom helping Amish children who want to escape the Amish life. Brenda’s story gives quite a different perspective to the romanticized Amish novels that are so popular today. 

Brenda, hubby, and Mosie

Late at night he crept down the steps and out the door of his farm house. He walked along the shadowy country road for two miles conflicted about his decision to leave. Wearing handmade, plain clothes, and with $50 tucked into his pocket, he tearfully made his stealth escape fearing being caught and stopped, yet dreading the painful consequences if he succeeded.

Eighteen-year-old Mosie, born into a New York Amish family, one of twelve children, turned from his life and culture because “there had to be more” yet he’d later say, “I never felt so wrong and so alone.”

Mosie walked it to his English (non-Amish) neighbor’s home and used their telephone to dial another Amish runaway. “Can you get me now?” he whispered. Then he sat and waited until a car made its way down the country lane and quietly inched into the driveway. With a sigh of relief, Mosie climbed in. His contact, David, brought him to Ohio where, one year later, our lives intersected.

My husband and I met Mosie when he tagged along with other “Ex-Men” – as my daughter affectionately called them.  The group consisted of young, polite, hardworking men who’d all left the Amish life and were struggling to adapt to life “outside.”

We learned that Mosie had just received a letter from his Amish parents telling him he was not welcome back, “even for a wedding or a funeral.” He was, in essence, shunned or ostracized by his family now. A teenager with no family contact or support. My heart broke for him.

“If his parents don’t want him, we’ll take him,” I immediately said upon hearing about his rejection.

Within weeks of meeting Mosie – and after much prayer – we suggested to him that we become his English parents. “I’d like that,” he softly replied, his brown cow eyes cast downward.

Mosie moved in and lived with us for a year. During that time I “mothered” him the best I could; teaching him about personal hygiene, car insurance, dating, and other life lessons our teens take for granted. I mentored him in making new friends, tutored him in his GED studies, included him in our family vacation – his first time to see the ocean – paid for his dental care, eye exam, and other childhood necessities. I prayed for and with him, explained Bible verses, and gave him lots of “mom” hugs and verbal affirmation. The year he lived with us wasn’t easy; it was an emotional roller-coaster for everyone in our family.

After getting a job, car, and a place to permanently live, he moved out and onward. Today Mosie lives in North Carolina, is active in an Evangelical church, and has a job, home, and girlfriend. He’s happy. We recently visited him and he proudly introduced us to his new friends as “my English mom and dad.”

My husband smiles. “Now we’re seeing the end result.”

Mosie was my first. Since then God has entrusted me with Harvey, Josh, Levi, Noah, Sarah, Monroe, and more.  Although mentoring each is different as is my level of involvement, God is showing me that I can “Mother” and mentor anywhere, anytime . . . I just need to be available, sensitive to His purpose, and ready to respond. Sometimes it’s as simple as including them for holiday dinners so they’d have a home away from home; others need physical basics like a birth certificate, Social Security number, job, housing, toiletries and English clothing. Many just need a “mom” hug.

Because my experiences being a “Mom” to the ex-Amish – as Marvin first called me – I’ve begun blogging about my learning curve at www.BrendaNixonOnAmish.blogspot.com . I’ve learned there are many different Amish Orders; not all are the same, and they avoid mingling the Orders. Not all offer Rumspringa, which is a stereotype. I’ve learned the Orders are referred to as “higher” or “lower” depending upon their rules and behavior. So far my experiences are with Swartzentrubers – the most insular, punitive, and legalistic sect – the lowest Order and Old Order Amish. And they’re nothing like those in romance fiction books.

For years I’ve earned my living as a parenting speaker and author. I’ve traveled around the country speaking at family and childcare conferences and have penned books but, never did I imagine God would morph me parenting adolescents from an American sub-culture which is highly misunderstood and often idealized. It keeps me on my knees, satisfies my soul, and makes me jump for joy.

Are you in a club, school, church, employed environment or a volunteer position? God has placed you there for a purpose. I encourage you to receive the priceless experiences of “mothering” and mentoring where you are. He may pick you to be a prayer partner for someone, to “mother” a homesick college student, teach a Sunday school class, start a Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group, visit and encourage new moms, lead a Bible study, or mentor a new believer in God’s word.

Brenda’s story can be found in Moments of Miracles and Grace (Leafwood Publishers) http://www.amazon.com/Miracles-Moments-Grace-Inspiring-Stories/dp/0891124047. Visit me at www.BrendaNixonOnAmish.blogspot.com, learn a bit, break stereotypes, and leave your comments. Perhaps you might even want to wrap your heart and arms around an ex-Amish.


Brenda, Mom to the ex-Amish

Sunny California Day

Last Saturday I had the pleasure of doing a book signing on Balboa Peninsula which is just a couple blocks from the beach. It was such a beautiful day in February that the bookstore set me up out on the sidewalk to talk to people as they strolled by walking dogs and pushing baby carriages. My best friend joined me and here is a picture of us together.

The motorcycle in the back pulled up while we were sitting there and a young man and his little grey haired mother got off the bike. It was not a common site and I made the comment to her that a mother’s got to do what she’s got to do to spend time with her son. And she said “You’ve got it absolutely right!” My friend then said that she hoped when her son was that age he would be driving her around in a convertible but she would still be wearing a crash helmet too!

It was a fun day people watching and signing a few books. Enjoy