When dealing with the loss of a loved one, difficulty in raising a family, questions of faith and other stresses in life, many turn to their religious leaders for comforting, guidance and spiritual resurgence. These pastors, missionaries, youth pastors and other church leaders have chosen a life devoted to helping others and bringing people back up from low moments in their lives. They aren’t in it for the money but for the betterment of society through belief in their faith. What might be overlooked is who these people turn to when they are experiencing personal issues as well.
“Seeing the struggle with my family and friends who are youth pastors and missionaries was very influential to me,” said Nathan Cohick of Hope. Nathan has lived in North Idaho the past six years since moving his wife and children from Indianapolis. Like many, he came here for the tranquility in nature, clean air and more peaceful way of life. Now he’s working on a large-scale project in hopes of sharing that peace and tranquility with those who give so much of themselves to others.
The idea for Agape Ranch came to Nathan in a dream nearly 12 years ago. “I remember it being very vivid, like I was walking through the trees, saw the buildings and crossed the creek that runs across the property,” he said. After he woke, he sketched out a remote retreat area with cabins and outbuildings, as well as surrounding forest and water. About six years ago, Nathan and his wife Heather hiked four hours into the Coeur d’Alene National Forest and, suddenly, the vision he had was in front of his eyes.
“Walking around the land it felt like I had already been there before,” said Nathan.
The 134 acres are about the only thing for sale for miles, and when they looked at a topographical map of the land and compared it to what Nathan had drawn 12 years earlier, there was an uncanny resemblance. “The creek that runs through it was in the same location as my sketch, where I put the cabins is the only real flat land that would work, and even where I drew a runway was the only place it would be possible on the property,” said Nathan.
His dream for Agape Ranch is to build eight to 10 small cabins as a retreat for faith-based leaders to come unwind, relax and be able to talk with professionals about their own personal struggles in a safe place. Heather is an esthetician and would have a spa area on the property where she would be able to give facials and other relaxation treatments.
As fate would have it, when the couple was first dating, Nathan asked Heather what she wanted to do in 10 years. She told him she hoped to open a bed and breakfast with a spa attached to it, and Agape Ranch is a melding of both of their dreams coming true. As they explain their dream to people they meet, they have been overwhelmed with the amount of support they’ve receive to help make their dream a reality. “People have said they’d love to help us build, volunteer, and some even volunteered to live year round and be full-time caretakers.
With the closest parking lot a four-hour hike away, building the ranch will require many unique challenges. The 134 acres sits atop the Green Monarch Ridge overlooking Lake Pend Oreille with views from Sandpoint all the way to Athol. Building an airstrip would allow guests to fly directly in, but others could choose to take the hike, 4-wheel or potentially come in by packsaddle. No matter how they get there, the Cohicks hope to have a place of peace for those who do so much for their communities. “We are all human, and we all have our ups and downs, and if they don’t have any support during their down times, they can burn out, which I never want to see,” said Nathan.
Through their connections in North Idaho, the Cohicks have a pretty solid workforce and have the retreat plans fairly far along. The next step is coming up with the finances to make their dream a reality. The price of the land has come down significantly since Nathan first stepped foot on it, but having to fly building materials into a remote location will be expensive. As they don’t want to be a for-profit retreat, they will be relying on a lot of donations from those who see their vision as a worthy one. “We might possibly run a few camps to offset some of the costs, but I really want this to be a place for those in faith to come with or without family and unwind so they can continue the amazing work they do,” said Nathan.
There is a Go Fund Me page currently set up as well as a Facebook page where people can find out more information. The idea is 12 years in the making already, and it won’t be a reality in the coming months, but that’s OK with Nathan, as his faith ensures him that his dream will one day become a reality.