An Overview of the Organization
by Mike Petrillo, Executive Director, CEM
Christian Encounter Ministries (CEM) has been dedicated to the purpose of reclaiming damaged young people for more than forty years. Since its inception in 1970, CEM has provided a safe haven for troubled youth where they can begin the process of the restoration of their physical, emotional, academic, and spiritual lives. Located in the Sierra Nevada foothills north of Sacramento, Christian Encounter has an 86-acre ranch with facilities for twelve to eighteen residents, and is currently accepting females between the ages of 16 and 25, and males between the ages of 16 and 21. The rural setting offers residents a stark contrast between the peace available here and the chaos of their current living conditions.
Many residents have experienced tremendous personal tragedy. Some are victims of sexual abuse, child abduction, drug abuse in the home, alcoholism, multiple parent combinations, abandonment, gang violence, educational deficiency and more. Yet, because this is a voluntary program, the residents have at least a mustard seed of faith that they can live healthy and successful lives.
Christian Encounter provides an on-site private high school which is approved by the State of California to grant high school diplomas. Residents also receive counseling by licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, mentoring and spiritual guidance from a committed Christian staff, opportunities to work and gain confidence and skills in practical areas, and a structured social milieu that promotes responsibility for oneself and others.
Alongside the residential program (“Tending Lives…”), we offer an internship for college students and graduates seeking experience in the youth guidance and ministry fields (“Training Leaders”). Students from many colleges have used an internship at CEM to round out their academic training before continuing their education or launching into their professions. Pepperdine University, William Jessup University, Johnson University, Patrick Henry College, Wheaton College, Biola University, and others have granted credit for students interning at CEM. By providing this training, we multiply ourselves beyond the borders of our 86 acres and touch the lives of many more young people.
The program is affordable! Thanks to the financial support from many individuals and groups, CEM is able to offer its programs even to low- and middle-income families. CEM receives no government funding. All financial operations are done in strict accordance with the guidelines of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA).