Robert Halbach 2013
“Thank you for the opportunity to be a part of this ministry, for the opportunity to learn and grow under the guidance of the staff and the challenge of the students. This internship is good, practical application/apprenticeship for accomplishing Matthew 25. I hope when I stand before God and ask, ‘When did I ever see you hungry or thirsty; a stranger or naked; sick or in prison,’ that He will respond, ‘Remember Josiah and Shane? Kareem and Alyson? Tori and Lovella?’ Thank you for the opportunity to begin learning how to care for His sheep… Hopefully having seen some of the sheep here, it will be easier to find them out in the wilds of the world.”
Jonathan Mangano 2013
“A strength I see in this ministry is the sense of community. We are called to live in community. When students live with the same interns for months at a time, the process teaches them really healthy relationships. The love of God allows us to love the students, and that love cannot be denied. The sense of community is strengthened by Church being held at the ranch and having people from the community come in and just absolutely love them…This community builds relationships that teach students what a dad looks like and how a mom is supposed to care for her child. These relationships are supposed to teach them what it means to have a brother in Christ and what it looks like when a boss is telling you what to do. The relationships the students have with the interns are so special…”
Jackie Turner 2013
“Discipleship was one of my favorite parts of the program. It was a delight meeting with Justice and getting to know her story. I have loved getting in the Word with her—seeing her change from stubborn and manipulative to open and softened. It has been an honor to share words of truth from the scriptures and to challenge the core of the lies that have been told and shown to her over the years. My heart learned to ache for what has hurt her and many of the other students as well. For me discipleship did not stop with Justice. It spanned out to talks with Jessica and Bible reading with Shane, and conversations with Gerald. Each day, not only was truth taught and learned, but it was received. It was not just applicable to the students, but in sharing it, those verses came back to life for me as well.”
Zoya Lee 2010-2012
I came into the internship certain that it would be an invaluable training ground for future ministry. But it proved to be so much more. I have gained more family than I could have ever imagined and feel better equipped to have my own. Jesus has given me new joy and freedom to walk in the abundant life He has for me and in so doing liberating others to do the same.
Melanie Beattie 2009-2011
God has shown me that the ranch is not the end for these students—it’s often just a beginning. My success must be based in how much I have been obedient to the Lord, and if I have been faithful in the works he prepared ahead for me to do. My job is simply to plant and water seeds; only God can bring growth.
Kayla Babson 2010-2011
I have been able to have countless conversations with students with tears running down their cheeks as they start to see that Jesus wants to be a part of their lives and love them just the way He made them. I have never in my entire life been in a place where the Lord’s hand was so obviously present. I am so forever grateful for the opportunity I had to build lasting friendships with these students who are so precious to me.
Austin Reed 2011
I would describe my internship at the ranch to be a lot like a boulder being thrown into a quiet pond. Before, things were comfortable, still, and stagnant. Now, that unhealthy peace has been interrupted by a great splash, and the ripples of that splash extend across the entirety of the water, creating waves which lap up upon the beach. That which is still is now moving, that which was comfortable is now crushed, stretched, and growth has begun. I have been told by a non-ranch affiliated friend that I am a different man now than I was when I began my internship. I believe those words to be true, and I believe that the half of this ministry which seeks to train leaders had planted valuable seeds of experience within my heart which, with God’s help, will take root and grow into an even more beautiful flower. This place has changes me forever. I know that only my ranch family can understand what my summer consisted of, and why it was so immensely important and trans-formative in my life. I praise God that He was merciful enough to put me into a place where I wouldn't be comfortable, and I would suffer in such a way that would refine me.
Nikki Romero 2009-2011
There were parts of me that felt unfit to be an intern. I knew that a lot of interns had graduated college and I hadn't. I asked myself if I was smart enough, or strong enough, or spiritual enough. I realized pretty quickly that it wasn't about me or my abilities, but that it was about God and His abilities. This really built my confidence in God and in me. I felt much appreciated by my intern team for what I brought to the team and learned that what I brought to the team was very much needed. Being an authority figure to the students was a challenge; however, I recognized that my authority was God-given and not something I earned. The more I practiced my role, the more comfortable I became in it. I found that the students loved and respected my authority, even if they didn't like being called out on things they did wrong.
Being an intern is a hard job, and very challenging, but I always felt support from the CEM staff also. They really encouraged me to be who I am in my internship. I never felt alone or "thrown to the wolves." I felt like it was okay to make mistakes. I never felt pressured to be something I wasn't or to have to be an expert in an area that I wasn't, but I was still challenged to step out and do the things I wasn't comfortable doing. The staff always pointed everything back to Christ and reminded me that my motive should always be love.
Trent Thacker 2008-2010
A two-year internship at the Ranch is not like two years elsewhere. It is like five monumental years elsewhere. My college years were a time of great spiritual growth, yet I have grown more spiritually in the last two years than I did through all my college years.
I have learned when I sacrifice, even a little, I see my heart conforming to the image of Christ. God’s way is better, I really do feel more blessed when I give than when I receive; being a peace maker is more satisfying than getting revenge, it feels better to serve than being served. Every time I obey I find that God satisfies and fulfills the longings of my heart and I get to experience the “abundant life.”
A beautiful aspect of Ranch life is the structure that encourages righteousness and limits temptations. The discipline needed for godliness is mostly built into the program.
This is an amazing ministry. I have grown tremendously during my internship and feel equipped for the future to be a good father, husband, friend and servant.
Mike Kotlarski 2010
Christian Encounter Ranch stands as a gateway—a place for an encounter—for those broken, sick, hopeless, bereaved, shattered, abused, forgotten, unloved, neglected, under-appreciated, unapproachable, poor, lost and sinful... who are willing to come and find a new life fully illuminated by God’s grace and love, having transformed their lives.
Removing pond scum carries with it a foul stench and disgusting sludge. Removing brush and branches from around uphill cabins is a difficult and slow operation. If these jobs themselves were not hard enough, the disposition of the students expressing immaturity, uncooperativeness and frustrated attitudes, heaped extra trouble on the situation. The entire group had to be addressed at least once. I have learned, at a very personal level, what situations like these require when you are in charge. These lessons scare and compel me to trust all the more upon the Lord, the only sure and true authority. As God has extended grace towards me, I know I need to extend grace and forgiveness to others.
Christian Encounter has a fine balance of unique individuals working nicely in an integrated whole. I’ve felt appreciated, honored, respected and needed in this ministry and in my role as an intern. I learned to trust God more fully during my time at the Ranch. Returning to college with many unknowns, I can fully trust that God will direct my way and supply me with all I need to finish well.
Alena Egense 2009-2010
This whole ranch runs on God’s strength; the idea of the ranch is crazy without Him. We are all inadequate and yet, God uses all of us.
My natural tendency is to avoid conflict and to care for someone by giving them what they want. However, sometimes the best thing to do for someone is to say ‘no.’
The Lord used my break times to teach me how to really rest. With a limited amount of free time, as compared to college life, my personal time became sacred and I learned how to use it wisely.
1Peter 4:10 says “each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others.” This is a perfect description of the intern-team. I was always encouraged to be myself and use the gifts I have and not try to be like other interns.
My time at the Ranch has been life changing. I became a part of the Ranch family that I intend to stay close to my whole life. The skills I learned here about interacting with people, in some ways, parenting skills, are ones I will take with me wherever God takes me
Nathaniel Boyd 2010
I view the leaders at the Ranch as humble, determined, and strong. Humility and strength together are powerful; they enable leadership without aggression and ambition. This kind of leadership earns respect instead of demanding it, and is easy to follow. I feel called to leadership of some sort and it was very beneficial for me to have leaders who model these traits. I have learned from their example and have been encouraged in my calling.
I have been able to spend time with a very different group of people than those I grew up around. This helped me understand people better and taught me to see things from their perspective rather than just my own.
Brittany Rosene 2010
“Having a loving, supportive intern team was a key component of making my intern experience a good one. My time at CEM was a challenging journey, but was also very rewarding. I will never forget the life-lessons I learned. Some character traits strengthened in me were: endurance, consistency, confidence, servant hood and courage. I also grew in my ability to love others and give unconditional grace. I will always be grateful for my time at CEM, the life-lessons learned and the friendships I made. The Ranch will always have a very special place in my heart.”
Marcia Ward 2009
“I knew I would learn a lot when I became a Ranch intern, but I did not realize the depth His lessons would go. Sometime during the first few months I realized God was answering a prayer I had voiced about six months earlier, “Lord, teach me how to love better; teach me how to love like you, to love those who do not always return love.” The more I came to know the students, the more I felt affection and love for them, and the more it hurt when they rejected, ignored or disrespected me. Through those interactions, God taught me to love more deeply.
“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence is fullness of joy; in your right hand there are pleasures forever.” Ps 16:11
Connor Knapp 2009
"The first night of my internship I heard loud swearing and things crashing, and saw a young woman bolt out of the lodge. This was my introduction to life challenges at CEM. Being an intern has been the hardest, best thing I have ever done in my life. I have grown more during the past two years than any other time period. I have seen and experienced peace, malcontent, joy, sorrow, love, hate, and the face of Jesus in every single person.
Life at CEM is like frozen juice concentrate. Something hard and intense that becomes sweet and wonderful. My time of service and learning at CEM has changed me forever and I hope to continue allowing God to have full charge of my life."
Tiffany Geiger 2008
“It has been a great experience being a part of a Godly team of interns. I have gained some wonderful life-friends. I was able to see the body of Christ at work; we were all so different from each other, but were able to work together to conquer issues and situations. There is a “special bond” that is hard to find in many places. I also feel more prepared for parenting, though I hope to never have ten or more teenagers at once, ever again!”
Lucy Barbour 2008
“My internship was a difficult, joyful, stretching, tear-my-hair-out, refreshing, painful, growing experience. Ministry for me will always be coming alongside my brothers and sisters and growing together. I have grown and received healing in many areas of my life. God has blessed me with maturing experiences and insights that help me challenge those around me to take appropriate steps in their own lives as they pursue spiritual maturity.
Working here without having daily time with God is like going after a dragon with a butter knife... My talents, gifts and abilities are useless unless submitted to Christ. Another huge thing I learned is that boundaries are SO important. A Christian leader could actually cripple someone by giving too much and causing the needy recipient to become dependent. Though I came to the internship to help students, I really received a great deal of healing myself.”
Clint Leigh 2007
“I have been impressed with the signifance of prayer and the focus on Jesus Christ that the leadership expresses on a regular basis, and how deliberate an effort is made to pass that on to the interns and students. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” This is a truth that comes to mind when I try to define what’s happening at CEM.
There is something about letting other people invade your personal life that really helps unearth someone’s personality. I know myself better as a result of this internship and would credit it to living in community. I felt right at home living at the Ranch because it’s peaceful and away from the chaos of city life. When people come to live in this type of environment, it has a way of bringing things to the surface that would otherwise stay easily hidden in the noise and busyness of the daily grind. “
Merodie Bend (Leigh) 2007
“A former intern once told me, “I have never felt so close to the sufferings of Christ as during my time at the Ranch.” This rings very true to my experience here and has been something I have clung to in my harder months. It seems that when we choose to gird up and battle in prayer against the horrific attack on the lives of these students and stand up against the appalling choices that have led them into captivity, we taste a small portion of the sin that Christ willingly carried to Calvary. In a rage [a student] blurted out, ‘ You don’t even know how to help me! You haven’t been through half the stuff I have! Why do you think you can help anyone? You’re like a life guard that doesn’t know how to swim!’ …But in the midst of that situation, God was so present, and I truly understood what a lie this was. Before I knew it, a response was shooting out of my mouth and my whole countenance was burning with passion. ‘I may not know how to swim, but I love you, and I’m doing everything I can to learn.’ That is how I learned to love…I just dove in. …How do you offer yourself in ministry to those who are hurting without sacrificing yourself in the process?
The Ranch will never be replaced in my heart; I can see this experience is second only to my salvation experience when considering the change it produced in me.”
Kristen Heiner 2006
"I would say that the most rewarding experience during my internship was the relationships that I developed. It was also rewarding to see how those relationships were strengthened throughout these past three months. ... even though I came into this internship wanting to share God's love and serve, I was also a recipient of God's love because other people from the ranch family served me. I think that's just God's crazy way of working within the body of Christ. The more that you serve, obey, love and give the more you will be blessed... In my opinion, the CEM ministry to troubled students is on the front lines of a battle. Even though living in community is hard, CEM is providing students with everything they need to have their emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental needs met. I feel that CEM accepts both students and interns where they are but they love them enough to not leave them where they are."
Julie Shapland 2006
“Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 “I forgot how afraid I was when I said yes to my savior [to do an internship]. I was terrified. Afraid I would fail. Afraid I wouldn’t be able to make it through the next year. Afraid I would stop caring and ignore the students. So God met me in my fear…I can attest to the faithfulness of YHWH, my savior.
Chris Garau 2005
In intern meetings when I would share something that happened and my voice would crack, I would pause and wait or pretend I had to clear my throat. But what really was going on was my feelings were coming out as I was talking. I kept thinking that someone was going to laugh at me or talk to me after the meeting about it, but nobody did. [At the ranch] It is okay to express feelings, it is healthy.
My intern team was great; they became my friends. I can’t believe that I did a year internship! I heard the choir from Africa, I made an igloo and slept in it during a blizzard, and I spent 15 days out in the wilderness. And then there are the little times just goofing off in the office or on a Friday night [out with the intern team]. I want to be able to look back [on my life] and not get bored and wish it could have been different. I don’t want to settle for comfort or complacency in my walk with the Lord, but live my life for Him.”
Autumn Webster 2004
“This internship has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I have learned so much about myself, about other people, and about relationships. I love this ministry. I love the way you can feel and see the Holy Spirit moving and working in every aspect of the ministry. I loved seeing body ministry in action. I love the way it is set up in order to keep individuals accountable.”
Charlie Cazin 2003
“After living here for a while I soon realized that my ideas about Christian Encounter Ministries and how I would contribute were a tad bit off. I started to see that my role here was one of a servant and not a “savior.” Once I realized that, things seemed so much simpler, and a heavy weight seemed a bit lighter.
I came thinking I had very little left to learn. Boy was I wrong! I learned interpersonal communication is one of my greater strengths and I believe God has given me the ability to speak powerfully to large groups. I was able to practice this skill at the Ranch and it has been beneficial for me. I also learned about my weak spots.
In my opinion, this ministry to troubled students is “God breathed.” I see sensitivity and consistency to His will, day in and day out. I respect this ministry; it will forever be my family.”
Jessica Matthies 2002
The CEM internship has often been described as being ‘squeezed through a knothole’. I think that the “knothole” is shaped like the word “Love”. I believe that all the lessons that I have learned while being here all essentially stem from learning more and more how to love. This internship has been one of the most influential experiences in my life in teaching me this lesson. Going through the ‘knothole’ has been incredibly difficult at times, joyful at others, rewarding always.”
Gena Chavez (Lyerly) 2001
“All the “fights,” tears, laughter, friends, and family made here [at CEM] have filled my soul with a glimpse of how joyful eternity will be.
I was just walking through the kitchen and it occurred to me that I belonged. I have finished two years and like all things my time here will end. Yet I will always belong in this family of Christians. God has led me here and is blessing me everyday. I have witnessed people giving their lives to the Lord. I have made friends and had the opportunity to find healing in my personal life. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, ‘Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we our selves are comforted by God. Amen!”
Ryan Koch 2000
“I am trusting God to convict people. That is so much more effective than me “busting” them. If a student turns because of God working on his heart, that is a pattern that will serve him long after he has forgotten me and the consequences I issued.”
[At the conclusion of his internship Ryan wrote]
“Folks are giving me pictures lately, photographs of themselves, with the instruction (or) question, “You won’t forget me, right?” How could I forget? Please don’t think I will. God has put you in my heart, your smile, your crying, your progress and mistakes.” …I will brag about you. I will write you and pray for you. And God will compensate for the distance, the way only He can. I understand your concern. People have left you before, maybe forever. You were forgotten by some important folks; you know the routine. It is awful to be left. Worse to be forgotten. I’ll remember you making the honor roll…your baptism…the notes you wrote me…how mad we would get at each other…our talks, meals, hikes, games, work, swims…”
Robbin Merriam (Adams) 1981
“I was told an internship at Christian Encounter Ranch would be an experience I’d find very demanding, challenging, trying, and mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually taxing, as well as a host of other not so pleasant sounding descriptions. They were right. Yet, on the other hand, I was told an internship at Christian Encounter Ranch would be an experience I’d find very rewarding, fulfilling, inspiring and worthwhile, and one which I’d find hard to explain to someone else. They were very right.
My internship has helped me to know what it means to be a disciple of Jesus and to commit myself to following Him forever. In turn, I have learned what is entailed in discipling others. I’ve realized the importance and need of being constantly aware of my own conduct, words, and actions as I am being watched by others just as I look to Jesus. My life IS my discipleship of the Lord; therefore, I need to continually examine myself to see what my life is teaching."
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