"I strongly believe that the most difficult experiences during my internship resulted in being the most valuable ones...Never have I been so vulnerable and encouraged to deal with what’s in front of me instead of running away from it...
The most important thing I learned while being at the Ranch is this: if sorrow clouds my soul, I won’t fight it. I will allow my tears to flow. I was not meant to be invincible. I bruise easily; my heart is soft, prone to bleed sometimes at the slightest touch. In my moments of sadness, I must be willing and brave enough to allow Christ in my pain, in my pain for the students, in my brokenness - because He sees it all...Christ shares our pain and understands our sorrows..."
The 2018 Agony Ride is July 27-28 in the Sierra Valley.
Will you consider riding in the Agony Ride this year, and bring a friend with you? We’re shooting for 100 riders, and we’re already one fourth of the way there! Need a little push to get back in the saddle? Be inspired by Agony statistics:
• This is Agony Ride #36.
• Mike Boon has ridden in all 35 Agony Rides.
• The Agony Ride generates over 20% of CEM’s annual operating budget.
• In 2016, the Ride brought in $180,000+, surpassing the previous record by $25,000.
• In 2017, the Ride brought in $194,000+, surpassing the previous record by about $14,000.
• Last year, Jonathan Palmer shattered the record for most money raised by an individual at $13,000+.
• Only 12 women have made the 300 club in Agony history. Will you be the 13th?
Will you consider riding in the Agony Ride this year, and bring a friend with you? We’re shooting for 100 riders, and we’re already one fourth of the way there! Need a little push to get back in the saddle? Maybe returning rider Don Spittler’s reflections will do just that.
Name: Don Spittler
Number of rides: 4
Most miles ridden in one ride: 266
What keeps you coming back?
I love the ministry of CEM. The first year I rode, I saw so many sweet Christians living out their faith. I saw this in the CEM staff; I saw it in the countless volunteers using their gifts to support the Agony Ride. I was humbled by the love that was there for the students and the support I received as a rider. It truly touched my heart and made it clear that I would continue to ride as long as I am able.
When is it time to get really serious about training? What does that look like for you?
I ride year round as I commute to work on my bike. As winter fades, I up my mileage from about 120+ miles a week to 250+ by late spring. Living in Sacramento allows me to ride the Sacramento River Trail to the American River Parkway. My home to Folsom Lake and back is 86 miles so I do this ride several times a month as well as several 50- 65 mile rides each week.
Describe a significant experience at the Agony.
Because of the (previous) need to have a riding partner during the night, each year I have found myself riding with someone I had not known before the ride. By evening it becomes obvious who is riding at the same pace and you just naturally team up. I have had the pleasure of meeting amazing people during the night rides. The intensity of the ride creates a real comradery that is amazing. By then you have established a goal that is obtainable. You encourage and support each other at finishing the ride and reaching that goal. It’s what has carried me through when my energy level is waning and fatigue is setting in through the last hours of the ride.
What’s your favorite thing about the Agony?
There are many things, but I suppose it would be the enthusiasm of the students that greet you at each SAG. As you approach each station, you hear them cheering in the distance. That encouragement is what draws that last bit of energy I need to make it in.
If there’s one food/drink item you could request to be at the SAGs this year, what would it be?
Peanut butter and banana sandwiches
We’re excited to welcome Tom Griffith this month as our new Director of Counseling as John Cox transitions out.
Tom has been a resident of Nevada County for over 25 years, serving youth and adolescents in the mental health field in Sacramento and Nevada counties since 2001. Tom worked at a secular counseling agency for 14 years, often with children in CPS cases and in the foster care system. During this time, he also opened his own private practice in Grass Valley, enabling him to integrate his faith with his therapy for individuals and families.
On landing at CEM, Tom says, “My preferred population is who we have right here. The population God has prepared me for is right here.”
“I was my parents’ first kid - I was not expected... [My mom] got married shortly after she got pregnant. I lived with my dad and my mom until my mom got pregnant with my sister; she wasn’t my dad’s kid. They split up.”
Thus began Kalani’s early years. She and her father moved into his grandparents’ home after the divorce where they would live for a few years before her father would remarry. “I was his whole world - me and him together.” With a new mom came new siblings and new grandparents. Kalani’s step-grandfather pastored a humble church gathering in their home where Kalani would attend Sunday School. As she grew up, Kalani’s church attendance was dictated by the venue of her step-grandfather’s preaching.
When Kalani reached middle school, she continued to attend youth group, but also was drawn to the free-spirited lifestyle embodied by many of her peers. “[A friend] opened my eyes to everything this culture thinks is right.” Though her parents continued to draw clear boundaries for her, Kalani found new ways to evade and to violate them.
Last month I discussed our need to step into the next phase of growth as a ministry and our excitement to do so. I’m happy to say that since then the first two steps forward are completed!
Step one: dealing with debt. We’re thrilled to announce the Ranch is now 100% debt-free! Ten years ago CEM purchased the house and property of our closest neighbor on a 15-year loan. This purchase has provided crucial staff housing, enabling another family to live on property and provide community, safety, and support for our students. Housing is often essential for staff to afford to serve here, so this investment will be a key longterm benefit to CEM. Thanks to the last two record-breaking Agony rides covering much more of the burden of student sponsorships than usual, we were able to use general fund money to pay off the house five years early! This is a tremendous victory and a crucial first step in our plans. Please join us in thanking God! Now we can use those resources to tackle other hurdles we face.
These girls are on a roll...err...I mean on honor roll...for second quarter! Anthony, who also finished high school this January, is not pictured here. Well done, girls, and a big congratulations to Anthony!
From L to R: Kalah, Dorrie, Savannah, Kalani
It was late in the evening when the doorbell rang. Dorrie, who was four at the time, looked at her brother Zakeri and raced to the door. She was greeted by men in black uniforms, asking to speak with her mother, who had just entered the room. Her mother immediately began shouting at them and told Dorrie and her brother to leave the room. The next thing she knew, she and her brother were getting into a car with the men at the door. It would be the last time Dorrie would be allowed in her own home.
The court did not rule in Dorrie’s parents’ favor, thrusting Dorrie, Zakeri, and their two sisters into the foster care system. It was difficult to keep all the siblings together, but after four moves in six months, Dorrie was reunited with her siblings. This lasted for two years before ongoing abuse in the home was reported, catapulting them back into the system. Dorrie and Zakeri continued on to a few different placements together before Zakeri was adopted by the Collins family. Dorrie proceeded in her search for family on her own.
About 23 years ago, John and Gigi Cox sat in the CEM Director’s office discussing the opportunity to join the staff of the ministry. John and I reminisced about our growing up years in Humboldt County. We attended sister churches in Arcata and Eureka, played in the same church basketball league, attended Humboldt State, and shared friendships and fellowship with many other Christians in the community. Later, as a young married couple, John and Gigi visited CEM and expressed their interest in serving here. We remained in contact and by the mid-90s, John had become a licensed contractor and was in the midst of a Marriage and Family Therapist Master’s program. When the door to serve at CEM finally opened, we talked about the practical difficulties of changing careers and moving with three young boys into a very small two-bedroom cabin. I asked Gigi about this, and she leaned across the table and proclaimed confidently, “This is an adventure from God!” And so it was!
In 2014 CEM entered a time of great change. Several long-term Ranch leaders began to reach retirement age and transition out, beginning with Jim and Marion Parker. Mike Petrillo followed shortly after, and a couple of staff changes have happened each year since. Late last year, our beloved Counseling Director, John Cox, announced his imminent retirement in June of this year. Mike Petrillo has written a beautiful and spot-on article about John and his impact on the Ranch family featured in this issue.
Personally, back in 2014 I wondered how CEM as an organization would handle the retirements of these key leaders. Losing them was a huge blow to the ministry! But the Lord has clearly not withdrawn His blessing and provision from CEM: He has been calling talented, committed, high-integrity, and creative new people to come join our ministry team.