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.
6 month intern
Hometown: Glendale Hts, Illinois
Jony returns to Chicago this month to complete his B.A. in Counseling at Moody Bible Institute. From there, he is looking to pursue a master’s degree in either social work or clinical counseling.
“Ministries are often focused on numbers and performance. But here it’s all encompassing, you feel supported constantly. Everything is to serve the same purpose...”
“[Internship] is a lot of learning to just shut up sometimes and just love someone. Disciplining is loving them, and there’s a time for that. And then there’s a time not to give advice, but to hug them, cry it out with them...They’ve taught me patience - learning to just be patient with someone who doesn’t know how to accept love.”
Parting words to the students:
“I love you all a lot. Your lives are of significant value to me. When I leave, I will still bear the weight of your lives. Keep fighting. It doesn’t matter if you stay here or get kicked out. It’s about moving forward. God is in control and can take any type of story and transform it into so much more than what we could have ever thought.”
After almost a year of searching and sifting through resumes, we’re excited to welcome Chris Unitt aboard as our new Food Service Manager. Chris’s resume was exactly what we were looking for, and we’re grateful to the Lord for answering our prayers and leading her to join our ministry team.
“I’ve been around cooking all my life. My family was into big family gatherings. Every year we did a tamale dinner and we invited everybody we knew; it was this big one-day open house. It started before I was born - I came into cooking that way. It’s always been a passion of mine.” When Chris and her family bought a camp in Grass Valley in 2004, tamale dinners turned into pancake breakfasts and ice cream socials. After ten years, they sold the camp and, by then, Chris was well immersed in the commercial kitchen. Since then, Chris has volunteered extensively with Hospitality House and worked for Summer Thyme’s Bakery and Deli, Valentina’s Organic Bistro and Bakery, and most recently, Caroline’s Coffee Roasters. “I was ready for a change. The Lord was tugging at my heart to be doing more mentorship and training.”
We’re thankful to Larissa for capably filling this role this year and for her flexibility and servant-heart, which gave us the time to do a thorough search process. Moving forward, Larissa plans to work with High Sierra Outdoor Institute and apply for graduate schools to pursue a Master’s degree in Education.
Zack was standing in the back of the chapel as the speaker wrapped up his last session for the weeklong summer camp. The speaker’s words tuned in to focus again: “God loves you because He made you…” These words echoed in Zack’s head as he bolted for the backdoor, everything within him warring against the speaker’s declaration. God was pursuing Zack, and he had no choice but to respond. That evening, Zack received Jesus as his savior.
With the end of summer came the start of sophomore year - and now Zack was the only child at home. His mother had left before Zack could remember, leaving him and his three sisters with their grandmother and father. Over the years, Kaitlin and Alyssa had moved out, leaving Kara to bear the brunt of the physical and verbal abuse at home. Once Kara left, all attention shifted to Zack.