By: Chuck Boatman
A year ago this month, Barbara and I began our ministry here. I’d like to share with you a few impressions of Christian Encounter Ministries gained during my first year here.
First, I’ve seen the dedication of the people who help to make this ministry happen. Some of our staff members have spent most of their lives in ministry here. Others who have joined the team more recently share equally in this loyalty to their calling.
Our long-term staff members have a sense of the ebb and flow of life at the Ranch that helps us stay focused on our mission of “tending lives and training leaders.” But not one of them is an “old codger” stuck in the past, unwilling to adjust to new realities that changing times bring to us.
I am also pleased that we have no young zealots ready to “burn down the Lodge” in pursuit of reforming the ministry. Instead, they have high regard for CEM’s demonstrated expertise in being one of God’s agents in healing the lives of young people who are at risk for destroying themselves. These newer staff bring with them an enthusiastic willingness try new ways of doing things that some of us older members of the team would never have imagined.
Let me illustrate what I have just said. The Agony Ride (a 24-hour bicycle marathon) has been our major fundraising event for decades. Wisdom gained through the years has shown us what works. On the other hand, our staff are not afraid of adopting new methods and technology.
Before the 2015 Agony, CEM Board member Michael Lewis and his wife, Stephanie, proposed using electronic means to track riders’ progress. CEM staff recognized this as an answer to prayer. Michael and Stephanie have contributed hundreds of hours of volunteer time to the project. Now we can provide real-time electronic updates on all riders. This, in turn, lets those who support them stay current with their progress throughout the 24 hours. In 2016, we experienced new pledges being made even as the ride neared its end—a powerful encouragement to the riders as they pushed themselves to their limits.
In just four years, CEM will celebrate its 50th anniversary of service to our Lord and the children he loves. We are grateful to a host of faithful friends who have supported the ministry all these years. Some are now living on reduced income in retirement, some have died. But many of them are still contributing, making it possible for CEM to exist today. Their financial gifts, their volunteered time and labor, and their material gifts bless us regularly.
I’ve also been impressed with the good stewardship I’ve seen here. It enables us to provide a high-quality, life-changing program for only half of what it costs Nevada County government to keep a child in a residential facility . . . and the spiritual component of our program is something the county is unable to offer!
It costs CEM $6,000 per month for each student enrolled here. We underwrite one-half the cost to make it affordable for more families, and needy students have never been sent away solely because their families could not afford to pay. Scholarships to help our students is the means by which the ministry continues its work.
Jesus said one of the distinguishing characteristics of those who follow him is caring for people the world neglects (Mt. 25.34-40). I invite you to prayerfully consider making 2017 the year you become one of the regular contributors who help life-changing ministry happen here at Christian Encounter Ministries.