Alumni, we’d love to hear from you! Let us know where you are and what you’re up to. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Steve Neal (‘95-’96) lives in Colorado Springs, CO with his wife, Jamie. After they began fostering in 2015, they adopted Jose, 14, and Fern, 18. Steve has worked in investment operations for the past eight years but is looking to move into full-time ministry. He is pursuing a Master of Divinity degree through Gateway University.
Alexa Gates (‘11-’12) studied fashion at Santa Monica College and launched her own handmade candle business, Piaceri, in March. She resides in Los Angeles, CA.
Summer (Hoff) Barry (‘86-’87) and her husband Brad reside in St. George, UT and have two daughters, Mckenzie and Kate, who graduated from Delaware State University last month. Summer completed a B.S. in English in 2013 and did a brief stint in teaching before heading back to school to earn her architectural drafting certificate in 2017. She has since started Summer Barry Design, providing architectural and interior design. Summer created one of the top three (of 30) parade homes in the 2019 Saint George Parade of Homes.
Ember Caulfield (‘10-’11) lives in North Port, FL and is working as a medical assistant at a dermatology center.
Deena (Moench) Vargas (‘87-’88) lives in Oroville, CA, where she is active in Father’s House Ministry, a church busily meeting the practical needs of many in the community. She and husband Cory have been married 27 years; they have four children and a nine year-old granddaughter. Deena is a licensed optician and a manager at Costco.
Following his internship, Jonathan Mangano (‘13) attended Indiana Wesleyan University where he completed his Master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. He has been working as a men’s domestic violence counselor since 2016 at Families First, a local non-profit agency, and more recently also began working in trauma counseling. Jonathan married his wife Kait in November 2014, and they just adopted a baby girl, Aila. They reside in Indianapolis, IN.
Melissa (Koch) Summers (‘00) and her husband Phillip met on the mission field in Ecuador and Peru and were married in 2005 with three former interns in the bridal party. They now have three children and live in Winston Salem, NC where they do ministry work in a primarily Latino-American neighborhood. Melissa works as a teachers’ assistant for first graders.
Emily (Hammer) Louisos (‘16) completed her Master of Social Work degree at the University at Buffalo, NY in 2018 and married her husband Elliot a month later. They welcomed their first child, Annabelle, to the world last June and live in Alexandria, VA. Emily received her licensure in January and works part-time at a private counseling practice.
David (‘95-’97) and Daphne (Vaughn) Huffman (‘95-’97) are in Portland, OR with their two children, Naomi and Eben. David continues in his career as an early intervention occupational therapist and Daphne works part-time at George Fox University as a social work professor. Naomi graduated 8th grade and enjoys drama and volleyball. Eben finished 6th grade and spends his time with the Boy Scouts and honing his archery skills.
Alumni, we'd love to hear from you! Email email@example.com.
By Andrew Nutt, student ‘08-’10
When I arrived at the Ranch as a student in 2008, I was a troubled young man, battling demons of addiction and insecurity. I reluctantly agreed to attend a residential “treatment” program after a sort of rock bottom, including legal repercussions for my substance abuse issues. I can clearly remember feeling super annoyed my first evening at the Ranch. Everybody was so friendly, happy, and genuinely interested in who I was, and for some reason it rubbed me the wrong way. In hindsight I can’t help but wonder if my irritability was caused by the evil and darkness in my heart at conflict with the love and light in my new environment.
During my tenure at Christian Encounter I experienced many struggles. I struggled to feel comfortable in my own skin as my mind cleared from years of pollutants. I struggled wrestling with my identity and learning who I really was. I struggled with identifying toxic influences in my personal life, establishing healthy boundaries, and letting people go. These were very real, painful experiences that were extremely challenging to navigate. It was a sincere battle with myself.
I can’t honestly say that my personal battles were over after leaving the Ranch, or that it was some sort of long-term saving grace. I still had much growing to do, as I will for the rest of my time on this earth. But my stay at the Ranch was a huge stepping stone on my path of learning to love others and myself, and letting the good Lord love me.
Now, many years down the road, I am a blessed man with a loving wife and two young children. My family and I live in the small mountain town of Pollock Pines, CA, where I grew up. I have a fulfilling career as a firefighter with the US Forest Service, and love what I do very much. I have continued to grow and learn, and have become a student of personal development. My wife and I make every effort to provide for our children the same environment that I had at the Ranch; one full of love, honesty, and the security that comes with living your life putting Jesus first.
I will always be grateful for my time at the Ranch and will forever remember the many evenings spent at the dock fishing, contemplating life, and enjoying God’s company.
Wes grew up in a large family. After having two kids of their own, Wes’ parents had adopted four children, including his half-brother. When Wes was born, he joined their family at thirteen months. In the coming years, his parents would adopt three more children and foster several more. Wes didn’t have a shortage of playmates, but the challenge was their lack of permanency. Wes’ parents stopped taking foster kids into their home as Wes neared his pre-teen years, but his parents’ divorce threatened the ongoing stability of the family.
The shared custody agreement thrusted Wes back and forth between homes week after week. Wes’ father continued to abuse alcohol and began to take it out on his children after the separation. As his parents began to independently take disciplinary measures in response to Wes’ behavior, he discovered he could avoid consequences by switching households. Although Wes’ mother would eventually take sole custody of the children, Wes had already learned how to slip under the radar, and once he entered the public school system, Wes was just another kid in a sea of faces.
Wes arrived at the Ranch after exhausting all local schooling options, with a plummeting GPA of .3. He had donned a state of indifference towards life, adopting it as a sort of life motto. Being indifferent meant you couldn’t get hurt. It meant you didn’t have expectations or hopes of anyone or anything, so you could never be disappointed. Being in-different was wearing a protective sleeve over his heart.
When Tom Griffith (left) announced his retirement plans last year, we began praying for the Lord to lead us to the next person to receive the baton in this crucial area of the Ranch ministry. We are very pleased to announce the hiring of Kevin Phillips as the next Director of Counseling. Kevin has lived in the Greater Sacramento region his whole life and currently resides in Roseville with his wife Vicki. Kevin has most recently worked with Koinonia’s Homes for Teens both in administrative roles and as a counselor.
As Kevin completes hours towards licensure, Tom will continue to be involved, serving as his counseling supervisor. Tom has faithfully applied his counseling gifts and testimony during his years at the Ranch, and we celebrate with him as he begins to enjoy retirement with his wife Marilyn.
A few weeks ago, I spoke with a friend about what it looks like to live faithfully in the midst of pandemics and lockdowns and civil unrest. We talked about caring for the people in our lives and about being receptive to the Spirit’s prompting as we interact with friends, family, and strangers, but it felt like there must be something more we could be doing. How do we love others well when we’re surrounded by uncertainty and fear? With many of our institutions shuttered and people isolated in their homes, with so much suffering caused or exacerbated by the events of 2020, what can we do to share the hope that we have?
He thought for a moment, then replied, “We all have our missions. Ours is Living Well [the local crisis pregnancy center]. You guys have the Ranch. We invest more in our local missions. We partner with them in the good work they’re already doing in people’s lives.”
When surrounded by a world desperate for hope, choosing to focus on and invest in the image-bearing individuals around us can sometimes feel like lighting a candle when what’s wanted is a bonfire.
We’d been talking about broad societal issues, about suffering that spans the nation and the globe. Sickness and death. Economic ruin. Isolation. Political unrest. Drug abuse and suicide. Such large-scale problems would seem to require large-scale solutions, but instead, he recommended we keep doing the work we’d already been doing. He said we should go small, dig deep, and give more of our time, energy, and money to local organizations that see the great worth and dignity of each person who walks through their doors. He suggested we start not with targeting broad campaigns toward large swaths of people, but with loving the individuals in front of us, and loving them well.