God has given each of us gifts and calls each of us to use them. Some of us will receive the call to go overseas or into unusual circumstances, but the starting point for each of us is: serve God where you are and with what you have. Last year, after Russia invaded Ukraine, I wished I could go help with the relief efforts. I knew that wasn’t what God was calling me to do, though: my assignment was to focus primarily on His work at Christian Encounter.
A couple of years ago, seeking to serve God with everything He had given us, we asked Him if there were additional ways we could use Ranch resources. The Angels’ Meadow facility had 12 cabins with five beds each, a campfire ring, an outdoor amphitheater and stage, a fishing pond, and a few other amenities. It’s a beautiful spot, and it sat unused most of the year. Perhaps the Lord had additional purposes for it. Some volunteers built an outdoor kitchen to complete the facilities and we opened it to guest groups. As a church, we decided to make it totally free; we never want money to be an obstacle to ministry with any of our programs. Groups could donate if they were able. It felt a little adventurous and risky. We didn’t know what would happen.
The first group was a men’s retreat. The pastor had prepared a theme and messages and expected ten men would come. When they heard the only cost was the food they would bring, twenty came.
We never want money to be an obstacle to ministry with any of our programs..
How encouraging! The ministry doubled when money wasn’t an issue. It confirmed our plan.
God has continued to use the Meadow since. This summer we had college groups, a men’s retreat, a wedding, a baptism service, family camps, a Child Evangelism Fellowship camp of 100 youth (many of whom responded to a Gospel invitation), and … four camps for refugees from Ukraine and Russia. Three were family camps and one was a week-long camp for refugee children put on by a Russian church in Sacramento. Families traveled to Sacramento from as far as Texas so their children could participate, and there were 300 kids on the waitlist. Most who came had never heard the Gospel before.
We have received as freely as we’ve given. Groups have donated picnic tables, a shed for supplies, labor help, food, money, and more. Giving is God’s design, and it is good.
I never would have guessed that serving God where we are with what we have would mean refugees from the war in Ukraine would be finding respite, peace, and the Gospel–all only a hundred yards from my home. God may use us in different ways than we expect, but the gifts He’s given us fit into His plans in ways more beautiful than we could design on our own.
Nate Boyd, Executive Director
As a Christian leader, my heart breaks when I encounter a young person who has been harmed by a Christian leader. If someone tells you God loves you, but then harms you, what do you come to believe about God? He is not trustworthy or good. He is dangerous, and his love is an epithet.
It’s common, and in some ways even good, to develop anger against “God” in a situation like this. But this anger is really toward a false image–not the true God.
The path to the true God requires first dismantling wrong beliefs. This dismantling can be lonely and disorienting, and it takes time. Reality is shaking; in some sense you are broken loose from your foundation.
But, if this is happening to you or someone you love, have hope! God understands, He has not abandoned you, and He is at work. Hebrews 12:26-27 gives us a glimpse of what He is accomplishing: “At that time His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, ‘Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.’ The words ‘once more’ indicate the removing of what can be shaken–that is, created things– so that what cannot be shaken may remain.”
A day is coming when God will, once and for all, remove all that is impermanent so that only the eternal remains. But until that day, God continually does this on a smaller scale in our lives–not just in those who’ve been traumatized, but in every one of us.
We often build on sand instead of rock.
We often build on sand instead of rock. Sometimes this even happens when we think we are building on His Word! Because He loves us, God brings shaking into our lives to remove our impermanent work. Sometimes the impermanent work is in the area of Christian service or ministry. Sometimes it is in the area of a faith we have constructed for ourselves. I thought God would _______. All this must be shaken, fall, and be removed so that a new work–something permanent–can be built in its place.
The shaking and falling can be terrifying. But underneath the rubble will be the potential for something far better. Don’t run from the shaking! Don’t abandon the rubble! Dig deeper and find the true bedrock, and begin to build again. God’s love can carry us through, all the way to the final, complete result. May He be glorified.
Nate Boyd, Executive Director
As we approach the end of 2022, I’d like to recount again some of the incredible things God has done on our behalf. As I reflect on the year, many big projects and tangible achievements come to mind, but the deepest victories happened in hearts and minds and are hard to include on a list like this. These are the moments when a hurting heart decides to receive the love being offered, when a life-dominating lie is finally exposed to the truth and banished, and when someone chooses to forgive an old transgression. As you read this list, celebrate with me both the items included below and the long list of invisible decisions that are at the heart of it all!
We started the year off right with a beautiful wedding on January 1, celebrating staff member Salena Berger’s marriage to Josh Unitt. Two weeks later the intern team grew to ten members, making for a large and talented team willing to invest daily in the lives of the students. A few days later we celebrated a student graduating from high school and presented him with his diploma.
We closed the purchase of a local house that was sold to the Ranch at a discounted price (pictured below). It has met a critical need for staff housing this year and will soon become the Girls’ House for students finishing the program at the Ranch. Speaking of the girls, 15 young women braved unusually cold and icy weather on the annual igloo trip. Due to a tremendous team effort, they built three igloos despite difficult building conditions.
The Ranch Family celebrated a baptism and enjoyed a day of cross-country skiing together. Reports vary about which was colder! Then, during the break between school quarters, we set academic pursuits aside to dedicate a week to a series of sessions on the theme “Deeper,” pursuing closer relationship with the Lord as individuals and as a church family.
A local church group blessed the Ranch Family by preparing an Easter gift basket for each of our students. The weather was perfect for our annual Rescue Run, and it was a great joy to invite guests on property for a beautiful trail run and to experience the Ranch community.
May brought an increase in opportunities to communicate about the Ranch which continued through the summer, including invitations to churches, community events, and radio stations such as K-Love, Air1, KFBK, and KNCO. Meanwhile, generous community members continued to invest in building out the Angels’ Meadow venue, including installing a shed and refrigeration at the outdoor kitchen…
“Young leaders tend to overestimate what they can accomplish in five years, and underestimate what they can accomplish in ten.” I was told this shortly after the Board appointed me to be Executive Director five years ago on Oct. 7, 2017. Perhaps this is because it’s difficult to see how much foundational work is needed, including establishing core components like culture, values, and mission.
We all know foundations are important; we rarely understand ahead of time how much work it takes to create a good foundation. For example, the bigger and more complex the building, the more work the foundation takes.
At the Ranch we’ve seen this in real time as we’ve rebuilt the duplex. Designing, planning, calculating, and lengthy consultations with the County Building Department finally turned to site prep, excavation, forming, gravel, and rebar. Only then could we pour concrete for the foundation. But once the foundation was done, walls went up quickly.
Five years does mark a good interval to zoom out and consider the big picture. We’ve had some difficult seasons over these five years, but I’m excited about how much has been done. This was possible because so much of the foundation was already established. As I wrote in my first Director’s View five years ago: “The four [previous Ranch directors] are humble, servant-hearted, sacrificial leaders, and they’ve built these values into the heritage of the Ranch. This is a beautiful thing, and unfortunately it is rare in our world.” A lot can be built on a foundation like that.
We have accomplished a great deal in five years, and there are many plans in the works. “We” includes staff, interns, volunteers, prayer partners, donors, Agony riders and saggers, and more.
Unfortunately, foundations never seem to be perfect. Problems always appear down the road, whether with a house, an organization, or our personal life foundations.
If I were an interior designer examining a house to renovate and re-style, I would try to identify all the flaws of the house and figure out how to conceal them. But the real master designers don’t just conceal; somehow they incorporate those imperfections into a new creation. The result is unique, partly due to those very imperfections.
Thanks be to God, this is what He is doing constantly. He is the redeemer. May He do this with the Ranch ministry, with our lives, and with every young person who comes here.
Nate Boyd, Executive Director
“He can create something new in us...”
A Ranch “pray out” symbolizes just this - that God has created something new in the life of a student.
Upon their departure, our prayer is that He will bring to completion the work He has begun.
My grandparents grew up during the Great Depression of the 1930’s, when large numbers of Americans struggled to get enough to eat. Those experiences shaped how they thought about resources. A piece of furniture broke? Let’s keep it–it may be fixable, even though it’ll take a while. Old National Geographics? Keep them, they’re good references. Unidentifiable tool/hardware? We may need it someday. But time is limited, so the stuff multiplies. And the collection of broken and unused things sits and some things never even get touched, let alone fixed or needed.
My generation grew up during a time of general prosperity and great opportunity, and I tend to think a little differently. Often I optimize by the value of time and storage space. How much time will it take to fix that nightstand? How much does a new one cost? Not sure it’s worth keeping. Old magazines? If I need something, I can probably find it online–toss them. Unidentifiable hardware? Pretty sure I’ll never need it, even if I had the skill to use it. But the collection of things I’ve disposed of probably contained items of value too.
There are pros and cons to both approaches, of course. Stewardship is a challenge, and we each do the best we can to organize and strategize and optimize. We aren’t the only ones deciding what to do with broken things. God is, too. His world is full of broken and damaged people. But He does not experience the limitations we do.
"No matter how broken we are or how much help we need, we’re never so broken He tosses us away. He keeps working, and working, and never stops working on us."