When Christian Encounter Ranch was only an idea, the desire was to create a place that was quarantined. Or, to use a friendlier word, a refuge. The founders saw young people drowning in a culture of rebellion and casual destruction of self, and felt an urgent calling to offer a place of safety.
They picked this physical location to establish the Ranch because it was removed from society. The dirt road leading to the Ranch was so bad that during heavy rains it was all but impassable. Separation and distance were key requirements, because the Ranch was to be an escape from many forms of danger.
Young people could get away from drug dealers, from abusers, and also from the countless distractions life brings. Today, this list has grown to include social media and addictive online worlds.
The purpose of a medical quarantine is to keep a deadly contagion from spreading. The results include physically healthier people, but at the cost of community. The Ranch quarantine also results in healthier people, but instead by means of community. The redemptive power of the community is strengthened because the contagions removed by the Ranch quarantine are also things that sicken communities.
Neuroscientists have been learning recently that brains are hardwired -- designed-- for love. Specifically, to express and to receive love in community. When community love is disrupted, the results are neurotoxicity and anxiety. This is not a surprise. As God said at the beginning, "It is not good for man to be alone."
At the end of the day, the Ranch is very simply. a community of love. Our mission is "Overcoming the cycles of brokenness, one story at a time." This happens through the immense power of a community of love. A team that includes counselors, pastors, teachers, and interns anchors the community in the love of Christ, creating an environment that can nurture growth and healing for a time, with the goal of sending out stronger young people more immune from the invisible contagions of the world.
While medical quarantines today have caused many people to feel alone and hopeless, the Lord's love is undiminished and unchanged. May He remind you of His great love for you, and may you pass that along to others.
- Nate Boyd, Executive Director
There is a truth in the world that changes everything. It changes our motivations, our desires. It changes our very nature: the core of who we are. The gospel changes everything. Without it, I would have no purpose in life - no hope. Without it, our students would have no hope. But because of Jesus, the gospel is real. And it is alive.
The gospel is this: God redeems souls. Life overcomes death, and it lasts forever. But the gospel is not merely a new destination for souls--God’s redemption is so much bigger. For those who follow God, it is all-encompassing (Rom. 8:28). It includes the wounds we’ve caused and the wounds we’ve received. It includes the worst things we’ve ever done. It includes the lingering consequences from sins committed long ago. God’s redemption covers all of these. Amazingly, God’s redemption is so big it also includes the tiniest things, like the mistakes I make today that may cause me to give a sigh of regret as I lie in bed tonight.
These are not easy things to believe. But they are true. They’re true, because Jesus Christ paid the full, complete price. It covers everything! Therefore, every single one of us can be a living story of God’s ongoing work of redemption, no matter what has happened in our lives.
God’s redemption is also the theme of the Ranch. Since the very beginning, redemption testimonies have been formed here, one life at a time. The other day an early Ranch staff member told me of two young women who had been sexually traumatized. When they arrived at the Ranch, they heard the staff speaking of the freedom Christ gives, and of being washed clean. They believed God had indeed redeemed them, and they proceeded to live and speak as perfectly restored, new creations. From those earliest days through this moment, God continues to
The Ranch as an institution is a concrete testament to God’s redemption. As we celebrate our 50th year of existence, we are grateful for all He has done and that His work of redemption continues. Whatever the next 50 years hold, the Ranch is dedicated to displaying the power of the gospel every day of its existence.
Nate Boyd, Executive Director
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”
Somehow, it’s almost Christmas. Here at the Ranch, this means we’ll soon be prepping to go caroling, planning the grand Christmas banquet, and scouring closets and cupboards for good--maybe “suitable” is a better word than “good”-- white elephant gifts.
While Christmas brings many gifts, one of the best gifts is not an actual object: it’s the opportunity to thank God for all He has given us. Every single good gift finds its true origin in Him, and as the greatest gift of all, He gave us Himself. We have much to celebrate indeed.
As we draw to the close of another year, we also pause to celebrate God’s provision for the Ranch Family. A great deal was accomplished this year, and God’s good gifts were evident throughout. Every day our young people achieved victories, choosing healing, truth, and love, and overcoming brokenness one moment at a time. Alongside this, many items from the Master Plan were completed, and organizational growth steadily occurred. Here are a few highlights:
The year began with a large donation on January 1st for the recreation room remodel project, and our maintenance crew and volunteers promptly began the job. A couple of weeks later, the Ranch family completed an excellent trip to the forest to build igloos, character, and teamwork.
The maintenance team finished remodeling all the girls’ dorm interiors, making them more comfortable, pleasant, and modern.
A team of donors from the paving industry led by Agony rider Paul McClain laid fresh road base and asphalt over some Ranch roads. Around the same time the Board of Directors completed a comprehensive review with an attorney of foundational documents and policies, strengthening the ministry.
A.W. Tozer said, “God is looking for people through whom He can do the impossible. What a pity that we plan only the things we can do by ourselves.” In a recent staff meeting we focused our prayer time on the big picture of what God is doing at the Ranch, working to look beyond the limitations of our ability and sense of vision to see God’s.We started by remembering examples of God’s provision from Scripture. Hearing the group sharing story after story was faith-nurturing and exciting. The reminders of God’s frequent and powerful acts of supernatural provision helped us ask for big things, like the money needed to reopen transitional houses and to remodel the downstairs of the main building. We prayed that an abundance of resources and helpers would arrive, allowing us to do everything we believe is part of God’s desire for these young people.We prayed again that the Ranch would be God’s project, not ours, and that we wouldn’t handicap His work or vision by our limitations.
We learn by reflecting on the past. God has given us incredible mental abilities to perceive patterns and logical consequences and to apply wisdom to situations. Our students engage in this reflection with great courage, revisiting their pasts and working through the traumas they’ve experienced, then sharing with others the profound truths that help them heal and choose new paths forward. Not only can we do this as individuals, but as groups too. At the Ranch, this is one way we strive to discern how God wants to work through this ministry.
In a recent period of reflection, we recently discussed the name “Christian Encounter Ministries.” When founded as a residential church for young people in California in 1970, it was officially “Christian Encounter.” But even in the earliest days, it was nicknamed “The Ranch.” After a few years, the name became “Christian Encounter Ministries,” an appropriate umbrella term for an organization that had quickly grown to include several different outreaches. Another residential facility was opened in Missouri, and then both were expanded to include large wilderness camping programs. LifeEnrich Christian Counseling Center was opened in a strip mall between Grass Valley and Auburn, and a network of homes for young people was operational in San Jose, Yuba City, and Livermore under the CEM banner. To help support all these endeavors, we owned and operated a gas station and mini-mart and also ran a labor-intensive bee business. All of these were overseen from the main hub, “Christian Encounter Ranch,” the residential refuge for young people in pain located at our current site on Retrac Way in Grass Valley.
Eventually, the leadership of CEM felt a clear call to return to its original vision: we were called to be a residential expression of the Body of Christ, focused on youth who were dealing with great pain. This prompted them, decades ago, to spin off the other programs and install other leaders. Despite these changes, however, the umbrella name “Christian Encounter Ministries” remained.
Since that name no longer matches what we do today, our Board of Directors recently voted unanimously to return to “Christian Encounter Ranch” as our operating name moving forward. Not only does this fit who we are, it also makes communicating with the outside world easier: we’ve always called it “The Ranch”! Just as we returned to our original call, we’ve also now returned to the name that accompanied it.
Through these nearly five decades, the grace of the Lord has been felt every single day of the Ranch’s existence, and it’s what we rely on as we look to continue working with these young people as well. I’m grateful for the legacy of leaders who were more concerned about hearts healing than organizations growing.
Nate Boyd, Executive Director