For several years now, I’ve put together a recap of the past year for this December newsletter. It’s a fun way to share with you some of what has been accomplished. It isn’t just for outward communication, though. I’ve realized this recap has been an important exercise for me. Jesus says in Matthew 5, “Every day has enough trouble of its own.” Many days I feel stuck in this trouble, and it’s hard to move my eyes up beyond the difficulties of each day. It’s too easy to lose sight of the bigger picture of what God is doing. After 365 days of “enough trouble,” it nurtures my faith to step back and observe.
God doesn’t remove all trouble, but He does redeem it and work through and despite it. Writing this recap each year has pressed deeper into my heart the constancy of God’s help and work on behalf of this ministry. It helps train my mind and heart to remember and have hope even when I’m slogging through troubles.
We started the year off by taking the young men into the mountains to build igloos. This annual trip is a staple of the Ranch calendar because it never fails to make an impact, both on individuals and on the group as a whole.
A few weeks later, the girls went on their trip. Speaking of impact, after a long conversation under the snow-covered pines, an intern walked with a student through the process of deciding to place her faith in Jesus. Her new joy was palpable as she told each person back at the Ranch over the coming days. Then in February the staff duplex rebuild was completed, and we gathered to dedicate the new homes with prayer and celebrate the impact on the ministry (right). Next we launched the long-awaited Girls’ House, which is a next-step ministry for our former residents focused on discipleship and growth.
A group of students from Patrick Henry College in Virginia visited to do service projects and invest in the students. This group was led by the president of the college, who found time to encourage and build up the Ranch staff and leadership too. Then, during spring break between school quarters, we set academic pursuits aside to dedicate a week to a series of sessions on these words of Jesus: “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” We also began remodeling the admin office, improving efficiency, storage, and layout. We capped off the month by celebrating together as a young lady was baptized.
The month began on a bittersweet note as we said goodbye to two interns who had completed the maximum two years, Faith and Aldin. Soon after, the whole Ranch family took time to have fun together and went bowling. This was followed by another baptism and more rejoicing.
Guest groups started arriving to use the campground facilities in the Angels’ Meadow Venue, which we offer at no charge. Another key infrastructure project was knocked off the list as the second asphalt project was completed. Once again, a couple of donors stepped up to shoulder the burden and give a profound gift to the Ranch. It is a joy both to give and to receive!
At our graduation celebration four high-school grads–Levi, James, Brooke, and Katelyn–received their diplomas and gave speeches expressing gratitude for the dedication of the school staff, the support of the community, and the transforming work of the Lord. In a fitting conclusion to the weekend, after church the next day we celebrated another baptism.
Our annual Family Camp was another great time of fellowship, fun, and families ministering to each other. Campers got to observe one of our young men who had completed over a year in the program get “prayed out” during church on Sunday. A couple of weeks later the new residence (ADU) was delivered for set up. At the end of the month we hosted the 41st Agony Ride. As always, it was an intense and impactful weekend of selfless service and sacrificing together. The all-time fundraising record was broken yet again, as our community of supporters gave so generously to the ministry of the Ranch. It was a special treat to have 20 former interns ride this year!
A group of Russian and Ukrainian refugees came for a retreat at the Meadow, closing out a streak of ten groups enjoying the meadow in consecutive weeks, including an evangelism camp, InterVarsity college group, family camps, kids camps (above), a wedding, and more.
We sent two groups out into Tahoe National Forest to experience rock-climbing, swimming in alpine lakes, and hiking through beautiful forests. These 15 days always create an ideal growth environment. This year was a particular challenge due to three days of rain. The trip leaders were brainstorming an early exit plan when they overheard students say, “We can’t leave now!” In the span of a few hours, a team of volunteers quickly formed to ferry dry gear out and move the group to a dry location–which just so happened to be owned by a family from a local church! The family was camping on premises and shared dry firewood and resources, and our teams could regroup and continue. Meanwhile, back at the Ranch, a badly-needed new phone system was installed, so now we can hear people on the other end of the line.
At our Fall Serve Day a crowd of volunteers accomplished a tremendous amount, continuing to develop defensible space to protect from the threat of wildfires, and tackling many other projects as well. Final prep work is now underway for the third paving project, which includes the second entrance to the Ranch and multiple driveways–yet another example of generous donors building this ministry for the long-haul. (completed in November, below)
Through it all, God has been faithful. Life’s troubles constantly pull our eyes down and weigh on us. But when we look at God, we see He has never stopped working. The victories listed above are encouraging and have prompted much celebration here. There’s another victory that’s even more central to the Ranch, though: every day a student is here is a victory, as they choose the hard and humble work of healing and growing. This is what we celebrate most of all!
Nate Boyd, Executive Director