In 1971, the vision of Christian Encounter Ministries burst forth from the Ranch near Grass Valley. Paul and Anita Cecil established the first residence here while Tom and Barbara Salter were in seminary in Lincoln, IL. The Salters volunteered with the college group at Springfield’s Westside Christian Church and shared with Tom Kern that vision of a ministry set apart for reaching the very, very lost, for widening the reach of the local church, and for training workers for Christ’s great harvest in the 1970’s. More than a dozen young men and women from that church would heed the call and be sent to serve at CEM.
During that decade, Tom Kern completed a Social Welfare degree at the University of Illinois, anticipating a call to ministry. The first call was to youth ministry while he pursued additional study at Lincoln Christian Seminary. He then embarked on further extreme training for CEM when he traveled to Liberia, West Africa, to teach history and Bible at Liberia Christian College. Following service in Liberia, Tom taught in a continuation school in Illinois. In 1977, he considered a career social work position with the State of Illinois. The offer was delayed. Tom was not. An internship opportunity at CEM became available, so in January of 1978 he headed west to Grass Valley to serve.
As an intern, Tom was privileged to work with Bob Van Schyndel, Bill Williamson, and Bob Slayden in developing the facilities and animal care programs of CEM. These responsibilities became centerpieces of Tom’s service at the Ranch. His attitudes toward work, his servant’s heart, and his ability to impart these qualities to the younger Christian students and interns distinguished him throughout these four decades.
Through Jim and Marion Parker and Camille Muir, Jan Myers also came to serve an internship at CEM. In June of 1980, Tom and Jan were married in Angels’ Meadow and immediately left for Bunker, MO, to help establish the Ozark Christian Ranch for CEM (Tom pictured). After an intense season of work in Missouri, the Kerns returned to California, hopeful that someday they would serve again with CEM. A year later, Jim Parker asked, “Are you ready to come to the Ranch?” Jan and Tom answered the call. They assumed leadership for CEM’s High School program with only 3 weeks to prepare for the new school year. God put their complementary gifts into practice loving and tutoring students, building on the curriculum, and growing alongside many other outstanding teachers also sent by God. In the past 36 years, more than 170 students have received CEHS diplomas, many of whom never expected to graduate. Hundreds more have been under Tom’s care as he has served as CEM’s high school principal.
Jan and Tom’s family flourished as well. They welcomed a son, Danny, in 1983, and daughter, Sarah, in 1986, and the Kern family put down deep roots into the CEM family of students, interns, and staff. With the Ranch as their backyard, the Kerns were involved in every aspect of Ranch life. Along the way, Jan saw an opportunity to use her interest in writing to reach beyond the Ranch gates. Five of her books have now been published, putting Jan in much demand as a speaker, credentialed life coach, and trainer/mentor of other writers. Many of the issues she targets spring from specific CEM experiences of the healing of broken youth through the power of Jesus’ love. In addition, Jan and Sarah have formed together Voice of Courage, a multigenerational organization for women. Now, as grandparents of five, elder staff members of CEM, and still full of energy and faith, Tom and Jan are ready for what God has for them next. They picture Him calling them to a home in Folsom where they can offer spiritual respite and encouragement for others also pursuing their calling. They are convinced of God’s promises that the future will be complete with His leading, His provision, and His blessing. As He always has done, so God will prove faithful in the years ahead. Together, Tom and Jan commend you also to “Go to the place that God will show you” (Gen. 12:1).
Mike Petrillo, Executive Director 1994-2015
(follow up to Tom Kern’s farewell article)
We will be holding a reception in the near future to honor Tom and Jan. Details to follow.
Suzanne Hartley, long-time school teacher, will assume the responsibilities of CEHS principal.