With the waning of one passion came the resurfacing of another – discipleship. This passion had developed in Jensen during his high school years when spiritual mentorship had played a key role in his life after his parents’ divorce. Jensen naturally transitioned into the role of Resident Director at PHC for three years and two more years at William Jessup University after he returned to the west coast. Upon leaving WJU, Jensen landed what he refers to as his “dream job” as a young adults’ pastor at his home church in Morgan Hill. At the same time, Jensen was completing his master’s degree in Biblical and Theological Studies at Western Seminary. Jensen felt that he had found his life’s calling and was preparing for the long haul when, after three years, he was encouraged to look for work elsewhere due to differing church staffing needs. Around that time, Jensen received the invitation to join the staff team at CEM.
Though Jensen would have never thought to seek out this position, when he glanced at the job description, he realized that through all of his experiences, God had been preparing him for this role all along.
"The things that CEM enforces have allowed me to look at life from another person’s ideas, even if I don’t agree with them. I’ve learned that being able to take in someone else’s perspective on how the world should be run is a good skill to have...I’ve excelled much farther than I thought I could have at age 17. But, I believe that aside from my schooling, the one thing that the staff and interns here have taught me is that life is a lot easier when you’re obedient to authority and you do what’s expected of you. Even if in your eyes it’s illogical, know that the world won’t always be there to spell things out and make sense to you. You can’t protest against everything life throws at you...Thank you to everyone who had enough faith to pray for my stay. God is the best foundation I’ve ever had. He has been here with me every day, and the things I’ve learned and experienced through Him are life-changing. I feel the most complete I’ve ever felt in my life."
- Kalani, 2018 CEHS Graduate
“Look what God can do.”
I am 19 years old, and I have been at the Ranch for one year and four months. I came to the Ranch with the goals of getting my diploma, and wanting to prove people wrong about not being able to get it. When I was a kid, I went through foster care. My adopted parents later told me, that most kids who go through foster care do not graduate from high school. It was at that time I decided that I would get my diploma at any cost. As it turned out, it only cost me hard work and dedication. I had both, so I made sure that I used them. Through strict determination and hard work I managed to get onto honor roll for each quarter while being at the Ranch. This last quarter I earned 101% in two classes. This is the best that I have ever done in school."
- Dorrie, 2018 CEHS Graduate
In March, we shared about the completion of the first phase of the strategic plan, which entailed reallocating resources to best meet the current needs of the ministry. We paid off our debt, began increasing our web presence, and reassessed our recruitment strategy. Our next step is beginning the long-term project of renovating our facilities
“There are three stages to every great work of God; first it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.” This quote by the hero of faith Hudson Taylor sits at the top of CEM’s Strategic Plan. It is an encouragement but also an exhortation: inasmuch as we’re confident in God’s leading, we must not back away from a single challenge that comes our way.
After a season with several transitions, we’ve completed a phase of hiring and have a full, strong staff team lined up. It’s fun to see evidence that the Lord knows what gifts and abilities are needed for the unique work of CEM, and we’re grateful He’s brought us the people we need. Over the coming months we’ll introduce our new team members to you.
“I always wanted to be different. I wanted to stand out.” Upon her arrival at CEM, Kalah’s defining characteristics were her dramatically drawn-on eyebrows and her hair extensions. Kalah’s obsession with image began in the fourth grade, when her unmarred appearance drew unwanted attention from the other kids. From then on, each significant change in appearance would signify an outward response to suppressed inner turmoil.
In the fifth grade, when she changed her appearance, Kalah had just begun to respond to dysfunction in the home. In the sixth grade, Kalah experienced her first betrayal from her best friend, who effectively turned everyone at school against her. In need of friendship, Kalah began to converse with the opposite gender, eventually gaining the reputation unfoundedly as a slut. Kalah began to crumble inside, but rebounded, deciding that if this was the label that was thrust upon her, then she would live up to it in its entirety.
“I started secluding myself in my room a lot. I started buying [provocative clothing], black eyeliner, and had pencilthin eyebrows.” Continued rejection from her peers only reinforced her new behavior and online messaging apps only enabled it. By the eighth grade, Kalah began to slip into depression, immersing herself in the world of Kurt Cobain. Kalah started to self-medicate with prescription drugs and experiment with depressants, stimulants, and hallucinogens. Meanwhile, she had lost herself in this label. “I was always the type to go ten steps beyond everyone else.”
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.
"I strongly believe that the most difficult experiences during my internship resulted in being the most valuable ones...Never have I been so vulnerable and encouraged to deal with what’s in front of me instead of running away from it...
The most important thing I learned while being at the Ranch is this: if sorrow clouds my soul, I won’t fight it. I will allow my tears to flow. I was not meant to be invincible. I bruise easily; my heart is soft, prone to bleed sometimes at the slightest touch. In my moments of sadness, I must be willing and brave enough to allow Christ in my pain, in my pain for the students, in my brokenness - because He sees it all...Christ shares our pain and understands our sorrows..."
The 2018 Agony Ride is July 27-28 in the Sierra Valley.
Will you consider riding in the Agony Ride this year, and bring a friend with you? We’re shooting for 100 riders, and we’re already one fourth of the way there! Need a little push to get back in the saddle? Be inspired by Agony statistics:
• This is Agony Ride #36.
• Mike Boon has ridden in all 35 Agony Rides.
• The Agony Ride generates over 20% of CEM’s annual operating budget.
• In 2016, the Ride brought in $180,000+, surpassing the previous record by $25,000.
• In 2017, the Ride brought in $194,000+, surpassing the previous record by about $14,000.
• Last year, Jonathan Palmer shattered the record for most money raised by an individual at $13,000+.
• Only 12 women have made the 300 club in Agony history. Will you be the 13th?
Will you consider riding in the Agony Ride this year, and bring a friend with you? We’re shooting for 100 riders, and we’re already one fourth of the way there! Need a little push to get back in the saddle? Maybe returning rider Don Spittler’s reflections will do just that.
Name: Don Spittler
Number of rides: 4
Most miles ridden in one ride: 266
What keeps you coming back?
I love the ministry of CEM. The first year I rode, I saw so many sweet Christians living out their faith. I saw this in the CEM staff; I saw it in the countless volunteers using their gifts to support the Agony Ride. I was humbled by the love that was there for the students and the support I received as a rider. It truly touched my heart and made it clear that I would continue to ride as long as I am able.
When is it time to get really serious about training? What does that look like for you?
I ride year round as I commute to work on my bike. As winter fades, I up my mileage from about 120+ miles a week to 250+ by late spring. Living in Sacramento allows me to ride the Sacramento River Trail to the American River Parkway. My home to Folsom Lake and back is 86 miles so I do this ride several times a month as well as several 50- 65 mile rides each week.
Describe a significant experience at the Agony.
Because of the (previous) need to have a riding partner during the night, each year I have found myself riding with someone I had not known before the ride. By evening it becomes obvious who is riding at the same pace and you just naturally team up. I have had the pleasure of meeting amazing people during the night rides. The intensity of the ride creates a real comradery that is amazing. By then you have established a goal that is obtainable. You encourage and support each other at finishing the ride and reaching that goal. It’s what has carried me through when my energy level is waning and fatigue is setting in through the last hours of the ride.
What’s your favorite thing about the Agony?
There are many things, but I suppose it would be the enthusiasm of the students that greet you at each SAG. As you approach each station, you hear them cheering in the distance. That encouragement is what draws that last bit of energy I need to make it in.
If there’s one food/drink item you could request to be at the SAGs this year, what would it be?
Peanut butter and banana sandwiches
We’re excited to welcome Tom Griffith this month as our new Director of Counseling as John Cox transitions out.
Tom has been a resident of Nevada County for over 25 years, serving youth and adolescents in the mental health field in Sacramento and Nevada counties since 2001. Tom worked at a secular counseling agency for 14 years, often with children in CPS cases and in the foster care system. During this time, he also opened his own private practice in Grass Valley, enabling him to integrate his faith with his therapy for individuals and families.
On landing at CEM, Tom says, “My preferred population is who we have right here. The population God has prepared me for is right here.”
“I was my parents’ first kid - I was not expected... [My mom] got married shortly after she got pregnant. I lived with my dad and my mom until my mom got pregnant with my sister; she wasn’t my dad’s kid. They split up.”
Thus began Kalani’s early years. She and her father moved into his grandparents’ home after the divorce where they would live for a few years before her father would remarry. “I was his whole world - me and him together.” With a new mom came new siblings and new grandparents. Kalani’s step-grandfather pastored a humble church gathering in their home where Kalani would attend Sunday School. As she grew up, Kalani’s church attendance was dictated by the venue of her step-grandfather’s preaching.
When Kalani reached middle school, she continued to attend youth group, but also was drawn to the free-spirited lifestyle embodied by many of her peers. “[A friend] opened my eyes to everything this culture thinks is right.” Though her parents continued to draw clear boundaries for her, Kalani found new ways to evade and to violate them.