Below, the four staff riders that comprise this year’s Team CEM share their motivation behind riding. To sponsor a rider, visit agonyride.org.
Austin Sather, Maintenance Coordinator
Mileage goal: 280 miles
The ministry of CEM is important and needed in the world today. So many people are searching for truth from so many different sources, and at CEM they are able to experience truth for maybe the first time in their lives. After doing a yearlong internship, I was able to see the value of the life on life ministry that is able to happen at Christian Encounter. Living with the students, you are able to walk through what a relationship with Christ looks like day by day and do so at a unique pace that is hard to duplicate outside of here. The Agony Ride is a way that I can continue to show love and support for our students with every lap that is completed. It is a way for me to continue to pour into their lives and encourage them as they continue to grow into the men and women that God is molding them to be.
Paxton Fitzpatrick, Assistant Director of Discipleship
Mileage goal: 230 miles
Ever since I was an intern in 2015, I knew that I wanted to be a rider in the Agony. It is one of the most unique events that I have ever been a part of. It is clear that for those 24 hours, all who are involved get to be a part of something bigger than themselves. It is a beautiful thing to see riders and support stations trying to out-serve each other. I am riding to support the students and the ministry that I get to call home. The Ranch has given me so much, and I am using this opportunity to invite as many family and friends that I can to support me. My prayer is for all of them to see the Ranch for what I know it to be through the Agony Ride.
Dave LaRash, Maintenance Assistant
Mileage goal: 244 miles
I rode my first Agony two years ago and am looking forward to riding again with that experience under my belt. Now I know all the places to put Chamois Butter, for example! I am still working at the Ranch supervising the students in their outdoor work. I get to see first hand the way God is working in each student’s life. After the Agony Ride many of the students are profoundly affected as they see so many people going through discomfort for them. Showing the students how much I care about them by expending all my energy out on the road is something that cannot be done with words. On a more selfish note, hearing the sound of the students screaming encouragement in the middle of the night when they see my light is something that may not be surpassed this side of heaven.
Nate Boyd, Executive Director
Mileage goal: 235 miles
The Agony is great in so many ways. One is very simple and obvious: it’s an opportunity for me to ask people to give money to support the students of the Ranch. Because I get to see these young people every day, I know the courageous way they’re working to overcome what’s been done to them. I know how important it is to give to them, and I want to do my part to raise up an army to stand behind them and carry them forward. As you hear many times during those 24 hours up in the Sierra Valley, they’re worth everything we can possibly give them!
Believe it or not, Agony training season has already begun. I’m thrilled to be one of the staff members riding as part of Team CEM again. This is already my fourth time riding, but compared to the many people who have faithfully participated ten, twenty, even thirty times, I’m still a beginner. But I’ve learned that even though each year’s Agony experience is different, when those 24 hours are over, I leave the Sierra Valley thinking the same thing: giving, especially as a community, fills the heart with such joy. It is indeed better to give than to receive.
The mission of the Agony is to establish a community, give us a compelling purpose and vision, and then bless us with the joy of giving. Everyone involved is giving: the donors are supporting the riders, who are giving of themselves for the youth, who are taking care of the riders. And, as everyone who’s been to an Agony knows, over the course of the ride you begin to accumulate little mental pictures of these acts of giving: like Craig, praying through lists of names taped to his handlebars, and the student who can barely speak because she’s hoarse from cheering, and the hungry helper who hands his sandwich to a rider who’s in a hurry. The Agony is 24 hours of these moments of joyous, contagious giving.
"The Agony is 24 hours of these moments of joyous, contagious giving."
It isn’t all pretty, though: there’s also the sweat, the vomit, and sometimes even blood. There’s the struggle with exhaustion, and the pressing forward despite intensifying and spreading pain. It isn’t pretty—and that’s partly why it’s so beautiful. This pattern of beautiful, painful giving and the joy that comes with it is one we learn from Jesus. Hebrews 12:2 is an unofficial theme verse for the Agony Ride: “let us fix our eyes on Jesus, [who] for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross…” As He gave Himself for us, He taught us about the joy we can have as we give for others.
Jesus’ example teaches us another essential truth that applies to the Agony and the work of Christian Encounter: it would be worth it all just for one life. The immense value of each precious soul is so great that it’s worth dying for. What a joy it is to come together as a group to portray this love--both to these students and each other!
Nate Boyd, Executive Director
Elizabeth (Kemmerer) Suarez (Intern ‘15) and her husband Kevin were married in November ‘17 and currently reside in Lynchburg, VA. Elizabeth completed her Master’s Degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling through Liberty University in December and is pursuing licensure as a licensed professional counselor.
Following her internship, Kaitlin Dinkelacker (Intern ‘14-’15) moved to New York to work with 14-21 year olds in foster care through Mercy First Foster Care Agency, leading job skills workshops and assisting youth aging out of foster care to find housing, amongst other responsibilities. After a year in New York, Kaitlin moved back home to Ohio where she began working at Greater Cincinnati Behavioral Health with 16-22 year olds with mental illness. Kaitlin is currently enrolled at Ohio State University, pursuing a doctorate in Occupational Therapy, with a desire to return to the mental health field.
Kate Jeffcoat (Intern ‘16) moved home to South Carolina after internship to continue education in physical therapy through Midlands Technical College. She returned to Grass Valley last fall and is currently working at Uplift Family Services in Sacramento, a behavioral and mental health treatment program, as a behavior specialist.
Have you been wanting to come see the Ranch and connect with us? Below are some great opportunities to visit and bring some friends with you!
Nearly everyone struggles with the question, “Do I measure up?” We wrestle with this as long as we live. What is the standard for our lives and work, and do we measure up? We are all stewards: of time, money, energy, responsibilities, and even our minds and hearts. This is not just a question for individuals--I think constantly about the stewardship of CEM. After all, the stakes are high. It is not an exaggeration to say, as we have heard from a multitude of students, that the stewardship of Christian Encounter is a matter of physical and spiritual life and death.
People and organizations are measured in many ways, but the greatest standard is given to us by Jesus. It is summarized in what He described as the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.” The standard is love! Love of God, and, as Jesus says next, love of neighbor as oneself. Love, therefore, must be the foundation, the motivation, and the result of Christian Encounter’s existence.