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.
Amanda was strangely quiet as a toddler. When most her age were saying their first words, Amanda didn’t utter a sound. Her delayed speech was later attributed to abuse in the home. Amanda was removed from her birth family at age two, to be adopted into a family of 11 children, four of whom were already out of the house, the remaining seven all adopted. Amanda loved the vibrancy of a full home.
After Amanda entered the first grade, the family had just moved to Colorado, when her father was taken away. Shortly after, her brother, Rafael, also left, and one of her sisters ran away from home. Without any explanation, Amanda was left to interpret these events on her own. Confused and sad, Amanda, struggling to express herself, was often in tears. Though she began to see a counselor, she wouldn’t speak.
Four moves and several years later, as Amanda was entering high school, she was the only child left in the home when Rafael returned to live with them. Having just moved to a new neighborhood, Amanda was hopeful for a companion in her brother to ease the difficulty of making new friends, but her hopes were quickly dashed as she found herself walking home alone from school every day. Amanda reflects on her struggles in communicating: “I started to feel like I didn’t matter...I felt like I couldn’t open up; I felt like that when I was younger, also. That was an issue for me. It led me to making decisions that weren’t right.”
Amanda started seeing a guy who was also her ticket into the drug scene. Up until then, Amanda had been faithfully attending youth group. One night, she arrived under the influence of drugs, and when her leader caught on, Amanda was too ashamed to return. Amanda started to associate with a new crowd of people where the drugs were stronger and the stakes were higher. Amanda was returning home from the park one night when she was choked and sexually assaulted by the male that was escorting her home. Amanda began to crumble inside. Though her mother immediately detected something was wrong, Amanda instinctively gravitated toward her boyfriend. Depression and anxiety began to set in.
One day at school, a family history project was assigned and everyone was asked to share in front of the class. As Amanda delineated her family tree, embarrassment and shame overwhelmed her. More than ever, Amanda yearned for a father, for someone to care for and protect her. Amanda desired to share with her mother all that was going on inside her, but shame overtook her. She began to despair of her very existence.
It is with great sadness but also joy that I write to you about the passing of long-time Ranch leader Jim Parker. After battling dementia over the past few years, he finished his race around noon on September 19th, with people he dearly loved surrounding him as his spirit left this earth and entered heaven. There are many things we don’t know about heaven, but I imagine many, many people running up to greet him, gratefully telling him he’s the reason they’re there, he’s the one that pointed them to the great love of the Savior, Jesus.
I believe “JP” was one of the richest of men. He had an abundance of the greatest wealth there is: love. He loved freely and generously. He never ran out of love; his connection with the Lord allowed him to be a fire hose, and everyone who came near him experienced this great love. Not surprisingly, Jim was very loved in return; as he would say, that’s the way God’s plan works.
Jim’s love filled all parts of his life. He was faithfully devoted to his wife, Marion. A few years ago—well into their sixth decade of marriage--Jim told me his love for her was still growing. He was a kind and gentle father to his girls, and he was ready to make difficult career and personal choices in order to care for them. While tender toward them, he was also ferociously protective. In their house ministry in Livermore in the 1970’s, when he faced knives, guns, unhinged people, and criminals as he ministered to everyone he came across, Jim defended his family with power and courage.
His loving father’s heart also influenced how he led at Christian Encounter. Once Jim told me about a girl he had to dismiss from the Ranch many years ago. As he was walking her down the driveway to a waiting car, she turned and told him she’d never had a father; if she did, she would want it to be Jim. As he told me this story, he cried. It was the only time I ever saw him cry.
These are evidences of a very special man, but Jim would quickly point us back to Jesus as the source of this special love. His love for God and others had the natural outworking of making him humble. He chose the lesser paths; he wasn’t oriented to fame or fortune, but instead to nurturing and shepherding souls as a loving mentor and pastor.
As JP taught everyone around him, life with Jesus is good. As he lived this out, he shaped so many of the lives he encountered. He also taught those people to shape others, and like ripples on a pond, Jim’s life work will keep spreading. May we all live with Jim’s singular focus on the things that really matter, and may we never forget there’s no end to the goodness that comes with following Jesus. And the best really is yet to come. For JP, he’s already there.
Nate Boyd, Executive Director
A Celebration of Life service will be held Saturday, Oct. 5 at 2pm, at Compass Community Church in Grass Valley, CA. In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to Christian Encounter to continue the lifesaving work that was so close to Jim's heart.
16,670 miles ridden
$200,000+ raised in gifts and pledges
Men: Luis Magallon, 399
Women: Rosemary Lechnowsky, 329
New tandem record:
(The previous tandem record was 324 miles.
This year we had two tandem teams surpass the previous record.)
Gary Robinson & Carol Douglass, 350
Paul McClain & Michael Johnson, 329
Most money raised (CER staff):
Nate Boyd - $14,543
Most money raised (non-staff):
Jonathan Palmer - $14,237
Mark your calendars for next year’s Ride! July 24-25, 2020
More than a grueling physical event that its name implies, the Agony Ride serves as an annual “reset” for many - a stripping away of the crust that has hardened over our hearts in response to the pain in this world and the trials we face. This was evident as rider after sagger after rider stepped on stage during our Sunday church service following the Ride to share a personal reflection.
Second-time rider, Michael Johnson, who has participated in a number of organized cycling events, says what sets the Agony Ride apart is not just the exemplary service provided at each SAG station, but who is providing the service. “When you’re two hours into the Ride and things are starting to hurt, and it dawns on you that you have 22 more hours to go, it’s mentally crushing...[The students] are what makes it...[You] lifted me up and kept me positive and kept me going. You took that crushing weight off...” Our students gave of themselves continuously and found that the riders did the same. This is the beautiful illustration of the ongoing cycle of unrestrained giving that happens at the Agony Ride.
Thank you to all who sacrificed to be out in the Sierra Valley with us this year and to the thousands of sponsors from all over the world - we continue to be overwhelmed by your generosity.
(To those who were unable to attend the Sunday Service, a recording is available here.)
Our students and interns leave next Friday, August 23rd, for the annual 15-day Summer backpacking trip.
After our students and interns return - in order to help process the trip and gain even more from the experience - they write reflection papers.
Join us on Thursday, September 12, 2019 at 7:00 pm as students and interns read their reflection papers aloud.
(And enjoy our slideshow of pictures from the trip!)
In June, we had the opportunity to celebrate God’s work in and through the lives of individuals this past year.
Jan Kern was the recipient of this year’s Outstanding Service Award, providing extensive invaluable insight and coaching to the staff this past fall.
Amanda (Polejewski) McIntyre (‘07) shared a message of encouragement from the stage as our Alumni Award recipient.
Student Amanda received the Cornelius Grant, which will aid in her ongoing stay in the program.
Graduation was held in early June. We are very proud of our students who finished their California high school graduation requirements, but are continuing their time as students at Christian Encounter.
2020 will mark Christian Encounter’s 50th year since its inception in 1970. Join us Sept. 18-20, 2020 for a time to celebrate the ministry’s half-century milestone and to reflect on five decades of tending lives and training leaders.
Who: Anyone who wants to come celebrate with us!
What: Reconnect, reflect, remember. The weekend will include music, fun activities, and replays of classic Ranch skits. More details to follow.
When: Sept. 18-20, 2020
Where: Christian Encounter Ranch
Why: Celebrating our 50th anniversary and reuniting with former students, interns, and staff.
Remember the miracles?
We all have stories of miraculous provision, of miraculous transformation that we witnessed during our time at Christian Encounter. We’d like to compile these stories to be shared at our 50th anniversary celebration. Please take some time to detail those memories and email them to Marion at firstname.lastname@example.org.