Nestled in the western foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Christian Encounter, commonly called The Ranch, is a biblically-based church with an integrated residential youth program located in Grass Valley, CA. Its purpose and desire is to provide a community in which individuals encounter Jesus Christ, where they will receive restoration, experience healing, grow in faith and Christian character, establish spiritual habits and a strong work ethic, and develop healthy relationships with others.*
PHC alum Jensen Near (’10) joined the staff of Christian Encounter in 2018 and is now the Intern Director and the Director of Student Life.
“Every day I get to walk alongside young people as they intentionally grow as disciples of Jesus and as adults,” Near said.
Many of the students at Christian Encounter come from backgrounds of neglect, childhood trauma, substance abuse, and many other forms of abuse and trauma.
“Everybody knows a teenager who’s gone off the tracks; everybody knows someone like our students. We are a place that is equipped to do the work [of supporting and providing for the students].”
Wanting to create an environment of discipline and discipleship, Christian Encounter offers both the residential youth program and an internship program, open to individuals ages 18-25. The interns at Christian Encounter have a large sphere of influence on the students and have the joy and challenge of being with the students in all capacities.*
“Our interns are the core of what we do at The Ranch,” Near said. “They come and live and work alongside the students; I get up in the morning because I am excited to see the growth in our students and our interns as they walk the path the Lord has called them to.”
Alumna Chiara Baldacci (’22) interned at The Ranch this past summer.
“When I have imagined my time here, the picture that comes to mind is one of three people walking down the road: a student holding the hand of an intern, and an intern holding the hand of Jesus,” Baldacci said. “The call to come here as an intern is a call to come and hold the hand of someone hurting and connect them to Jesus.”
As a privately funded organization, Christian Encounter looks to the generosity of mission-minded ministry partners. Their annual Agony Ride is an opportunity for partners to participate in their mission. Some of Christian Encounter’s staff and numerous other cyclists push their limits by riding as far as they can in 24 hours.
Near, who participated as a cyclist in the Agony Ride for the second time this August, celebrated the birth of his daughter shortly before beginning the ride.
“I only rode in the second half because we got out of the hospital at 7pm. I had some family come over to be with my wife and kids and then I drove up and rode the second half,” Near said.
Becoming more than just a personal challenge, the Agony Ride now stands as a pointed demonstration of Christ’s love for the students at The Ranch as well as a witness for Christ in the communities of the Sierra Valley.
“The Agony Ride is a tangible picture of the love of Jesus, and it is an incredible event to experience. I wanted to put my body on the line to sacrifice for the students [who come to The Ranch],” Near said. “The Agony is one of our most impactful weekends of the entire year because students often get to see individuals they don’t know laying it all out on the line for them, riding until they can’t ride anymore.”
Registration is open for The Agony Ride 2023; supporting riders as a volunteer or donor is also an option! You can read more about this life-changing experience and how to get involved here!
*Found on Christian Encounter's website.