Our Home is located approximately 10 miles north of Battle Ground, Washington USA. We are several miles from any convenience store.
What goes on in our Home (affectionately referred to as the “Ritz Family Ranch”) and the adjacent Royal Ridges Ranch is nothing short of miraculous.
Young men arrive from living on the streets of large cities, without family. In many cases they were cast away. Some never even know who their parents were. Most are drug and alcohol addicts.
Each young man has made a decision to change his life. That process starts when they fill out an application to enter our Transitional Youth program.
Arriving at the Ritz Family Ranch, these guys find out that their lives are not going to be the same. It all starts with a 30-day blackout period: no cell phones, no computers, no money, and absolutely no contact with anyone in their past lives. For the next 30 days they are in the company of an approved adult 24/7.
This blackout period gives them a chance—without any distraction from the world they lived in before—to start the life that God offers to them.
It’s in this blackout time that God touches each one and the miraculous changes begin.
A Series of Firsts
Many firsts follow. Their first church service. Their first Bible study. Their first prayer out loud in public, even leading others in prayer.
Some choose to “go forward” during an alter call, saying the sinner’s prayer. They turn their broken lives over to God so He can heal and transform them.
The other Transitional Youth staff and I are privileged to see firsthand how God changes the lives of these young fellows.
There is a Bible study at a local church every Monday night. The guys don’t have to go but they do. It’s great to hear them singing worship songs, reading the Scriptures, and asking lots of questions. The looks on their faces as they begin to understand what Christ’s death on that cross did for each of them personally mean so much to me.
Miracle in the Court
These guys are carrying a lot of legal baggage when they arrive.
Once, for no particular reason, a prosecutor changed his own plea bargain. He dropped a 5-year prison agreement and changed it to 2 years serving community custody.
That same young man applied for custody transfer from the State of Oregon to the State of Washington. The request got denied 3 times, with a final statement: “We’ll never transfer your custody to the State of Washington.”
Incredibly, even though these statements were in writing, his custody transfer request suddenly got accepted and approved 2 weeks later!
Miracle in the Hotel Room
In another case, a drug dealer and user left California and wound up on the streets of Portland. After he had been in our Transitional Youth program for 5 months, a Mexican drug cartel tracked him down.
The cartel arranged a meeting with him. He met with them for two long days at a hotel in Portland. During this time, he explained to them over and over that he is a new creation in Christ. He quoted Scripture and told them about Jesus.
Can you imagine what it was like to be in that hotel room?
He went to that meeting with the drug cartel never expecting to return alive. He knew it wasn’t possible for him to walk away from his past.
Yet, that is exactly what God allowed him to do. The cartel let him go.
He’s still residing here at the Ritz Family Ranch. He has the most infectious smile. He is so happy with his current surroundings and is expected to graduate by year’s end!
All these young men have cleaned up their lives. They’ve stopped swearing. They’ve even learned how to conduct themselves politely at the dinner table—something they never learned as kids.
Very few of these fellows had ever held a job. Before their time with us here at Transitional Youth, they did not know how to work and lacked any motivation. Now, they look forward to earning their wages. They are doing so well that employers want them back again and again.
Giving It Away
Those of us in recovery have a saying:
“You can’t keep what you have without giving it away.”
It’s so true. Clinically, we will be addicts until the day we die. But with Christ in our lives, we can and do live clean and free.
Freedom to Love
For those of us on staff here at the Ritz Family Ranch, we live and work together. We look out for each other and for these dear young guys. But the best part of all is that we truly love each other. We are like a family—something many never had before.
One young man was given a hug when he first arrived. He pushed away saying, “Don’t touch me!” He’d never experienced true love from anyone. Now, when he walks into a group of people he hugs everyone. He is free to love and be loved.
It’s stories like these of what God is doing which fill our hearts and keep us all moving forward. Thank you for allowing me to share them with you.
House Director at The Ritz Family Ranch