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home : education : schools March 17, 2018

2/21/2018 2:04:00 PM
Love on a mission for a Sisters couple
Brad & Rachel Shultz are on mission to help children. photo by Julie Miller
+ click to enlarge
Brad & Rachel Shultz are on mission to help children. photo by Julie Miller

By Eileen Chambers

"I will never forget what my kindergarten teacher wrote on my report card. 'Rachel marches to the beat of a different drummer.'"

Sitting in Suttle Tea, with talkative students bustling around us, Rachel Shultz, the Similar Ministries Coordinator at Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, described how she and her U.S. Marine officer husband, Brad, ended up in Central Oregon.

"Coming from a broken home, my teacher's words only reinforced the awkwardness I felt. As a child, I never knew quite where I fit in. Now, because of that experience, I am able to mentor kids who feel the same way."

Perhaps Rachel's kindergarten teacher was onto something.

People come to Sisters for many reasons. The outdoors. Family. To retire. Work. Not Rachel and Brad. They came all the way from Missouri to be a part of an organization that seeks to show unconditional love to troubled children.

"When Crystal Peaks approached me in 2011 about joining their staff, it was life-changing," Rachel said. "I was selling insurance at the time, and Brad was about to be deployed to Afghanistan for 15 months. Sure. The job at CYPR looked like my dream job but I wasn't sure if the time was right to make that kind of transition into full-time ministry.

"Brad's response was without hesitation, 'Absolutely you should apply. If it is God's plan, it will happen. And, if you get the job, I will leave active duty.' Now, I knew how much Brad loved being in the military but, right then and there, he was willing to give up what he loved for our shared dream of helping children in a meaningful, lasting way."

Called "The Ranch of Rescued Dreams," Crystal Peaks, located on Innes Market Road, began in 1995 when Kim Meeder and her husband, Troy, purchased an abandoned cinder mine. As they restored the land, the Meeders rescued their first two horses. Soon local children began to stop by to help care for the animals.

Seeing the impact that the horses were having with the children, Kim and Troy decided to make the ranch a place where children, horses and families might be loved and cared for. With a four-pillar mission of "Rescue the Equine. Mentor the Child. Offer Hope for the Family. Empower the Ministry," Crystal Peaks has earned a world-wide reputation for its vibrant mentoring program that welcomes all children, disadvantaged or not, at no charge whatsoever.

"Sometimes folks are surprised to learn that, in a community as beautiful as ours, we have troubled children," Rachel said. "But in this day and age, what child isn't at risk? Many look great on the outside but are a wreck inside. Others have been bullied or abused. Some have no parental presence at home. Low self-worth. Anxiety. Lack of a healthy identity. Then there are the predators that, sadly, exist here in Central Oregon.

"We have seen it all and that's OK. Helping them is why Brad and I are here. Along with the many who make the ranch possible, including organizations such as Central Oregon Partnerships for Youth and Circle of Friends who refer children to us, we are here to be present with every child, to listen and be a source of hope.

"Horses are so great with kids. They are naturally curious, honest and don't hide their emotions. So, horses are a great mirror for a child, especially those kids who have deeply retreated within themselves or others who don't see how their aggressive behavior impacts those around them."

After Afghanistan, Brad followed through with his transition from active duty to the Marine Corps Reserves in order to join Rachel at Crystal Peaks in 2013. Session work, now overseen by Brad, the ranch's program director, is the core of the March-October mentorship program in which a child is paired with a mentor for 90 minutes.

"The distinction with Crystal Peaks is that we are not a riding program per se but, instead, we are a relationship-based program," Rachel said. "Moreover, because we are completely donor-supported, I have the joy of never having to say 'No' to any child because they can't afford it. Although, at times, we have waiting lists, we are usually able to fulfill each request each month. Again, our intent is that we might be a consistent positive in the lives of children who want to come here."

As the Similar Ministries coordinator, Rachel provides support to 200 "similar ministries" spread throughout the world including managing two conferences held at the ranch.

"Brad and I love what we do. Our lives revolve around this big, wonderful purpose of loving on kids in the name of Jesus Christ. It's the best."

For more information, visit or call 541-330-0123.

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