We were so happy to have Liz & Nick Morelli, as well as their daughter Sophia, join our Joy Ranch family last fall! They are an answer to long years of prayer and wanted to share their story with you. Stay tuned to how they are seeing the kids at Joy Ranch grow in the coming months.
By: Liz Morelli
Nick and I have been relief houseparents at Joy Ranch for a few months now, and so much has changed in our lives. We believe that God led us here, and there is every indication that this is so, with no indications to the contrary. For one, everyone in our family is thriving here (including our dog!) and especially our 3-year-old daughter, who now has many friends–older brothers and sisters–to call her own.
Upon first stepping foot on Joy Ranch, we knew that this is where we were meant to be.
I had recently lost my job as a teacher of critical problem-solving. The innovative educational technology company I was working for decided to let all of its teachers go in favor of experimenting with AI analytics for providing automated feedback to students. It was the first time I had ever been let go from a job, and it was a difficult period of transition for our family, not knowing where we would be led to next.
However, I should not have worried — as we never should have in retrospect, and it appears God used that experience to lead us to a greater, more purposeful one.
Within a month after losing my job, Nick and I spoke with a couple from our church who suggested Joy Ranch as a place for ministry work, after Nick had expressed how much he sought to do ministry work, but that he felt at a loss of how to start or where to begin. The couple had worked at Joy Ranch before and highly recommended it. Though we lived only 10 minutes away, we had never heard of Joy Ranch. As soon as we left the church gathering where we met the couple, I looked it up on my phone. On the front page of the Joy Ranch website was a banner proclaiming, “MINISTRY WORK AVAILABLE FOR SINGLE OR COUPLE.” I showed it to Nick in astonishment. How could this place have existed here and we not know about it?
Feeling that it was a sign from God, we delayed not and immediately drove to Joy Ranch (immediately, as in, on our way home from the gathering), a 5 minute drive, and I called Joy Ranch while driving there to ask if we could talk with someone there.
A few paragraphs ago, I had written: “Upon first stepping foot on Joy Ranch, we knew that this is where we were meant to be.” The reason being: as soon as we met Ms. Arch, we were astonished by her kindness, joyfulness, and sense of humor. While speaking with her, Mr. Dan (the Director), overheard us and came over to introduce himself. Immediately, the caliber of the people stood out to us, and the phrase that immediately came to mind was: “you will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:16)
We learned about volunteer opportunities, and the possibility of working as relief houseparents. We were ecstatic to hear this. We went home, prayed, and submitted our applications that same day.
We were called a few days later and were sadly told: “We’re not closing the door on you, but…another couple has already applied for this position and they are already flying in to visit.”
We were both discouraged. Although it was stated the door wasn’t being closed, it certainly felt like it was. How could we have both felt sure that God had led us here, only for it to end up in disappointment?
A couple of weeks later we were surprised by a phone call from the Ranch, and were told that the other couple had decided to cancel their visit, allowing us to proceed with the interview process. We praised God and prayed for God’s will, not ours, to be fulfilled with regards to this ministry.
The interview process was intense. Though I had worked with kids as a teacher, working with them as a houseparent is much different. Yet I immediately perceived that it was also profoundly more rewarding.
Something Nick often mentions is that he had prayed long and hard to become a youth minister at some point during his life, but that is only because he didn’t know the position of houseparent existed. Being a youth pastor, one can only see the kids a few hours each week, at a maximum. But with a house parent, deeper, more impactful work can be had, due to the sheer amount of time spent, and for this we are grateful.
We are grateful to be at Joy Ranch. It cannot be denied the immense spiritual growth that has necessarily occurred throughout our short time here. The kids impress us daily, and we are eager to continue learning about them, and building relationships with each and every one of them.
Praise God that we are here at Joy Ranch!