This weekend we say farewell to a couple that has faithfully served Jesus Christ at the Orange County Rescue Mission and the Double R Ranch over the past several years. Pat and Melanie McNiff have played a key role in the legacy of OCRM and ultimately the kingdom of God through the countless families that have been restored through the men that have been redeemed under their leadership at the Ranch.
I could fill this page with my own words of gratitude, but I want to share this letter of thanks from a Ranch graduate, Chad, who is currently finishing out his program at the Village of Hope. Having recently lived at the Ranch under the McNiff’s leadership, Chad’s words hit close to home:
There are many jobs in this world and many people who work them, but few quite like a married couple I came to know intimately and spiritually, Pat and Melanie Mcniff, the magic behind the curtains at a place I would inevitably call my first home. Humble folks who would never take the credit for what opportunities they have been blessed with and the tangible changes they made in dozens of men young and not, myself included. Seldom does one ever witness people who routinely pour their heart out into what some may consider a day job, Pat and Melanie are this rare breed.
Being the directors of a branch project to the OCRM known as The Double R, Pat and Melanie served three years as the head and the heart of this beautiful discipleship located in what seem to me as a land forgotten and preserved straight from the old frontier days. On a daily basis year round this humble couple lived modestly working fervently to witness and raise men of God, who become more than simple pieces put back together, but an entire new picture. I am one of these men. I came in a boy lost and desperate for a greater meaning to life. The questions I had were answered by means of self- destruction and I lived a life hidden in the dark and forgotten by society, but not by God and not by the OCRM. When I came to the Double R taking that initial trip up the mountain little did I know God had appointed my pending forty days and forty nights.
One year blinked by that I spent with Pat and Melanie, and from the moment I arrived they made me feel a kind of acceptance in which I had yet to truly experience. For the first time in years I felt genuinely happy. Although in the first few months I was reluctant to the messages God wanted me to hear, I still managed to see them. Pat and Melanie were living embodiments of the kind of dedication and spirit I wanted for my own life. Every day I saw Pat and Melanie passionately share the word, passionately share personal testimonies, and passionately love these men who were the lost and downtrodden. The light that shined bright from them did not go unnoticed very long, and I wanted what they have more than anything. I needed to have my own light more than anything. Making the choice to be baptized, to trust in the Lord with all my heart and lean not on my own understanding, was the first real choice I made in these short twenty-one years of life, and I could not have done so without the role models of Christ I saw in this humble married couple.
Each baby step I took into this walk and continue to, Pat and Melanie were there, but now they walk with me in spirit since I currently reside on the VOH campus. I will cherish the time I spent at the Ranch caring for the animals, working hard, becoming stronger and healthier than I ever have been before, and sharing myself and my life with others in ways I never thought I could. Pat and Melanie are family to me, as well as my brothers I met at the Ranch. Living on a ranch with over twenty grown men isn’t something many people in this modern age have the pleasure of experiencing first hand, and although Pat and Melanie don’t live in the bunk house they certainly had close encounters of the kind of brotherhood we shared.
I appreciated the meal times more than anything, everyone ate together in community, and this is where we would share conversation in a comfortable light heartfelt setting. My own family sat at a table together maybe three times a year for holidays, so this was different to say the least. In group with our case manager Danny, is where we saw the hurt and the pain in each of us, but it is also where I witnessed Christ and his healing in my brothers. In the open land of the Ranch is where we saw the heart of our fellow brothers truly come alive, riding and ripping the track on horseback, seeing breath taking views, and hiking to the tops of mountains where we would call Melanie on the radio to come out to snap photos of us men who conquered the climb. She would be out and ready in a heartbeat. I assumed families kept to themselves and lived their own lives only to convene to report the progress of our lives, but at the Ranch where I found a family closer than skin cells we shared life talks and better ourselves together physically and mentally as a single body. The best part was no matter what you had done or where you have been, you were accepted and treated with love by the beloved Pat and Melanie McNiff. All of our lives were intertwined at that Ranch forever, and we would not wish for anything different. What I learned at that Ranch under Pat and Melanie is a life and wisdom all people yearn for; a light that all people would give anything in order to shine like this humble couple does.
It is true that The Double R Ranch will never be the same since the tender loving spirit of Melanie and the affirming rock that is Patrick will soon be retiring from their position as Directors. Rest assured wherever God takes them their light will be a beacon for the lost at sea to follow and find shelter. To find a home. They will retire from the Ranch, but never from the hearts and memories of those they have impacted for the rest of our lives. Although departing is always bitter sweet we here at the OCRM and those still at the Ranch will find joy in them leaving for what God has planned for them, and we will be eternally grateful. I would personally like to thank Pat and Melanie for the time and truth they shared with me and I will miss them, but we shall meet again.