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EMBRACE is made up of an all-volunteer staff who donate their time, finances and resources to make this organization come to life for the good of those they serve and to the glory of Jesus Christ. The staff are committed to the mission statement of EMBRACE and are essential to the maintenance and growth of this ministry.
Learn more about their personal journey's here!
Renae Burke
EMBRACE President & Co-Founder | Wild Hope CEO

I was born with a passion for animals, especially horses. Although my parents may argue against that when they rattle off all the stray dogs I brought home. For years I longed for a horse of my own and imagined myself as Tonto riding the plains and  being the sidekick of that famed man on a beautiful white horse! Still, for most of my life God provided me with the opportunity to horse-around with my friends who had horses and I loved the summers we spent at my uncles home riding his. Since those days the dreams of my childhood have become a reality and I now own several horses. Today I long to share my horses with others who are horse-less and horse crazy! It's often with these people, while on horseback, that I've found a most captive audience willing to hear about Jesus and all He has done for me. It's here we share in the awe of all He has created as we ride the trails. Still, I yearned for a deeper way to share my horses and the love of Jesus. Since then, God has put together EMBRACE and I have seen yet another dream coming true. I look forward to being a part of the amazing things He has planned!  

As I look back at my life, it has been and continues to be, a VERY rare one! I was raised in a Christian home with a pastor for a father. As a pastor's kid (PK) there were many challenges, but love, guidance, wisdom and fun were always in abundance. My family has always been a strong one, but my brother, sister and I had our knock-down, drag-outs like any family. I have seen the promises of God unfold before my eyes my entire life! Proverbs 20:7 states, "the righteous who walk in His integrity....blessed are His children after Him." I am blessed because of the generations in my family before me. And yet, I have struggled all my life believing I had a "boring" testimony. I didn't believe I had anything to share that could really help anyone.

You know that old saying, "If you haven't gone through it, you can't minister to it." I believe that to a degree, until a friend told me that my life gave her hope for hers. Hope in the future for her kids to not repeat the destruction of her family's generational sin. Today, I see my testimony as one of hope. I know that God is a God that keeps His promises, and that all God's promises are yes and Amen in Christ Jesus!


My heart for EMBRACE is simply to share the hope and steadfastness of our Lord and, of course, my horses with all who come. God does amazing things through His creation and horses are no exception. Using my horses in ministry is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Lord-willing every one that comes to EMBRACE will have their hopes and needs fulfilled through the horses they meet and the love and hope in Jesus Christ!

Colleen Ripatti
EMBRACE Vice President & Co-Founder | EMBRACE Session Leader
Minisry Staff Bio

I have been married to my wonderful husband, Chris, since 1997. I have two beautiful children, an 18-year-old son and a 22-year-old daughter who was recently married and now I've been blessed with a new son-in-law! I am one of eleven children, some full siblings and some half siblings, and I am an identical triplet. I have been riding horses my entire life, competitively showing them since I was 8-years-old. I started training horses when I was 16 and have been teaching children and adult riding lessons for 20 years. I have also been a volunteer 4H leader for 9 years. I have two beautiful children, an 18-year-old son and a 22-year-old daughter who was recently married and now I've been blessed with a new son-in-law!

I am one of eleven children, some full siblings and some half siblings, and I am an identical triplet. I have been riding horses my entire life, competitively showing them since I was 8-years-old. I started training horses when I was 16 and have been teaching children and adult riding lessons for 20 years. I have also been a volunteer 4H leader for 9 years.


My dad passed away when I was only 4-years-old leaving my mom as a single mother to her six children still at home. She remarried into a highly abusive relationship that lasted only a few years before it ended in divorce, my mom struggling as a single parent once again.


Through all of this she was able  to keep a few horses around for us kids. My horse quickly became my security blanket through this bumpy ride called life. She was my best friend. I could cry in her mane, tell her all my secrets and then laugh as we galloped across the field. I thought for years that my horse my was my salvation, my hope, my security and only source of happiness.

One day, horses weren't enough. There were holes in my heart that even my horses couldn't fill. That's when I found Jesus. I learned I had an amazing heavenly Father who loved me, and if I put Him first in my life everything else would work out for my good because I loved him (Romans 8:28). He moved in and filled the holes in my heart.

From that day on I knew that Jesus needed to be my everything, not horses. He is my salvation, my security, my hope and source of happiness. I knew then what it meant to be truly loved. He loved me so much that He blessed me with the precious gift of horses and the talent and ability to work with them.


I believe horses are amazing creations of an awesome God and that He can work through them to enrich human lives in amazing ways. I also believe I am called to share this gift and these truths to anyone that the Lord brings to EMBRACE ministries. I am so excited to share about two of my greatest loves: Jesus and horses!!

Buffy Rennie
Treasurer | EMBRACE Session Leader
Minisry Staff Bio

I was born in California but lived both there and in Illinois. I have eight siblings and was married at 16-years-old to my husband, John. We've been married more than 40 years and we have 3 children: one daughter and two sons. In 1987 my husband decided we needed to start checking out local churches. We'd been married almost ten years and God had never been a topic of conversation until then. I was 24-years-old when I accepted Jesus Christ as Lord of my life. Since then I have worked and led women's Bible studies and women's retreats.


I've always had horses and see such an amazing value of putting horses and hurting people together. I heard about EMBRACE from one of my pastors who knew I had horses and also knew that I was going through some difficult family issues. I didn't seek it out for a while.


But, after meeting an EMBRACE staff volunteer I knew it was time to give of myself, my passion for horses, and allow Jesus to work. I'm so grateful to be able to share my horses and my love for Jesus with others!

Elizabeth Comfort
Board Member
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Bio Coming Soon!

Julie Behnke
EMBRACE Session Leader
Minisry Staff Bio

No doubt about it, God made me with a love for animals, especially horses, and the outdoors. My journey started with anything and everything horse-oriented since I was little. In 1973, my parents gave me the gift of a real horse. I will always remember him. His name was Diablo, "devil" in Spanish. Let's just say I learned a lot from him.


Horses have been in and out of my life while working and raising a family. I lived in San Diego, California for fifty-eight years. I married my high school and forever sweetheart in 1978. We have four boys that keep us very busy and they're all grown and married. Now I have four beautiful daughters and three grandchildren. In 2015 my husband and I decided to retire and move to North Idaho. I needed to find a place to board my horse, Roxy, until we could build corrals at our new home. The first ranch I saw with an indoor arena is what led me to the barn manager, Renae, and the owner of the ranch, Reeva. I had no idea what an amazing blessing these women and the ranch would be.


I have been a Christian since 1970, but being involved with EMBRACE has caused me to realize I wanted and needed more in my relationship with God. I now know God made me unique and had a purpose for me. God clearly led me to EMBRACE to fulfill his purpose through the love of God combined with the love of horses to spread the gospel. No doubt about it, God made me with a love for horses to be used in his ministry.

Amy Mort
Volunteer Training Coordinator | EMBRACE Session Leader

I did not grow up in a family that truly loved Jesus or one that instilled His sacrificial love for me. We went to church primarily on Easter and several other times throughout the year. However, it wasn't until my dad made me go to bible camp that my life began to change. From that point on, I would beg my parents to let me attend church and youth functions. Although I had Christ in my heart, I was still rebellious and chose to seek out acceptance from people rather than my heavenly Father.


But there was another place, beyond church, that I felt His peace and that was while riding horses. I think I have always loved horses, and I read every book that I could find about them. Even at seven years old, I wanted to be a horse trainer and dreamed of having my own horse.


We finally got an old, half-starved nag named Bridget when I was about eleven and I did 4-H with her the next year. As a teenager,  I felt His presence and was comforted the most while bareback riding through the woods. It was where I went when I couldn’t make sense of things at home. At 18, I had to sell my second horse Shawnee, and I didn't own another horse for almost 25 years. During that time, I worked in customer service, and then became a stay-at-home mom in 2012. I learned to love hearing a person’s background story, and feel that it can tell a lot about why a person is the way they are or why they have made certain choices. Beyond horses though, I think creating things is second nature for me. I like to say I have a re-purposed mind. I can visualize what something or someone could become if given a little love, throw in some encouragement, and maybe a new coat of paint. 

Today, I am married and have four daughters ages 21,19, 8, and 7. In 2016 we purchased two horses, Jubilee and Justice. Then in 2017 my neighbor gave us a half-blind, ex-therapy pony named Bubbles. They have all taught me so much about myself and the areas of my heart that I still needed to submit to Christ. It will be an ongoing process for the rest of my life, but thank goodness for His love, grace and patience for me.


As a believer in Christ, we are all called to serve in one capacity or another. God has given me a tremendous blessing and has provided me an opportunity to serve others using my horses. The last three years of owning my horses went from this is my enjoyment and pleasure, to wanting others to experience the joy and peace I was feeling. I found myself inviting others to come along with me. My life is not my own, and I had been praying and seeking out different areas of equine therapies. But I wanted it to be faith-based. I believe that there is healing, not just for emotional, but also for physical pain in working with horses. I know God has placed me here for a very specific purpose. He has made all the connections at this point, and has enabled me to serve, learn and administer His loving truth through EMBRACE.

Jayne Erickson 
EMBRACE Session Leader

I was born and raised in western Washington, got my first pony when I was six-years-old and never looked back. I was born and raised in a Catholic home and spent most of my education in Catholic school but graduated from a public high school. I was very lucky to have a foundation of Jesus Christ because going to public school was hard. 

When I married my husband I came with seven horses, two dogs and a cat and that still didn't scare him off! Today we have four grown daughters and have been married for thirty-seven years. In 2000 we decided to leave the rat race of the west coast and moved out to Idaho. I wish we would have moved sooner! This is such a beautiful place to live. I've owned horses now for more than fifty years and have experience in a number of disciplines including barrel racing, gaming, showing and trail riding. 

I retired in 2019 and felt a calling to use the gifts the Lord has given me. EMBRACE has the heart of Jesus at its center and I felt that with my horse experience and the love of Jesus this was the right place for me to be. I'm thankful that my Lord walks with me every day, he carries me when necessary, and I want to share that love and relationship with those we serve. My journey with Jesus continues to grow stronger every day, and I'm truly blessed to know that I am a child of God.

Narcissa Yelland
EMBRACE Craft/Devotion Leader

I was born in Sandpoint, Idaho and grew up with horses, showing them in 4-H and at the fair. It was the absolute best. There was a point in my childhood that my horses were my best friends. They were the perfect secret-keepers, almost like a therapist. I moved around quite a bit when I was younger but I spent as much time as I could with my grandparents in Priest River.

I was saved as a little girl, but I wasn’t taught what it meant to have a relationship with God. I spent a lot of my life feeling like I was missing something about God and trying to find out what that was. Everything changed when I understood God wanted a relationship with me. I now pursue an ongoing, deep relationship with Jesus and am amazed at the strength, love and peace I receive from him.


I’ve been married since 2005 and we have a big blended family of six children and five grandchildren. In 2019 I felt a strong desire for an outlet to help others while healing and growing myself. I operated an in-home child care business for many years and have learned to find easy, meaningful crafts are helpful aids to an educational lesson. I thought I might put those skills to use somehow. The Lord laid out a clear path of people that brought me to Embrace. Ever since then God has led me on a mission through Embrace to lift up others and show them the love of Jesus through relationship.

Pam Trefts
EMBRACE Craft/Devotion Leader

I accepted Jesus as my Lord in 1983. I love him, deeply, and He loves me! I grew up in southern California and moved to North Idaho in 1997. I'm married with five grown children and have two beautiful grand kiddos. 


I also love horses and have spent thirty years working with them in some form or fashion. I also love working with crafts and am so grateful I get to take both things I love and apply them in this ministry! I believe I've been called to EMBRACE for the simple task of sharing my Lord Jesus Christ with all who will listen.

Mary Carpenter
EMBRACE Craft/Devotion Leader

I’ve always loved horses and wanted one ever since I was a young girl. And while I don’t yet have one of my own, I’d sure love to! I gave my life to Jesus Christ as a teenager and he changed my life. In him I found real life, healing, love, and inner freedom. As a physical therapist and a Christ follower I love helping hurting people, and I have a passion to help others find the healing, peace, love, joy, and purpose that can only be found through Jesus Christ. I know horses have great value as healers and so when my husband of thirty years, Bob, and I felt called by God to move to Spokane in the fall of 2018, my dream of pairing my love for Jesus and horses, and my passion to help others became a reality when I found EMBRACE on the internet.

I have been serving with EMBRACE since early 2020. I also work in home health. Going to EMBRACE is the highlight of my week. I am delighted and feel privileged to be part of this powerful ministry filled with the love of Jesus and his healing power. I love the EMBRACE team and the women and girls who experience EMBRACE. The team shows them the love of Christ, shares His truth with them, and laughs and cries with them. I watch in awe as the Holy Spirit works powerfully in their hearts through the horses, the craft/devotion time, and the team members. Lives are changed. Christ is found. Hope arises. Hearts are healed, and spirits are set free. It a thrilling and wondrous thing to behold and a joy to be a part of! I give thanks and praise to God for leading me to EMBRACE. And I look forward to how Jesus will continue to grow and use this ministry for his glory. Praise be to Jesus!

Madeline Loren
EMBRACE Session Leader

My full name is Madeline Marie Loren, but if it is easier for you to remember, just call me Maddy! I was born in SW Washington, but due to my father being in the Navy, we moved about the Pacific Rim for many years. Later, returning to my roots in the Longview/Kelso area, I met my husband and we were married in 1980. We have 7 children and 13 grandchildren. 


We made North Idaho our home in 2012. Here we enjoy not only the natural beauty of this state, but also the warmth and hospitality of its residents, as well as the unique culture of the area.  We feel very blessed to call it home!

Karen Anderson
EMBRACE Session Leader

Hi! My name is Karen and I’ve been married for more than thirty years to my best friend, Les. We have one daughter we adopted from China in 1998, and Maia is beyond the light of our life and our absolute joy… with the occasional thorns of course! I learned to ride when I was thirty-five and it became a passion. My favorite place to be is up in God’s country trail riding, admiring and in total awe of His creation. A few times a year I go up into the North Cascades for a few days. It’s like knocking on heaven’s door! I joined EMBRACE in 2019. I had stopped working and was searching for something to do with my time. I believe I was led to the barn where the president of EMBRACE, Renae, was giving riding lessons. As she gave me lessons, she shared about what EMBRACE was doing and her passion for Jesus and how EMBRACE helped teenagers and women in recovery. I felt like this was where God wanted me to be. 


Being involved in EMBRACE has been so great. I get to see seeds planted and God’s work being done every time I show up. It’s such a gift to be able to witness and be part of what God is doing to shower His love on others. The more I see Him work in others the more I love getting to know Him personally for me and see His will be done in the lives of the people we serve and the women I get to serve with. It helps sharpen me and mature me as a follower of Jesus Christ. I love how the story is going and I cannot wait to see what the next chapter is going to look like!

Chris Holloway
EMBRACE Session Leader

Bio Coming Soon!

Shelly Hubbard
Fundraising for Embrace & Wild Hope | EMBRACE Session Leader

My name is Shelly Hubbard & I’ve live in Idaho the majority of my life. I’m 30 years old, I’ve been married to my wonderful husband, John, for almost 7 years & we have an almost 4 year old daughter, Ariya.


I was blessed to be raised in a Christian home, but my faith didn’t really become my own until later in my adult years.


As a little girl, God planted a seed inside of me for the love of horses. I always wanted to be a horse girl, but the opportunity came & went as I grew up & I was never able to pursue that dream.


Until 2020, when Satan completely crippled me with fear & anxiety. Throughout my darkest moments God kept gently pushing me towards horses. I didn’t understand. Why was he allowing this anxiety? Why was he also bringing up a childhood dream right now when all I wanted was to be me again. It was so unrealistic for me to pursue this when I was in my late 20’s with a new baby! I could NEVER do anything with horses, or so I thought..


In January of 2021 God completely set up a meeting for me with Renae for riding lessons. I had no idea what I was about to walk into at the time. We met her & she echoed to me what God had been saying to me. When I found out about Embrace & what they did I KNEW this is where he had been leading me.


I suffered with my anxiety for months before I finally leaned into God fully & let Him teach me how to fight Satan with the tools that are available to me. I’m now anxiety free & I also own a horse! That’s another story for another time!


Not only do I know God completely freed me from my anxiety, in the process, he also became my best friend! Jesus wants to free every single one of his children from anxiety & he also cares about the little things & the longings of your heart! He is, in fact, the one who put them their!


I love being able to share my testimony to everyone who comes through Embrace & I feel so blessed that God gently pointed me to a ministry who teaches about Jesus with horses! If he could have picked a more fulfilling dream of mine to fulfill- he couldn’t have! I know God has HUGE plans for Embrace & I’m so grateful to be woven into those details of His intricate design.

Jenna Nostrum
EMBRACE Session Leader

Hi, My name is Jenna and I was born in 2000. I grew up in beautiful Kalispell Montana where my love for animals, especially horses, grew. My family was so blessed to have been "adopted" into a family that owned a ranch who then allowed us to start working to pay off the board of our horse. We eventually started calling them Nana and Popop. Nana is the person who gave me a solid riding foundation and helped me to grow in my passion for horses. Over the years I have done many different disciplines with horses including 4H, gaming, horse showing, trail riding and Eventing. I grew up in a loving Christian home with 3 older sisters. Life with older sisters was not always easy but I am so thankful to have them as some of my best friends today. My relationship with the Lord really became my own in high school. Jesus has really begun to take me deeper in the last four years, and I am so excited to be a part of EMBRACE to share the gospel of Jesus Christ through horses with these women and girls!

Katie Shaver
Media Manager | Session Leader
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I have had a passion for horses for as long as I can remember. As a toddler, I would sit on my dog’s backs and ride them around the house, much to their displeasure. As an adult, I’m still just as crazy about horses, probably even more so as time goes on. But my first love is for Christ, who loved me when I was “unlovely”. 


When I was about 11, my mom met a lady at her Bible study who had horses, and they connected and we were invited out. For the next 10 years I learned to ride, how to work with horses, how their minds worked, and how to care for them. I truly believe God used horses in the process of leading me to Christ through the lessons I learned in that barn.


I was brought up in a Christian home, but it was a “cultural” Christianity where we went to church to check it off the to-do list. My mom realized in 2009 that she never truly gave her life to Christ. Reading through Romans showed her Gospel crystal clear. From there, her behavior was different, and I noticed. I didn’t know what the change was at the time, but now I see it was the Holy Spirit at work. We switched churches, and conversations about God and His Word became more prominent in the home. I frankly didn’t care… I thought I was saved because I “did the right things”.


As a teenager I struggled with severe anxiety and depression. I also developed chronic Lyme disease with a trail mix of other conditions. I was also dangerously anorexic and doing things I shouldn’t have, trying to gain a sense of control through my destructive habits. I also dealt with a lot of relational hurt and abuse in those years. It was the darkest point in my life. It made working with horses difficult because they would indirectly reveal issues going on but I didn’t want to address them.


But, God intervened in 2011 and opened my bitter heart to Christ. It wasn’t simply that I needed rescuing from my circumstances, I needed rescue for my soul. I realized I needed a savior, and He became Lord of my life that summer. When that happened, the Gospel changed my heart. What I loved and prioritized change. And all of the sudden, the stuff I was wrestling with related to horses disappeared!  Although there are still struggles in this life, Christ is glorified in my weakness, and He has provided tremendous healing for me in the time I’ve been His! 


I’m so thankful for this awesome group of women at EMBRACE who share that passion for our equine friends, but most importantly, for Jesus, who makes these things possible! I hope to share the recent addition to our family, my mustang Dashi,  in the ministry as he progresses in his training. I believe I’ve connected so well with him partially because I can empathize with where he’s coming from. I know what it’s like to be introverted and scared to trust. We’re bringing the best out of each other. Volunteering at EMBRACE has also helped me heal from relational trauma, because I’m realizing that I’m surrounded by women that authentically love me and care about me. That being said, I can testify personally to the work God is doing through this ministry. 


I’ve lived in CDA for the past 3 years with my amazing hubby (who also participates in ministry when he can). My professional work is being an online horse teacher on Outschool, where I get to talk to kids about horses all day.

Jaedyn Beatty 
Craft/Devotional Leader
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Bio Coming Soon!

Michelle Dwinell
Wild Hope Trauma-Informed Counselor
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Bio Coming Soon!

Kristi Woesner
EMBRACE Session Leader
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Bio Coming Soon!

Erika Hammond
EMBRACE Session Leader
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Bio Coming Soon!

Nicki Esau
EMBRACE Session Leader
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Bio Coming Soon!

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