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 Buck
President, Co-Founder
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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. As my husband would so accurately say, I am "living the dream."  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
Vice President, Co-Founder
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.

 

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
Secretary
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!

 
 
Julie Behnke
Treasurer & Community Outreach Coordinator
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 Sonrise Ranch 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.

 
Elizabeth Comfort
Board Member
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Bio Coming Soon!

Becca Ward
Volunteer Coordinator

I have been around Embrace since it’s beginning, in fact I was part of the group that came up with the idea for the name ‘EMBRACE’. However, I wasn’t able to get very involved until summer 2017 and am so blessed at the opportunity to serve in such an impactful ministry!

 

I have been married to my wonderful Husband Zack since January 2013. We have two daughters, Zariah and Aliyah, and one son, Brahm, who was born in December 2020!

 

My family and I attend Heart of The City Church in Coeur d’Alene, ID and are blessed to be able to serve there as a family. I have been blessed to know Jesus my whole life. My parents always made Jesus a part of our lives through our fun activities, intentional teaching and by their example. I believe that when you grow up in a Christian household there comes a time where you have to decide to make your relationship with Jesus personal, and for me that happened when I was 14 as a freshman in high school. It was a time of continuous choices: do the right thing, or do the wrong thing?  Follow Jesus and do the unpopular thing, or 

follow others and do what’s “easy?" I chose the “hard” choice and dug in deep with Christ, leaning into my parents wise counsel, and I learned from their experiences. It wasn’t easy. I lost a lot of friends and it felt lonely at times, but what I thought was the hard choice at the time was really the easy choice in hindsight! I bypassed the pitfalls others fell into. God taught me many lessons about His love for me and His heart for me through my horses during that time. God continues to use my horses and the wonderful people around me to teach me new things every day. I am so excited to be able to share those lessons through the horses with all of you!

 

I have owned horses since my family moved to Idaho when I was 12. Since then I have shown in Western Pleasure, English Pleasure, Show trail, Horsemanship, Equitation, and Showmanship at various levels of competition, from 4H to AQHA circuit. 

 

 
Samantha Means
Media & Marketing Coordinator
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I've never owned a horse, but it was a horse that first gave me hope in what was possible. I was a little girl on my grandfather's ranch in Nebraska, too young to understand what trauma was despite being in the midst of it, when a horse gave me what no person could: honest, positive connection.

Around the time I learned to put a pen to paper, I began seeking Jesus. He redeemed me from more than twenty years of trauma, taken me across the world to East Asia and the Caribbean doing humanitarian work, and to the Middle East. I sought God's wisdom the way a person might hunt for water in a desert. He'd saved me, and I wanted to live for Him. My writing became a safe way to express myself,
 and a means of connecting with the world around me. I began to write books and a weekly blog as a means of inspiring others to pursue a relationship with Jesus as Lord. I looked for any chance to serve Him and give people hope through my writing.

I was blessed to come to EMBRACE simply by being the transport for a group of teenagers in a drug rehabilitation facility who came to engage in the program. From the moment I walked through the doors, I was overwhelmed by the love,

compassion, and grace that met us there. I began to see God as Father who didn't want a slave to obey Him, but His daughter to receive the love He had for her. The hearts of the women eager to live out the gospel by spreading the love of Jesus Christ with the help of their horses moved me to want to be a part of it. I wanted to know the Jesus they knew. I began serving EMBRACE by creating a blog for our website. Since 2017, Jesus has used the relationships in EMBRACE to teach me how to cease striving and simply be in a relationship with Him.

 

Today, I'm blessed to be part of EMBRACE, sharing the love of Jesus by using the gifts and talents God has given me as a storyteller. I love others by first receiving the love God has for me as His Beloved. I create content for our website and testimonies of our participant's journeys, share our growth as a ministry, my story, and the stories of Jesus with those I serve in horse sessions. When I'm not serving with EMBRACE I serve as a trauma counselor with a counseling agency in Coeur d'Alene, and I write novels and non-fiction books to help readers know Jesus better. I am looking forward to hearing your story, and serving you this season of your life!

 
 
Amy Mort
Session Leader
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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
Horse Session Leader
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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
Craft Leader
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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
Craft Leader
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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
Session Leader
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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 one day a week with EMBRACE since early 2020. The other four days I 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
Session Leader
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Bio Coming Soon!

Karen Anderson
Session Leader
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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
Session Leader
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Bio Coming Soon!

Bekah Pinkerton
Session Leader
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Bio Coming Soon!

Jaedyn Beatty 
Volunteer
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Bio Coming Soon!

Molly Smith
Volunteer
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Bio Coming Soon!

Haven Owen
Volunteer
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Bio Coming Soon!