Q&A With Jamie Bullis, Executive Director and House Parent at Chosen Ranch
Recently, Jamie sat down with some of our local church leaders. There were some interesting conversations that took place, and lots of coffee was consumed. Here is a quick breakdown of some of the more frequent questions and the answers provided.
How did you and Joy become house parents at Chosen Ranch?
Joy and I co-founded the Ranch with Frank and Jinny back in 2013. The initial plan was for us to become the first house parents, while running the youth group and outreach programs. It is what our hearts wanted, but God put some other, wonderful people into our path, and they became the first house parents at the Ranch. In 2018, we, as an organization, found ourselves in a position of looking for new house parents, and a young man we were aware of was in a crisis, and about to be kicked out of his home. We prayed on it and decided to move into the Ranch, taking custody of that young man while still working full time as a Trooper as well as running the youth and outreach programs for the Ranch. Within a couple of months, we found ourselves taking custody of a second young man, and the rest is history.
You and Joy have three sons. How has living at the ranch affected them?
Honestly, it has been a blessing......most of the time. There are arguments, just like any home has, and brothers will argue and fight. It happens. But overall, it has been a great thing. A good example of that is the relationship between Robert, our first Ranch boy, and Gabriel, our oldest bio boy. They were very different people, with very different personalities. Bob never saw a rule he wanted to follow. Gabe never saw a rule he did not follow to a T. They went to the same school, played on the same football team, and were NOT friends. Once the conversation about Robert turned to us taking custody of him, he and Gabe began to talk more. Once Robert moved in, he and Gabriel became best friends. Their personalities were very different, but Gabe started to develop some of Robert's leadership qualities, becoming more outspoken and much more open minded. Robert began to temper his impulses, and became a much more stable and respected leader in school and on the football field. Those two actually ended up coming to us and convinced us to change one of our rules. They ended up sharing a room for the entire time Robert lived with us, and those two are best friends to this day. There have been challenges, don't get me wrong, but overall the benefits have far outweighed the negatives.
Where do the boys come from that you end up raising at Chosen Ranch?
We will take any child, from anywhere! A child is a child, and it doesn't matter what zip code they called home! However, with that said, there is a significant need right here in Northeast Michigan. So far, every young man we have taken custody of has come from our local Northeast Michigan communities. As a matter of fact, there are two young men that have been brought to our attention as possible Ranch Boys, and both are from our local area. I field calls from all over the country, literally, from people wanting to refer a young man to our program. We are unique in that once we take custody of a boy, he is ours, to the end. We are not a temporary solution, and most of the calls I get are wanting to send someone here to get "straightened out" then sent home. That is not us.
How much does it cost to raise boys at Chosen Ranch?
Well, that is actually a question I get a lot, and the bottom line is, it depends. The cost to live at the Ranch is not cheap. Our expenses, including insurances, mortgage, food, utilities, vehicles and transportation, run between $4000-$5000 per month. That number seems pretty high, I know! But the reality is, that number does not change much when we increase the number of boys we have here. Things like mortgages, insurance, utilities, etc... don't change, whether we have one child here or 5. Our food bills are pretty high, right now we are feeding three seniors in high school, so you can imagine! But the things that pop up tend to get expensive. One of our boys was involved in two traffic crashes in a matter of a week. That put us down two vehicles, with one totalled and another down for weeks. THAT cost comes out of left field, and does not go into our "monthly" expenses. The truth is, living and raising boys in today's world is expensive, and there are just not many costs that can be cut. Joy is a financial wizard, and can stretch our budget in incredible ways! Without her, I don't know how we could manage it!
Where does your funding come from? Does the state or federal government pay you a stipend for raising the boys?
Absolutely not! We take zero money from the state or federal government! With their money comes their rules, and no offense to anyone working in those fields, but the government does not know how to raise children! There are some wonderful people working in those fields, and don't get me wrong, there are some amazing foster parents out there, but we do things differently. We believe, with our whole hearts, that raising children in accordance with God's Word is the only right way to do it! God gave us the ultimate parenting guide, the Bible, and we do our very best to apply biblical principles to our everyday lives. So, to answer your question, we are funded by private donation only. Churches, christian groups, or individual people donate to us and those funds help us tremendously. I will say, COVID hit us hard. Our income dropped by almost 90%, and I totally understand why. People were scared, and churches had to pull back their charitable giving because people stopped going to church. I get it! But what did not change was our situation at the Ranch. Our boys are our boys and their needs didn't change just because the world went crazy. So we continued on, just as God called us to do. Joy and I are blessed. I have worked for 23 years as a Trooper and now a Sergeant with the Michigan State Police. Joy is the Athletic Director at our local high school, so we are able to make ends meet.
So let me get this right, you and Joy use your own incomes to fund the Ranch and pay the boys expenses?
Of course we do. There isn't really another option. Look, we were called to do this. Joy and I know that God placed these boys in our lives, and that doesn't change with financial help or lack thereof. When people feel a calling to support us and give, it means the world...but ultimately, if we never raised another nickel, we would still be where we are, doing what we do. Our initial vision, way back in 2014 was to have multiple homes, with multiple sets of house parents, raising lots and lots of boys. That has not come to fruition, and I believe God knows what he is doing! So we have the one house, the 80 acres for the boys to run and hunt and ride and work on, and we wait for God's leading in our lives and mission.
So what is the next chapter for Chosen Ranch? I know losing Frank and Jinny has been tough, so what is next?
Frank and Jinny passing away has been a blow, no doubt about it, but they have left their mark, and it is a mark that will be felt for as long as Chosen Ranch exists! The next chapter, for Joy and I, is that we are prayerfully looking for the next set of house parents to move into the ranch. If God brings that couple into our lives, I plan to hit the road and share the mission of Chosen Ranch far and wide! As an itinerant pastor, and traveling speaker, I hope to travel to churches and organizations, sharing the successes, failures and future of the Ranch ministry. In other words, the Ranch isn't going anywhere. I know it won't be easy, and I am fully aware of the commitment it will take, but both Joy and I are committed to continuing the good works being done here at the Ranch.