Dear Friends of John Knox Ranch,

I wanted to introduce myself as the new Executive Director of John Knox Ranch. I am very humbled to accept this position and recognize the deep history and tradition of the Ranch. For the past 56 years, we have had a long line of caring camp counselors and camp staff. Thank you to Kathy for keeping this tradition going. JKR has also received amazing support from Presbyterian Churches and incredible volunteers and generous donations. My main goal is to increase the accessibility and awareness of JKR and all it has to offer. JKR is truly a year-round destination that can demonstrate the glory of Christ through its summer camp, retreat facilities, programming and environmental stewardship of its amazing resources.

Originally from England, I graduated from Lancaster University and worked in the construction industry for four years. Unfulfilled, I came to the US for the first time in 1996 with Camp America and served as a Summer Camp Counselor at JKR. I fell in love with the ranch and the work we were doing, and it inspired in me a new career path, as well as renewed faith. After spending that life-changing summer at JKR, I spent 18 months working in the National Parks of Australia and New Zealand, and then I returned to JKR and became the permanent Director of Environmental Education, while also directing the Summer Camp. I developed and implemented a 2-night program for schools, and ultimately grew this to serve three thousand 5th and 7th grade students annually. I served as an Accreditation Standards Visitor for the American Camping Association (ACA) and was responsible for ensuring that JKR continued to meet all ACA standards. As Summer Camp Director, I recruited, hired, and supervised an entire summer staff, including senior leadership.

In the summer of 2000, I fell in love again, this time with my future wife, Amanda, while she was serving as a volunteer bereavement counselor for Camp Braveheart. Amanda is a child of Mission Presbytery, a graduate of Austin Presbytery Theological Seminary, a Ruling Elder, and she has a long history with JKR herself. We have been married for 16 years and have three amazing children, twin boys Jimmy and Charlie (13) and Clara May (11). We are members of Shepherd of the Hills Presbyterian Church in Austin, where I am active in Mission and Youth Ministry.

In 2002, I began working for Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD), and have 15 years of senior leadership experience with them, culminating in the role of Director of Outreach, Education and Interpretive Services for Texas State Parks. As a member of the senior staff, I supervised 40 staff and led all interpretation, education, outreach services for 95 State Parks and Historic Sites. Before this, I provided leadership as a Regional Interpretive Specialist and as the Statewide Outdoor Education Coordinator, where I developed the award-winning Texas Outdoor Family program.

Ready for a new challenge, in July 2016, I began working for Agents of Discovery, a trailblazing technology company that uses augmented reality to help sites such as National Parks and Forests connect their visitors to natural and cultural resources via smartphone technology. My time with Discovery Agents afforded me an opportunity to learn and grow, and to evaluate and rediscover where my passion lies: and that is as a leader and manager, and as a member of a team working towards a common goal of faith-based environmental stewardship and advocacy.

I believe that God has called me back to JKR and this that this is where I am meant to be. John Knox Ranch is a sacred place, and it is yours. You and your family and friends are welcome anytime. We plan to increase the number of programs and opportunities offered to you. We are in the process of creating a new board of directors and developing a new strategic plan, and everything we do will be available for comment, and we will be transparent. I recognize there is a lot of love and care for JKR and aim to embrace this as we yoke together and build for the future. Look for opportunities to join in!

My team and I plan to spend time visiting churches and groups across the region we serve, and if you want us to visit, please don’t hesitate to call. I am so excited for the future that God had planned for JKR. The Ranch is one of those thin places where it is easier to find, feel and talk with God, and I can’t think of a better place to share with everyone. Come see us!

Chris Holmes

Executive Director

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