(left) Joe Walsh, House of Opportunity Director (men’s home)
Jeanne Landers, House of Decision Director (women’s home)
(right) Bjorn Stavness, Founder
Having attended many Christian church camps and Christian schools throughout his childhood, Bjorn noticed that Christian organizations lacked the money to pay a savvy business person to run the business part of the ministry. They expected an underpaid and ill-equipped pastor to make all the business decisions. While still in his early twenties, Bjorn Stavness made a commitment to God to be a “tent-maker” like the Apostle Paul.
In pursuit of this goal, Bjorn first got a B.S. degree in Business Management from Cal Poly Pomona and then went on to get a M.A. degree in Christian Education from Talbot Theological Seminary. After completing his education, he calculated he would have to make a substantial amount of money to free himself up financially to work for free. So, Bjorn and his wife, Cindy, started and managed a restaurant, which God prospered.
At the age of 38, after ten years of managing the restaurant and ministering in various ways through it to the community, God put it on Bjorn’s heart to “stop feeding people’s stomachs and start feeding their souls” on a full-time basis. He argued, “If I sell my restaurant, how am I going to feed my family?” The next thought that entered Bjorn’s mind was: I am accusing God of not being faithful to take care of my family if I obey Him! The insult was ridiculous. A buyer came, uninvited, and bought the restaurant shortly after.
Now what? The restaurant was gone and he had a family of five to feed.
Then, in early 1997, an elderly Catholic woman offered to donate her 31-room hotel to be used to house homeless women and their children. That was God’s open door to minister and thus started the House of Decision. Bjorn’s “learning curve” looked more like a straight line up.
We accepted women that found themselves homeless for any reason. Many were raised in horrific homes as children which resulted in them making their own self-destructive choices as adults. Several years later the men’s home, House of Opportunity, began. Not at all what Bjorn had in mind when he thought of a “tentmaking” ministry as a twenty-year old.
God prepared Bjorn to manage a discipleship home in many ways: a solid Christian upbringing, deep and broad biblical knowledge, a great wife and family, financial skills, no addictions, no immediate concern for money, and physically healthy. Although these tools remain invaluable, there were two completely unexpected matters that became the greatest factors to learning how to truly restore people in crisis.
The first embraced actually living in the same building with the people he counseled, to observe them, typically for many months and often years. This long period of time of living in the same building revealed whether or not the truths he was teaching actually set anyone free.
Second, living in their midst, enduring and addressing all aspects of their life, was the true test of whether one possesses God’s quality of love for someone. If not, they will quickly drive you crazy. The greatest motivation for them to start their new life in Christ is often seeing Christ’s love in someone else, what we call, becoming Jesus with “skin on.”
The practical experience of living with those he ministered to for many months became the unique foundation for Bjorn’s three books.
Personally, Bjorn and Cindy married in 1981 and have three amazing children and seven grandchildren. When playing with his grandkids, the rule is, “You can’t spank Opa.” (Which explains who starts all the mayhem.) Cindy currently works for the local school district as a counselor. Together they love hiking the local mountains, biking, and taking long walks on the beach. Bjorn frequently seeks Cindy’s invaluable and insightful wisdom. They live in Cherry Valley, a small rural town located in Southern California.
Jeanne Landers, Director of the Women’s home
Jeanne is the biological mother to four children and the God-given mother of two more. Currently she is joyfully raising a grandson. She was a foster mother for fourteen year for over 20 foster children.
Jeanne obtained a Human Services degree later in life along with a drug and alcohol certificate. Jeanne’s life experiences have given her an understanding and compassion for the women and children at House of Decision.
Jeanne’s years of administration experience and teaching Sunday School and over a decade of ministering in the local jails to give women hope in Jesus have been instrumental in fulfilling the call of God for this time in her life.
Along with Jeanne, God has raised up other women with specific gifts to serve through the House of Decision. Often churches and charities ask for information about our women’s program. These women and others give that information along with sharing their testimonies.
Jeanne also substitute teaches at local public and private schools.
Joe Walsh, Director of the Men’s home
Joe has a bachelor’s degree in Theology from Summit Bible College and possesses a great depth of biblical knowledge. Greater still, he carries a strong compassion to see men turn their lives over to Christ. He spends countless hours ministering to the needs of the men and working on practical ways to improve the ranch. He has brought a great deal of organizational structure to the men’s home.
Joe is also an accomplished handyman in huge demand in the communities in the desert. With a couple of trucks and countless tools, He often takes some of the men to teach them a trade and speak into their lives. Joe is also capable of leading worship.
When invited Joe enjoys preaching in various prisons in CA. He may spend an entire weekend on the road traveling to various prisons or prison hospitals, often taking some of the men from the home to give their testimonies. Joe rallies the men to attend Christian concerts, the Harvest Festival, and college football games.