Origins

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Photo of El Rancho boys and staff with a visiting group form the US.

El Rancho boys, staff, and a visiting Church group.

El Rancho Del Rey, located just south of Monterrey, Mexico, is a Christian group home for boys, ages 6-16 years, who have come from broken families and the poorest levels of Mexican society.  From unstable, chaotic, or even non-existent home environments, the boys arrive at El Rancho to learn that God loves them, and has prepared a place for them in Heaven. Inevitably, they have immediate physical needs that must be met: a safe and secure environment, a roof over their heads, good food, a bed of their own, medical attention, and clothing. While those needs are being met, the staff at El Rancho Del Rey begins to share the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ with the boys, which is the first step in building a solid foundation for life in Christian faith, ethics and moral principles. The boys are then enrolled at their appropriate level in the local public school system and integrated into their respective classes. Where love may have been missing in the lives of the boys, it is a critical part of the nurturing environment at El Rancho, and is lavished on them by a highly experienced, caring, and involved staff.  Without El Rancho Del Rey, many of these boys would be left to wander the streets on their own, without an education, without a future, soon becoming fodder for the drug gangs that dominate the border region of Mexico with the United States. Now in the sixth decade of its existence, over 1,000 boys have found a home at El Rancho, with many of them going on to become good citizens of their country, and loving husbands and fathers. Where their futures may have appeared bleak otherwise, as adults a large number of them have achieved success in life as pastors, lawyers, business men, teachers, engineers, accountants, tradesmen and public servants.

Photo of Hank and Ann in 2010.

Anne and Hank Moller.

El Rancho Del Rey was founded by Henry (Hank) and Anne Moller, a missionary couple from the United States, who followed God’s leading to their life’s work in Mexico in 1954. Anne was born Anne Louisa Reim in Plumsteadville, Pennsylvania, on Aug. 10, 1921, the daughter of Otto and Blanch Reim. She grew up, along with her sister and lifelong friend, Gladys, in Warminster, Pennsylvania. Nearby was an orphanage called “Christ’s Home” where Anne first felt the warmth of God’s inspiring love, and witnessed what could be accomplished through His people.  It was largely through the divine influence of “Christ’s Home” that, at age 13, Anne accepted God’s redemptive grace. Soon her sister, Gladys, as well as the rest of the family, followed in her profession of faith.

Henry Moller was born in the Bronx, New York, on July 8, 1920, the son of Max and Lillian Moller. He had one brother, Herbert.  Five years later, Hank’s family moved to Jamaica, Long Island, near what became known as Idlewild Airport, but now known as John F. Kennedy Airport. He was bitten by the aviation bug as a youngster when the big news broke that Charles Lindberg had made the first solo flight from New York to Paris in May 1927. Henry began building model airplanes and would go for Sunday drives with his parents (after Sunday school, as he would later stress) to watch the planes taking off and landing at the various Long Island airfields. After elementary school, he enrolled in Haaren High School in Manhattan where there was an aviation trades program. When Henry graduated in 1938, it was still during the Great Depression, and he had to take work wherever he could find it. At one temporary carpentry shop job, the foreman declared that, henceforth, Henry would be called “Hank”, and the name stuck. A year later, as the political situation in Europe began to deteriorate, Hank went to work for the Brewster Aircraft Co., which was building the first low-wing, metal, monoplane aircraft to fly off the U.S.S. Lexington aircraft carrier: the F2A-2, known as the Buffalo.

On December 8, 1941, one day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Hank was transferred by Brewster Aircraft to the company’s new plant at Johnsville, Pennsylvania, just a couple of miles away from the Reim family home. Hank was able to secure lodging with an older couple that was renting a room, but he had to find his meals elsewhere. A friend told him that at the home where he was boarding, the landlady had extra places at the dinner table, and might be willing to provide suppers for Hank too. It so happened that his friend was boarding at the Reim’s house, and when Hank asked Blanch Reim if he could buy his evening meal there each day, she agreed.  When Hank entered the front door on his first day for dinner, a young lady, who of course was Anne, was playing hymns on the piano. Walking over to introduce himself, Hank asked Anne if she could play “Amazing Grace”.  She could, and as she was playing, they struck up a conversation that continued until dinner. In the course of that conversation, Anne invited Hank to a series of tent meetings being held that week near the Gospel Hall where she attended church.  Now smitten for the second time in his life, Hank happily agreed to meet her at the tent meeting later that evening, and subsequently attended each night for the rest of the week. It was at one of those meetings, just a week after his 22nd birthday, that Hank received the Lord, Jesus, as his Savior. From that point on, Hank later declared, he was a changed man.

April 4, 1944

Hank and Anne continued to date, and decided in September 1942 to attend night school together at the Philadelphia School of the Bible. They were married on April 5, 1944, in the Bethany Baptist Church, Hank’s former church in Jamaica, Long Island. Shortly afterwards, Hank left for service in the Marine Corps, where he continued as an aviation mechanic. He found himself working on some of the exact same planes he had built while working at Brewster Aircraft in Johnsville: F3A-1 Corsair fighters. He could tell by the serial numbers of some of the parts that he had installed earlier at the factory.

Photo of Hank and his airplane.

Hank Moller’s airplane ministry in action.

As World War II wound down, a group of Christian pilots and related aviationpeople conceived of the airplane as a tool for serving remote Christian missions throughout the world. In late 1946 the group organized and began what was to become known as the Missionary Aviation Fellowship. Hank heard of the group and drove to some of the early meetings with a friend, Nate Saint, a pilot and fellow aviation mechanic, living nearby. Since it was decided that the new organization was to become based in southern California, Hank would only be able to serve as a supporting member; he needed to remain in Pennsylvania while he was completing his studies at the Philadelphia School of the Bible, and getting his own pilot’s license under the G.I. Bill.

Anne graduated from Bible school in 1946, but Hank’s studies were interrupted by the War, and he would not finish until 1949.  His senior thesis was The Airplane as a Tool for Modern Missions. Both Hank and Anne had felt a strong call to serve the Lord as missionaries to Latin America while they were still in Bible school, and soon began seeking opportunities to serve. They struck up a written correspondence with Dr. Wilfred Tidmarsh, an English missionary serving in Ecuador. Dr. Tidmarsh was associated with a group known as The Plymouth Brethren. Among each other, they were simple known as “the brethren”, spelled with a small “b”, in deference to humility. It was the same group that had sponsored the tent meetings near Anne’s Gospel Hall where Hank had been saved. They were called the Plymouth Brethren for the town in England where they first came into prominence. To this day, they are still a solid Bible believing group who differ from other evangelical Christian churches in that they have no pastor, but all share together in the ministry of each local congregation.

Dr. Tidmarsh was looking for young men to take over his work among the Quechua Indians of the Eastern Ecuadorian lowland jungles at a remote mission base called Shandia. Hank and Anne were attracted to the possibility of combining Dr. Tidmarsh’s remote field mission work and helping out with the work of the Missionary Aviation Fellowship. The MAF in Ecuador had established a base at an old oil exploration facility at Shell Mera, just a short flight from Shandia. The two mission opportunities seemed like a perfect match for Hank and Anne, so they thought surely God was calling them to serve in Ecuador. But, as Anne would later write, “All doors seemed open but we lacked permission from the DOORKEEPER to pass through!  We continued to pray; more earnestly and definitely than we ever had before in our lives, but we could not get a ‘Go-ahead’. It seemed that there was a cloud hovering over us…The cloud didn’t move. There was no promise from the Word, no opening up, no still small voice, no way.”

With nothing but silence in answer to their prayers, Hank and Anne declined Dr. Tidmarsh’s offer. They later learned that three other men had been accepted to take on the work at Shandia: Jim Elliot, Pete Fleming and Ed McCully. Just a few years later, in January 1956, those three, plus Hank’s pilot friend, Nate Saint, who was still with the Missionary Aviation Fellowship, and another missionary, Rodger Youderian, undertook a project to make contact with, and evangelize, a dangerously violent tribe known as the Aucas. After a few tentative but promising contacts had been made with the tribe, the missionaries flew in and landed on a sandbar along a remote jungle river in Auca territory hoping to gain acceptance as friends of the tribe. Unexpectedly, the spear-wielding Aucas emerged from the jungle only to attack the young missionaries, and murder them all. Their bodies were left on the sandbar and in the riverbed  where they lay. A book about the tragedy, “Through the Gates of Splendor”, was later written, which in turn led to a feature length movie. Over the years, a quote by Jim Elliot would inspire Hank and Anne in their life’s work, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose”.  We give thanks today that God chose not to use Hank and Anne Moller for His work in Ecuador.  He had other plans for them.

Hank and Anne with the family in tow!

Struggling to get the fire for foreign mission work in their hearts under control, Hank and Anne, now with three young children, Joanne, Linda, and Clifford, set off for Oregon towing a home-built luggage trailer Hank had cobbled together behind their new 1953 Chevy station wagon. In Oregon, Hank and Anne attended a mission school that prepared missionaries for overseas work. Five months later, they moved to Southern California, where Hank had taken a job at North American Aviation, but both continued to seek the Lord’s guidance and direction into full-time mission work. While there, they were introduced to a Mexican/American group doing weekend evangelistic work in the Mexican border town of Mexicali.  It was there, during devotions one night, that God spoke to the Mollers through the Scriptures saying, “I have set before you an open door [Mexico] which no man can close”.  Finally, they knew in their hearts where God wanted them to be. After cashing in Hank’s small life insurance policy for start-up money, and taking a loan for a small travel trailer, the Moller’s pulled up stakes again, and headed off for Mexico.

Photo of the camper along the Mexican coast.

Following God's will through Mexico.

By July 1954 the Mollers were in Mexico, full-time, sharing the Gospel wherever the Lord, and their 1953 Chevy took them. Throughout Mexico their hearts were broken over and over again by the large numbers of homeless young boys living in the streets, sleeping wherever they could find shelter, often covering themselves with cardboard and newspapers for warmth at night. A year and a half into their wanderings, God gave a clear call to the Mollers to settle in Monterrey, Mexico, to minister to the many homeless boys they found there. Friends had a house with a downstairs apartment that was available, and they moved in.  It wasn’t long before Hank and Anne had taken in six homeless boys they found living in the municipal cemetery. Those boys, plus their own family, made eleven people living in one small apartment; an obviously unacceptable arrangement for the long term.

The Mollers went looking for permanent quarters for what they envisioned would become a boy’s group home.  In September 1956 they found a beautiful old Spanish colonial hacienda for rent, 25 miles south of Monterrey, which was spectacularly located in a broad valley between two precipitous ranges of the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains. The farm was an orchard with more than 1,500 orange trees. Without knowing where the money would come from, the Mollers jumped at the opportunity, and signed a lease with a two-year option to buy. They named the place El Rancho Del Rey, or Ranch of the King for our Savior, the King of Kings.  Besides the substantial, adobe style main house and the orchard, there was a windmill for pumping well water, and lots of acreage to expand. The extra bedrooms in the main house became the first dormitories for their growing group of boys. But to keep the property God was going to have to do some miraculous work and raise the $12,500 that would be needed over the next two years. It was a huge leap of faith, but God did what they prayed for in a series of large and small miracles over that time.

Photo of El Rancho Del Rey in the late 1950's.

El Rancho Del Rey as it appeared in the late 50’s.

During the summer of 1957, the Mollers traveled back to the United States, hoping to share the Spirit-lit fire of their vision with others, and to raise enough money to fulfill the option to buy El Rancho Del Rey.  God answered their prayers and began to work financial miracles. In Anne’s home state of Pennsylvania they found four Christian business men and formed a non-profit corporation called Del Rey Missions, Inc. to handle legal issues and a tax exempt status for the benefit of donors.  On April 28, 1958, the Court of Common Pleas of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, granted Del Rey Missions non-profit corporation status. The stated purposes in the articles of incorporation of Del Rey Missions are:

1.  To propagate the Gospel of Jesus Christ by all available means at Home and in Foreign Lands.
2.  To show Christian charity by providing a place for the care, protection and guidance of needy children.

It is a corporation which does not contemplate pecuniary gain or profit, incidental or otherwise, to its members. It shall be maintained and operated by contributions, gifts, and free-will offerings, of its members and friends.                The term of its mission is perpetual.

The principal work and beneficiary of Del Rey Missions, a 501 (c) (3) tax exempt corporation, is El Rancho Del Rey in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico. Since its inception, it has been entirely supported by the free will offerings of churches, and enthusiastic friends and supporters.

In 1961, the Mollers began the expansion of the campus with the construction of a large, multi-purpose kitchen, dining hall, and chapel.  The dining hall was designed to hold as many as sixty boys and staff, and converts to a chapel where the boys come together to hear the Good News of God’s love, and celebrate His presence with music or plays based on the great stories and lessons of the Bible. As many as 300 people- friends and family- have attended the annual Christmas plays produced by the staff and the boys.

Since then, four large dorms have been built with attached apartments for dorm staff and their families.  There is also a large dormitory for visiting short-term missionary groups. What was originally an airplane hangar for Hanks airplane has been converted to a well equipped workshop with lots of storage. Centrally located between two of the dorms is a large recreation room and study hall.  Most of the buildings were built close together and are interconnected by covered breezeways.  The compound is surrounded by a stucco wall that used to have a large wrought iron gate at the main entrance.  However the heavy gate was removed so that the boys would know they could leave if they felt they had to; the Mollers have never wanted to convey the impression that the boys are in any way locked in.  They are free to walk out if they cannot adjust to life at El Rancho, but they rarely do.

The ministry of El Rancho Del Rey has never ended at the wall of the compound. For many years Hank was able to put his piloting skills to use for the Lord from a small airstrip behind the dorms.  With his own plane he flew into remote Mexican villages with critical food and medical supplies, ferried people, or dropped gospel literature.  Anne in advanced years would write, “…thru the clouds, in the rain or bathed in the sunlight of 100 plus degrees heat; in incident and accident God had protected him. Seemingly he loved to fly more than most other things in life!  He was still alive, fulfilling his dream, his call, using his talent.  My heart swelled with gratitude. God was so good.” It was only when modern housing developments encroached on the compound of El Rancho itself, that Hanks mercy flights had to be suspended for fear of hitting the new homes sprouting up in his flight path.

Photo of Danny and Boys in street ministry.

Danny & the Boys, Street Ministry in Action, begun by Anne Moller.

Anne also had her own special mission work. Over 55 years ago she, with the aid of other staff and enthusiastic boys, began a street ministry spreading the word of God beyond El Rancho to those living in the poor barrios and “colonias” around them. Since then, the Word has been taught in the open streets, in little adobe homes, under the shade of a tree, or in a plaza- wherever people could be gathered to listen. The boys would often start with a few songs of praise while people gathered, and then Anne would share the love of Jesus with many who in turn grew to love her back. Anne went to be with the Lord on January 31, 2009, but her street ministry is carried on by her dedicated son, Danny.  Danny has inherited his mother’s great love for the people of Mexico, and is able impart the Gospel by the same grace and power of the Holy Spirit that was present in his mother’s heart. Anne Moller once said, “Spreading the good news is a privilege the children enjoy and share as they go with us to the villages to sing and pray for the sick and the lonely. Some of the old ladies insist on blessing each child and touching them lovingly and piously as though they were precious gifts from God. And indeed they are.”

Since Anne’s passing, her husband Hank and Danny have carried on with both the work of El Rancho Del Rey and the street ministry.  Each year a new crop of boys arrive, many of them now referred to El Rancho by local social services departments.  Each year another group graduates and goes out into the world with a hope that they would never have had without El Rancho Del Rey.  As Anne wrote, “Little did we dream that the sons of the street that God allowed to find refuge with us, and the village people who have trusted Christ, would become co-heirs with us of the broad fields of Eternal Life.  Little did we know that though we were strangers and foreigners in Mexico, the Mexicans would accept us from their hearts and say, “mi casa es su casa,” and we would know and marvel of the grace of God that allowed us to share Christ and make Him dear to these beloved Mexican children and friends.”

So, we invite you to share in the work of El Rancho Del Rey.  They still depend entirely on the free will gifts provided by churches and friends whom the Holy Spirit has inspired to share their vision and dream. From time to time, copies of the El Rancho newsletter, Way Places, will be posted on this site so you can follow the news of the lives of the boys.  God has entrusted them into the care of the staff of El Rancho for His great purposes and plan. Please pray for the boys, and for God to sustain His wonderful work in this place. And, may the Lord bless you for your interest in El Rancho Del Rey.