At first glance, Ray Degani appears much younger than his 31 years. And his casual dress and demeanor belies the fact that he is a leader who is getting things done.
As Men’s Connect Director, he is organizing events where men can share their thoughts on how to go about their day as men of God.
“I want to be the man God wants me to be,” Ray said. “(Events like) the Saturday morning breakfast and the annual retreat are perfect for this because we can have a good time doing something of real value.”
In 2016, then-Men’s Connect Director Joe Preston invited Ray to participate in organizing the monthly Men’s Breakfast.
Ray’s ability to manage the breakfast and other the projects allowed Joe to hand him the baton. Ray credits Joe and Steve Seeger for helping him manage things, and not just the details of preparing vittles for 25 to 30 hungry men.
"They are mentors to me", Ray said. "I've learned a lot from them in large and small ways".
Ray's faith in God has always been a part of his life and he talks to God everyday.
I've never had a thunderous moment where I went from non-believer to believer. I've always always been on board".
Ray and his older brother, Greg, grew up in Simi Valley. Their parents, Greg, Sr., and Julie, have both passed away. Julie suffered from an autoimmune disorder diagnosed when she was a young woman.
"My whole life has been defined by her illness," he said. "Most of my life was focused on taking care of her."
Ray and his wife, Emily (nee Monreal) have been married for five years.
They met in 2012 while working together at BJ’s restaurant.
“We didn’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things at first, so I didn’t think we would even be dating,” Ray said.
One day, before leaving work, he jokingly told her to text him so they could meet after work. “She didn’t actually have my number so I didn’t expect her to text.
But she went on the company intranet and got it and sent me the text,” Ray said.
One year later they were married. Ray is one of three brothers in-law that have played leadership roles at Life Spring. Emily’s sisters and their husbands are Lisa and Thinus Van der Merwe and Megan and Scott Wetzel.
At first, Ray was reluctant to come to Life Spring, but Emily convinced him otherwise. He’s glad he listened to his wife. “Things weren’t easy in our marriage at first,” he said. “But after letting Jesus be Number One in me and our marriage—our marriage is the best thing in my life now.”