|At the Senior Class Dinner|
“You should get an award for the longest commute!” That’s what many of Ralph’s professors and fellow students said as they congratulated him at the Senior Class dinner and the commencement and reception. When Ralph explained that this year he’d frequently taken the train to and from San Diego, which afforded him several hours of dedicated reading/study time, their eyes often glazed over with wishfulness that they’d had the time to do the reading and coursework demanded of seminary.
|Entering the church for commencement service.|
Ralph started his Bethel Seminary education at North Coast Calvary Chapel in Encinitas, where as a staff pastor he facilitated a seminary off-site class, and took advantage of the opportunity as a student, himself. Once he was enrolled, Ralph’s natural academic bent was invigorated. When I met him, Ralph was a pre-ministerial philosophy student at NAU, considering seminary at Gordon-Conwell, Fuller, and Denver. The Christian zeitgeist, however, encouraged Ralph to fast-track his ministry path via Calvary Chapel Bible School and Vineyard Christian Fellowship internship and in-house training. That enthusiasm to jump into ministry prompted Ralph to jump out of his bachelor’s degree program before he finished his senior year and earned his bachelor’s degree. Bethel recognized the extent of Ralph’s college coursework and his years of ministry experience; they waived the degree requirement and accepted him on probation for the first two quarters, during which he excelled.
|Ralph smiling for his brother's camera|
Changes and challenges notwithstanding, Ralph continued to take classes as steadily as he could, sometimes with me demanding he not quit! When we moved to Santa Maria, Ralph took intensive classes that met for several hours in a week, and required independent reading, research, and written responses. He took online classes, and independent study classes. And, for several quarters, he commuted to San Diego, stayed with friends in their homes, and worked in the library as much as possible before driving home. When he started taking the train, he learned the bus and trolley system in San Diego as well, and further increased his education in practical ways!
Throughout his academic career, Ralph has impressed me with his dedication to thoughtful and quality work. He respected and learned from his scholarly and missional teachers. He read the books. He participated in group on-line discussions and projects. He wrote countless papers, reflections, essays. He earned top grades in all his core classes. And he let it soak in and challenge and inform his intellect and his soul. And he still came home and took out the trash, washed dishes, mowed lawns, etc. I am very, very proud of him.
|Ralph with Mark Foreman and fellow mentee and graduate, Bernard Jones.|
At the graduation ceremony, there was a dignity and solemnity when Ralph walked across the stage, knelt when his hood was placed on his shoulders, received his degree, and was greeted by his mentor, Mark Foreman. Mark is the pastor at North Coast Calvary Chapel, where Ralph first started taking Bethel classes, and was, long before that, Ralph’s teacher at Calvary Chapel Bible School, and one who hired Ralph to himself teach at CCBS, and who also pastored a Vineyard Christian Fellowship for many years. Eight years later, 20 years later, 35 years later, Mark’s participation in Ralph’s ceremony was significant to us.
|Proud family members!|
We stood when Ralph’s name was called; I was joined by John, Maristella and Cory, Vicki, John and his friend, Cristina, and our friend, Darron. Evelyn joined us afterwards, when we enjoyed lunch together at PF Chang’s. Ralph put on his mortarboard to protect his head from the sun, and other diners congratulated him on his big accomplishment. Then, we drove home. And we’re open to whatever might be next!