Just another dark horse

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My friend Ron was the original dark horse. It all started with Marti suggesting I write a song about him.

“How would I do that?” I said. “You can’t just write a song about a guy named Ron.”

She thought for a minute, and then she said, “If he were an animal, what would he be?”

“A stallion,” I said, right away. “A black stallion.” That was easy, because, among friends, we called him the Italian Stallion.

Ron was born and raised in Philadelphia in an orphanage run by Christians, and spent some time in the streets. He had a tough side that would surface occasionally. Think Sylvester Stallone and you’ll be close. Though the Christianity he was exposed to as a child was strict and mostly old covenant, the gospel was implanted in him, and he later responded to it in a big way by answering a call to the ministry. While in the service he met and married Anne Marie, a charming French woman from Morocco, and when he was released, they went to Dallas Theological Seminary. He had the distinction of almost getting kicked out of seminary, and ended up following a couple of other renegades from there to a church in Palo Alto, California, which is where I ran into him and ended up being mentored by him in a discipleship program there.

Ron is a rare Christian who broke the mold of traditional thinking and as such, was well-suited to be a leader during the time of the Jesus movement when many young people were throwing off established religion, but still finding Christ. That has always been Ron’s story, too.

Ron is always discipling men. At any given time, he’ll have a group he calls his Timothies. They walk and they talk together. Ron teaches through his life, and as such, he embodies the new covenant concept of always being available for the Lord to work through you.

However, I would have to say his greatest gift is evangelism. Ron is outgoing, gregarious and can talk to anyone. He listens. He cares. People can feel that he’s for real, even people who are closed to Christianity. He has a way of bringing people out of hiding, and at 80, he’s still doing it. It’s like you discover yourself when you talk to Ron.

I talked to him just last week and he simplified the gospel down to one word: “Hello.” That’s all you need to do. Say “Hello,” and the Lord will take it from there.

He told me about one 91-year-old codger he meets every day on his walk. Ron says, “Hello,” and always stops and talks with him.

He has a sense of humor too. He told me a story about this old gentleman whom he questioned one day about his faith.

“You’re a Catholic aren’t you?” said Ron.

“A Jesuit,” the old man said, proudly.

“Well didn’t they teach you about not taking the Lord’s name in vain?”

“Oh Christ, did I do that again?”

He’s a dark horse, and he’s still leading people to freedom.

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4 Responses to Just another dark horse

  1. Cathy says:

    I had the privilege of attending PBC in the early 70’s where I sat under the teaching of Ron, Ray, Dave and listened to your awesome music John. Your music was the first experience of not just hearing the typical church hymns in church…although I do love singing them, I was glad you opened the door to other choices. I accepted the Lord as my Savior as a teen at PBC, attended Mt. Hermon retreats, got married in this church from Walt, had 4 children, and grew in my faith. I agree with you about Ron and Anne Marie; real special people; thanks for sharing a walk down memory lane.

  2. Lynn Kraft says:

    I went to PBC in the late 70’s. I remember one Easter Ron Ritchie was exclaiming “He is Alive”. I felt like the heavens opened up and the angels were singing. It was the first time I really got it….that sermon still gets used in my life at times 35 years later…..

  3. jwfisch says:

    Wow. These are important times. Times God pulls back the veil.

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