Five years after graduation, Ralph is guiding others

Ralph remembers standing in the bathroom in 2010, looking into the mirror. “I had fallen into the bottle and couldn’t find my way back out. I couldn’t stand what I was seeing,” he said. “I prayed heavily all morning. Then I saw my mountain bike. I put the bottle away, and my sons helped me empty my apartment. I didn’t know where I was going, and I didn’t know if I had any intentions on coming back.”

Ralph, who managed a freightliner truck dealership, asked for three months off of work. “I jumped on my bicycle and rode from Ventura to Washington. Then I turned around and rode back. You might say I was in search of God and he found me. He kept me sober the whole time.

“I had finally found the peace I was looking for. Things were so hectic in life and in business—lying, cheating, stealing. Now I had no one to answer to but God. It changed my life.”

Ralph returned to work, and a couple years later, relapsed. “I jumped on the bicycle again, hoping to recover what I had lost,” said. And for a short time, he did. But after the company he worked for was sold, and Ralph was forced into early retirement, he was unable to steer clear of the alcohol. His youngest son took him to a program in Canoga Park in 2015, but he stayed only a month.

“I was looking for more God than what they were feeding me,” he said. “Something was telling me to go—it was the Holy Spirit working in me. I walked from Canoga Park to Oxnard with no money, no food—I was eating off the fruit trees.”

Finally, when Ralph got to Oxnard, he was approached by a man who asked him if he was hungry. “I was starved,” he said. “He told me that two blocks over the Mission would be serving dinner in an hour. I can’t remember what he looked like, and I never saw him again. It was a Sunday night. There was a chicken dinner. I talked to (some current clients) about the program, and they talked me into coming back the next morning for an interview.

“I was drinking so heavily at that time, it was unreal,” Ralph added. “I don’t want to glorify it—it sickens me when I think about it. I smoked a pack-and-a-half each day for 33 years. When I was entering the program, the chaplain asked if I was ready. I said, ‘I’m ready,’ I threw the pack to my son, and never touched them again.”

Ralph graduated the Life Recovery Program in August 2016. He served as a ministry intern for two years and proudly says he’s worked almost every job at the Mission. “I needed this. I wanted this. When I first came into the program, my oldest son gave me a letter. It said, ‘Dad, I love you, but I don’t want you around me or my wife in the condition you are in.’ that ripped me apart. We have Refuge, Recovery, and Restoration, and I got all three big time—especially Restoration. Three months in, my son wrote me another letter inviting me to dinner with him and his wife.”

Ralph is now a program associate and teaches a couple classes to the program clients. He also counsels the men, and has a caseload of clients he works with on a weekly basis. On Friday mornings, he leads worship. “God waited until my heart was ready to work with the guys,” he said.

While the pandemic has been “very trying,” something good came out of it for Ralph. “I was new to social media, but it was the only way to talk to people,” he said. “I sent a friend request to a woman I had been friends with for 37 years but hadn’t seen (for some time). I was blown away—she answered straight away. We started a relationship and it blossomed.”

Ralph asked her to marry him, and she relocated to Ventura. “I proposed to her properly up at the Cross (at Grant Park in Ventura). We got married in the morning on March 20, at the end of the Ventura Pier. It’s just amazing. God answers your prayers in his time, not ours.”

Now, Ralph is focused on helping others. “I pray constantly with the guys and to myself as well, that those out there still suffering would find these double doors and the refuge of the Mission,” he said. “I get to hear testimonies of these guys every single day. To be able to see these men graduate the program, it’s a true blessing. And it doesn’t end there. In fact, that may be just the beginning.”