Jan grew up in a Christian home in Houston, Texas, and she went with her family to church several times a week. As a result, she was consistently exposed to the word of God through Bible stories and prayer. She came to appreciate how those early childhood teachings translated into the spiritual disciplines that she practices in her adult life.
Although she came to know Christ at the age of seven, Jan believes God provided her the assurance of her salvation while she was a student at the University of Texas. During her freshman year at UT, she attended a church led by a pastor trained at DTS.
Jan graduated from UT in 1974 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Her career as an RN spanned five years and included time in pediatrics, neurology/neurosurgery, otorhinolaryngology (ENT), and emergency room care. There, she interacted with people from all walks of life.
In 1976, Jan married Steve, her husband of 44 years. They are blessed with five children and six grandchildren. During her years as a stay-at-home mom, Jan continued to walk with the Lord by devoting her time to her family and outreach in her neighborhood. During those precious years, she taught the Scriptures to children both inside and outside her family.
As her own children left the nest, she was asked by a friend to partner with her in a neighborhood Bible study. One day she came face-to-face with a difficult passage of Scripture that she could not explain. She approached the women’s ministry director at her church—Courtney Garrett (MACE, 2004). Courtney told Jan that she should look into studying systematic theology.
Courtney’s advice put her on the road to DTS. The solid teaching of the people and pastors she had encountered in her adult life had already established her great respect for Dallas Theological Seminary. After several years of study, Jan graduated in 2017 with a Master of Arts in Christian Education (MACE) with an emphasis in women’s ministry and currently serves on the DTS-Houston Alumni Leadership Team.
DTS opened up my world. The students at DTS in Houston are multi-generational, and they reflect the ethnic diversity of our city as well. I sat by people from all different backgrounds and from all over the world. I was gleeful when it was time to go to class to learn and interact with the students and professors. Basically, I loved it all!
Soon after graduating in 2017, my husband developed cancer. That difficult circumstance reinforced our goal of opening our home as a way for God to use us. During this time of COVID-19, I am learning to lead Bible study on Zoom and build relationships with women online or socially distanced in my backyard. I also have more opportunities to build relationships with my three grandkids living with us. All the while, my neighborhood Bible study continues in its 21st year. Through my training, time, and experience, I have sought to be a better leader and teacher.
My advice to students is to pursue community. It was hard for me to settle for a grade less than an A, but it was necessary to keep my family priorities straight. Even though most everything is online right now, it is important to try to get to know other students in your classes and in your Spiritual Formation group. The community aspect of knowing your fellow students can widen your horizons.
It was a privilege to study at DTS. I am grateful to the seminary for giving me a deeper commitment to interpreting Scripture well. The teaching I received increased my understanding of how the whole Bible fits together. Despite the current turmoil, I have a deep-seated belief that God’s plan is working out, and Christ will return! Thank you, DTS. You have been a blessing to me!
Shirley Ralston (MACE, 2008) serves on the leadership team for the DTS-Houston Alumni Association. She is a writer, teacher, and pastor’s research team member at Houston’s First Baptist Church. She is also a founding member of the HFBC Missionary Care Team. Shirley and her husband Jeff now reside in Houston after several years living in the Middle East and the South Pacific.