Ron Marple has come a long way from being a hard-hearted little boy.
By his own admission, Ron Marple says that as a boy he was hard-hearted, cruel, insensitive, self-centered, and worst of all, frightened. But that all changed when a brigade of cadets came to his corps in Bellaire, Ohio for Spring Campaigns in 1967.
“There was a change in me that night that can only be described as miraculous,” Ron says. “Looking back I can see God’s guiding hand throughout my life.”
Ron makes this point because a few incidents over the years confirms for him that he and his family are in God’s hands.
“When I was 12, I came within an instant of death by strangulation,” Ron explains. “Something lodged in my throat and completely cut off my breathing. Things were fading from red to black and there was nothing my parents could do. I was slipping away!”
Suddenly the object was removed and Ron survived.
“God wasn’t finished with me then; nor is He now.”
Ron is in his 60s and he looks back on his new life in Christ as something just as real and vibrant as when he first acknowledged Jesus as Lord and Savior.
It’s still new. He still feels transformed.
“I once filled out my papers to attend the School for Officers Training. This didn’t work out. I met my wife, got a home, and started a family,” Ron says.
“I used to beat myself up quite a bit about that, feeling that I had failed God and myself. Seven other people went to training for here at that same time, pretty much gutting this small corps of my age group.
“Looking back on it, I believe it was God’s intention that I stay and help to ‘hold the fort.’”
Indeed Ron has done just that. Through the decades that followed his decision to remain a Bellaire Corps local officer, God has used Ron to support the work in various capacities.
He was named 2014 Soldier of the Year in the NEOSA Division (Northeast Ohio), although he believes a number of others were perhaps more qualified.
“My particular mentor was Bandmaster Clair Klaas. He was short in stature but a giant in Godliness. He taught me to play a euphonium and how to explore the Bible.”
The bandmaster was also Ron’s inspiration to become a teacher. Ron graduated from Ohio University with a Bachelor of Science in Education. Upon graduation, God sent a job offer from a local school district where Ron hadn’t even applied.
For Ron, however, the biggest evidence of God’s providence over his family came in 2015.
“I had the opportunity to go to Boundless (The Salvation Army’s International Congress held in London to mark our 150thanniversary),” Ron explains, “but I finally had to turn the trip down.”
This was a God-thing.
“At the very time our delegation was boarding the plane for London, I discovered my wife (Suzie) unconscious in our hallway, lying in a pool of blood. Unknown to us, she had developed an ulcer on an artery in her stomach and it had burst. Had I been getting on that plane, no one would have been there to find her—or if she had gone, this would have happened at the airport!”
Suzie survived, although through the entire episode she needed a near-total transfusion of seven liters of blood.
Another hallmark of Ron’s life came when he attended the National Seminar on Evangelism, held annually in Glen Eyrie, Colorado.
“Going to NSE for lessons in evangelism changed me,” Ron insists. “People who know me say I came back with a great deal more confidence. I am not by nature a confident fellow, but I’ve learned that my confidence is not in myself but in God.”
Ron has come a long way from the unsure, scared boy he once was. And it’s all due to his ever-growing relationship with Christ.
“The three-way connection between God, you, and the fallen world isn’t supposed to be comfortable. Believe me, there is a deeper kind of opening of yourself waiting to be discovered.
“You cannot live a divided life, giving most of yourself to God but not all. You are setting yourself up for misery and disaster. I know. I’ve tried!”
Major Frank Duracher is the Assistant Editor, National Publications.