Friday, January 04, 2008

Tribute to Ralph Wiley by Son Galen

Longtime Grace Brethren pastor and prison chaplain Ralph Wiley passed into the presence of his Lord on Thursday, January 3. Here is a tribute to Ralph by his son, Galen, who pastors the Grace Brethren church in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. In this photo Ralph is at left, grandson Jonathan is in the middle, and son Galen is at right.

Ralph Wiley took his final flight on Thursday, January 3, 2008. He boarded the plane at 5:18 PM and arrived safely at his destination at 5:18 PM in heaven’s terminal.

He was greeted by the Lord – and by his sweetheart of 59 years – and by a host of others welcoming him home. He had gotten his boarding pass on November 7 when the doctor told him what he called the “best news he had heard in years” – his body was full of cancer and he would probably be dead in two months. And ever since then he has been so excited that he could hardly wait. And now the wait is over – and he is home free.

In typical Ralph Wiley fashion, he planned and led his own “Living Memorial Service” on Sunday morning, November 25, at his beloved GBC in Sebring, Florida. He joked that he wanted “to hear all the good things that people had to say about him.”

The real reason was that he could never pass up an opportunity to preach – and he wanted to have one last opportunity to challenge people to love the Lord with all their hearts so they could live like trees planted by the streams of water (Psalm 1). That was a real highlight for him and his family, as all five of his children were present along with several of their spouses.

He spent his final weeks then with his daughter and husband, Mark and Ruth Chibis, in Hallandale Beach, Florida. During that time many of his children and grandchildren were able to visit and call and celebrate the impact he has had in their lives.

He also had the joy of leading a woman to the Lord one week before he died, as she wanted to talk to someone who was not afraid to die. He had willed his body to science (in the hopes that others could be helped), so there will be no further funeral or memorial service.

Ralph Wiley has had a huge impact in the life and ministry of the Fellowship of Grace Brethren Churches since he began at the GBC in Galion, Ohio, in the early 1960s.

After serving as Protestant Chaplain at a prison in Marion, Ohio, for about 28 years, he retired early and began serving as interim pastor and wife in many churches in our Fellowship: Akron Ellet (twice) and Minerva in Ohio; Charlotte in North Carolina; Orlando, Maitland, Okeechobee, Fort Lauderdale (twice) and Sebring (twice) in Florida.

He also served with CE National for several years as a Senior Adult Coordinator. He and his wife Dorotha have also invested deeply in missions through our Grace Brethren International Missions, with special burdens for the pygmies in Africa and the church-planters in the Philippines.

His desire would be that any memorial gifts would go to GBIM, designated for the “Filipino church planters” working with Ted Ruiz (GBIM; PO Box 80065; City of Industry, CA 91716-8065).

He has also left a living legacy in the Fellowship as his son Galen Wiley is pastor at the GBC in Lancaster, PA, his granddaughter Letitia Yoder with her husband Mike is serving with Grace Brethren International Missions as a missionary in Berlin, Germany, his grandson Jonathan Wiley with his wife Kim is on the pastoral staff at the GBC in Columbus, Ohio, and his granddaughter Katrina Walker with her husband Cort was involved at the Liberty GBC in Johnson, PA, as their first pastor for several years (before Cort went to Regent University for his law degree to help defend Christian freedoms).

Ralph has impacted countless lives with his love for the Lord, his love for people, his delightful humor, and his constant challenge to believe in Jesus and follow Him. He has run the race well and has crossed the finish line. And now he is enjoying his rewards – and cheering us on to that same victory!!


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