At Preview Day last fall, Ruby Loera walked in the doors of Criswell College with her daughter Vanessa, an incoming freshman. But that was not the first time she had been on campus.
That story begins when she was a student in junior college more than 10 years ago and felt the Lord calling her into ministry.
“I felt strongly that he was calling me into counseling,” Ruby said. “But I didn’t know where to go.”
She sought out advice from her pastor, who suggested several options, before deciding to enroll in the undergraduate program at Criswell. However, as a working mother of a young daughter, completing a degree was not easy.
“I was working at a bank part-time and coming here during the day. It was really hard because as soon as I was done here I was running to pick up either my daughter from school when she was little or running to go to work,” she said. “It was really hard to balance all of that together, but God gave me the strength to finish.”
Among the high points of her time at Criswell was the interaction she had with faculty. Ruby pointed to Dr. Steve Hunter, one of her counseling professors, as one who had the most impact on her.
“He wants to help people, and help them heal using the word of God,” she said. “I thought to myself, this is where I’m supposed to be. I want to be someone who impacts the lives of other people.”
Ruby’s calling to become a counselor stems in part from her own difficulty dealing with abuse she suffered as a child, as well as her desire to help people find healing.
“There are counselors out there that are not Christians, and they guide people in the wrong way. But the only one who can bring true healing is Christ,” she said. “And he was my true healer. I felt that God was calling me into counseling so I could help others heal the way God has healed me.”
After graduating in 2006 Ruby worked as the director of a preschool for two and a half years before finding out she was expecting another child. Now a stay-at-home mom, the call to work as counselor has manifested itself in an unexpected way.
“I want to come back and get my master’s so that I can fully be able to practice in that field, but I feel like God has used me even though I don’t have that accreditation,” she said. “God has given me the ability and has equipped me with the tools at Criswell to counsel other people. It’s amazing the way God puts hurting people in your life to be able to use what God has trained you in and help other people.”
And while Ruby has been able to offer biblical counsel to those the Lord has put in her life, the call to finish her education and work vocationally as a counselor is still there.
“I always feel like God is poking me, telling me to go back. I’ve researched other colleges to do my master’s, but Criswell keeps coming back to mind and I feel like God wants me here,” she explained. “So I’m like, Lord if you want me here, you’re going to provide. You’re going to do whatever it takes for me to be here.”
This spring Ruby is slated to return to school at Criswell to begin work on her Master of Arts in Counseling. And while not in the same program, the daughter she once left class to pick up from school will now be a fellow student.
Vanessa, Ruby’s oldest daughter, has always been interested in pursuing a career in education. As she approached her high school graduation last year, her mom encouraged her to pray about where to go.
“I remember one morning having my devotional, and as she was about to go to school in the last few days, Criswell came to mind. I was praying and I felt like the Holy Spirit said, ‘Vanessa needs to go to Criswell.’ And in my mind I’m thinking that they have an education program and so I told Vanessa she could start there,” Ruby said. “The thing is, I never researched if Criswell had an education program.”
Ruby mentioned Criswell to her daughter in the spring of 2016, months before the education program had been finalized.
“I was telling this to my daughter months ago, before the program had even been approved for accreditation. I told her that Criswell had an education program before I even knew,” she said. “I know that God definitely wants her here.”
A journey that began over a decade ago now comes full circle as both Ruby as Vanessa prepare to come back to Criswell when school starts this month. And while a degree in counseling or education is important, Ruby said the most important part of an education at Criswell is something much larger.
“You get taught the Word of God here, to study it and to make it not just theory, but to make it personal,” she said. “It’s about helping people. And I think that’s what Criswell is all about. That God prepares your heart with his word and equips you so that you can help other people.”