DTS.EDU Alumni Spotlight

By Shirley Ralston
Alumni Spotlight article originally appeared on alumni.dts.edu.

“Connecting God’s story to your life story with all its messes and successes can become your ministry message.” Talulah Ruger

Talulah Ruger describes herself as a mother, grandmother, Bible teacher, nurse, relative, friend to many, and servant-follower of Christ. She is the proud mother of two adult children: Kelsey Ruger and Dr. Erica Giwa (Ruger). She is the grandmother of Julian, Shelby, Gabrielle, Lola, and Ezra.

Talulah worked as an oncology nurse at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. She earned a B.S. in Nursing from UT Medical Branch in Galveston and a M.S. in Nursing/Gerontology from UT Health Science Center at Houston. Caring for cancer patients was her calling—it was also her vocational ministry preparation. She graduated from Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) in 2006 with a M.A. in Christian Education/Church Education Leadership. After a rewarding nursing career, Talulah retired in 2010 to pursue God’s calling to full-time ministry.

Her journey to this point was not easy.

Talulah was raised in Savannah, Georgia. She is the seventh of nine children born to her late parents, who were the pastors of a small church. Growing up, her parents taught her about God, the Bible, service, and the power of prayer. It was not until the age of nineteen, however, that she realized that she did not have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. She was a good kid—but she was living off her parents’ lifestyle, their belief in God, and their prayers. It was during her time living in Bad Kissingen, Germany with her military husband that she came to the realization that she needed Jesus, and she accepted Him as her Savior.

Talulah’s journey to Texas started when she drove 1,300 miles to Houston in a ten-year-old, two-door Toyota Corolla with her five-month-old daughter and seven-year-old son. She left everything she had gathered over eight years of a very turbulent marriage to save herself and her children. This major life change event was the catalyst for embracing her simple faith and trust in God’s perspective on her life. She had no idea how she was going to survive in Houston. Walking with perseverance in a simple faith and trust, she earned three nursing degrees while working full time and raising two children. This chapter of her life contributed to her passion for ministering to women through teaching biblical principles for living and spiritual mentoring.

In 1998, the Holy Spirit made it clear to Talulah that she had an inescapable call on her life to vocational ministry; she received further confirmation of this when she became the first female minister in the twenty-one-year history of New Faith Church in Houston. This began her volunteer bi-vocational ministry and training. She enrolled in DTS-Houston in 1999 as a part-time student while continuing to work full-time. For over ten years, she served in volunteer leadership positions for children, youth, singles, women, and adults in church ministry.

In 2011, Talulah joined the staff of Sugar Creek Baptist Church in Sugar Land, TX.  Her part-time position evolved into full-time work in 2014. Talulah served as the Director of Median Adults and Women’s Spiritual Mentoring until March 2020. She is currently focusing on the completion and publication of her first book. The focus of her writing, teaching, and speaking engagements is spiritual mentorship and mobilization of adults over 50 for intergenerational ministry. In January 2021, Talulah joined the Open Bible Academy in Houston as an instructor.  She also serves on the DTS – Houston Alumni Association leadership team.

Her Anchors of Scripture

But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33, NASB95)

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:11–13, NASB95)

Memorable Professors

“I had so many phenomenal professors. I cannot pick a favorite, but I have two that impacted me during critical times in seminary. My first seminary professor was Dr.  Stephen Bramer. I recall being very overwhelmed after my first class. Dr. Bramer’s testimony about his journey and his prayer for the students in class changed my seminary perspective and my purpose for being there. I was diagnosed with breast cancer during the fall semester of 2001. I persevered and completed two classes while receiving chemotherapy. I often thought of my first class with Dr. Bramer for encouragement during this time. In 2006, I needed one more course to graduate, and it was only offered in Dallas. I flew to Dallas from Houston every Monday after work to attend the Tuesday morning course taught by Dr. Jerry Lawrence. Having a professor like Dr. Lawrence, who was caring and sensitive to my situation, reminded me that I was more than just a student. Attending DTS opened the truth of the Bible for me.  Not only did I gain the knowledge and training to be effective in ministry, but I was also able to connect God’s story to my story.”

Advice to Other Women in Seminary

“Having a mentor and accountability partner during seminary is important. Seek out other students or alumni and establish a network of friends and contacts. Stay connected to your church family or another church and look for ways to serve and grow.  Create a balance. Enjoy life during your seminary journey. Spend quality time with your family and friends. Take time to rest and renew. God has uniquely designed us in different ways and with different gifts. Determine what God has called you to do with your seminary degree before graduation. In addition to praying and asking God, consult with someone in ministry who can assist you with discerning your call. Think outside the box, prepare for change, and be willing to leave your comfort zone. And finally, develop the discipline of waiting on God!”

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. You can find her here: on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram