Swing low, sweet chariot


Dark Horse by John Fischer

He’s a dark horse in the nighttime

Heading straight for the enemy camp

And he has no fear ‘cause his eye is clear

Throwing light like a burning lamp

And maybe sometime at the right time

You may see him galloping by

A simple man with a single plan

And the Spirit in his eye


He’s the one who no one thought could make it through

He’s the one who looks a lot like me and you

But he can hear it when the Spirit

Tells him where to go and what to say

‘Cause he knows that he can never be free

When he’s going his own way



He will not deny the struggle in his heart

But he also knows the grace that is his part

And his secret is the Spirit

‘Cause he’s trusting nothing of his own

And he’s fixed his eyes on the highest prize

And he’s headed for his home

He’s the biggest man I know. His name is Ron Ritchie, and like the song says, he’s headed for his home. It looks to be a matter of days. He has refused treatment and is resting under hospice care at home, waiting for that sweet chariot to come for to carry him home. It’s just that, when that chariot does get here, he won’t be getting in it; he’ll be hitched up to it. And why not? He’s the dark horse, after all and he’ll know where to go.

Growing up as an orphan in Philadelphia, he’s always made a way. He’s not one to follow someone else’s path; he makes his own, and it’s been an adventure to share some of that path with him.

Ron has always been a non-conformist. He doesn’t care what everyone else is doing; he only wants to know what he’s supposed to do, and more often than not, he gets his direction from the Holy Spirit. As  a mentor, he’s everything I needed, because he’s everything I’m not — sure of himself, a little cocky (well, true, I have some of that), out-going, friendly to strangers, loud, brash, bigger than life. He’s the kind to start talking and figure it out as he goes. And in many ways, he replaced my silent father, and I will always be grateful for that.

But the important thing is that all of who he is — his humanity and his heart — is in a body that is totally dedicated to following the Lord. When you’ve heard of that for over 20 years, and you finally meet someone who is actually doing it, it has a huge impact. That’s what I owe this man, and that’s what you and I need to be doing too.

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36 Responses to Swing low, sweet chariot

  1. Mark D Seguin says:

    May he RIP and prayers for his family…

  2. John A Fagliano says:

    That was a good tribute to your friend and mentor. God bless his soul.

  3. Wayne C Bridegroom says:

    Hey John,

    So sorry to hear about Ron. That was a special team God put together at PBC. Praying

  4. Gloria Wellman says:

    He will be missed by so many. Our loss, heaven’s gain!

  5. Judy S. LeBlanc says:

    This is such sad news. My deepest condolences to AnnMarie and the family. We will see you again, Ron — I always have and will always be grateful to you and to Ray for being the ones who cemented my faith in Christ. That was one of my life’s biggest blessing. Thank you my friend, indeed you are truly Free At Last.

  6. Roy Insco says:

    PBC and the entire body including pastors Ray Stedman, Dave Roper, Ted Wise and Ron Ritchie I count them as my mentors and my brother. My condolences to the entire PBC family and especially the Ritchies….we will be praying ….In Him

  7. Love Ron’s teaching, illustrations and stories from the pulpit at PBC and Mt. Hermon

  8. Love Ron’s illustrations and pulpit stories at PBC and Mt. Hermon

  9. Gerry Roberts says:

    Thank you.. I was in a bible study at Lynn and Della Bernstein in the 70’s and Barb and Mike Johnson.. Ron has always been instrumental in my walk with the Lord.. I so remember you and your music.. hugs and love to Ann Marie , Ron and family

    Gerry Roberts

  10. Arne Lim says:

    I’ve enjoyed conversations with Ron throughout the years. I’ve remembered his testimony, and always called him Dark Horse. A true man of God.

  11. Blanc Patrick says:

    I am so sorry to learn this sad news . I never forget the kindness in his eyes.
    All m’y thougts go to Anne Marie and their wonderfull boys.
    Each Time i listen the record you gave me 43 years ago
    « Naphtali «  i see Ron and all his family.
    Thank you John

  12. Diane Obera Sutton says:

    How blessed the high schoolers at Walnut Creek Pres were to have Ron for those couple years before PBC!! Over 50 years ago and his influence is still producing fruit for The Kingdom!!

  13. Guy Holloway says:

    Have had the privilege of having Ron at Grace Community BC In Richmond, Va several times and always deeply touched with profound truth and grace. What a “real deal” revealer of the risen Lord Jesus!! We all know a bit better what He is like! Let’s not forget. Guy Holloway

  14. Musette Renee Grage says:

    A giant of a man in my life. He and Anne Marie are probably the two most beautiful people I have met in life. His life has been an extraordinary gift to so many lives, here on earth…and those who proceeded him to Heaven. All my love and a heart full of sorrow. Musette Grage

  15. George Beach says:

    Through Darlene and Steve Hixon, and just a couple of ” personal learning sessions,” Ron taught me to make the sincere effort to know the name of anybody I encounter, particularly those who serve me at a restaurant or store. How can I help them if I dont even know their name? And that was just the tip of the iceberg of how he marked me. Thanks Ron. There will be SO many who will know your name when you go home. Blessings and comfort to all family and friends who will miss Ron so much.

  16. Mark Garner says:

    In the early 80’s with Careers Alive it was Ron who was instrumental in my wife Elke coming to know the Lord. Then the privilege of Ron marrying us in the little chapel at Mt. Hermon. Seeing Ron each Sunday at Menlo Church for the past decade or so has been the joy of my and Elke’s adult lives. Ron and Anne Marie, thanks for your impact on this couple’s marriage and lives. Eternally grateful, and grateful for an eternity to come.

  17. Don and Linda Broesamle says:

    John – astute, accurate, appropriate. Thank you for your vivid portrait, an encouragement to follow in his steps, ever the mentor. Ron’s mark in Linda’s and my life is sweetly indelible. His Anne Marie his perfect compliment, “corresponding to him in every way.”

  18. Jim Catlin says:

    I had a few minutes with Erwin Lutzer, well know pastor for 35 years at Moody Church, when he was here in Salt Lake City a few years ago obliging us with some video interviews. As we got talking about each other’s Christian backgrounds I had mentioned that my early spiritual growth was at PBC during the early 70’s. He searched his memory for a second trying to come up with the pastor’s name. “Who was that guy?” he started. Ray’s name started to rise to my lips. “Kinda bold. Big voice. A beard?” I stopped myself. “You mean Ron Ritchie?”, I offered. “Yeah, yeah! That’s the guy. I remember him well!”, he said. No comment about Ray. Ha!
    And that says a lot about Ron. He always made a memorable impression. Even after decades.

  19. Laura Smith Carroll says:

    Ron was a one-of-a-kind sort of guy. Larger than life, bold for the Lord, a heart for all. He pulled me from a confused world and made the Bible I had read for most of my life become meaningful, relevant, applicable, and alive. He fostered joyful relationships for thousands of singles through his Careers ministry. So blessed that I got to learn and grow under his teaching. You can bet there is a long line of people at the gate of heaven waiting to greet him. My husband is one of them. What a joyful picture. Although we will miss his presence on earth, I am truly happy for him.

  20. Curt Fenz says:

    I was sad to hear the news. I wept as the song came alive as I read the words. Profound is the impact of those who follow the spirit’s lead

  21. Martha Hook says:

    So blessed to have known Ron (and AnnMarie) first as a student at Philadelphia College of Bible and through so many fruitful years of his ministry. He was a frequent speaker at Pine Cove Conference Center where we lived. Always a dear friend and encourager.
    Martha Hook

    • James Hunt says:

      This man, Ron, had a huge impact on my life when I was in high school. I worked at the church after school and every day he would approach me with, “ Hey good lookin’ what’s cookin’ “ then we would talk about life and God and everything else. For a young man without a father for him to take that time for me had a huge impact and he will be missed.

  22. Gary Mountz says:

    I can well imagine what’s going through Ron’s mind, ‘maybe today I’ll get to see Jesus’ . Once Ron hugged me during a crisis in our family’s life and I was enveloped by this big man and felt so comfortable there. Well Ron, you’re about to have that hug. I can hardly wait for my own. As a pastor who came to PBC for the first Pastor’s conference in 72, I think, I was confronted with a wonderful team of soldiers, Ray, Ron, Dave, Bob, Etc., and never been the same. For one, my wife, Linn, of 55 years and the LORD say thanks. Bless this family with the peace that transcends all.

  23. Don and Jane Cooney says:

    Don and I and all of those in San Jose Careers were blessed to have the solid Bible teaching of Ron and others as they built into our lives. It has been many years now since we have seen him but he will not be forgotten. Thank you, Ron! Don and Jane Cooney

  24. Corinne Lake says:

    Ron Ritchie is one of the most influential men I have ever known. His stand for Truth is firm and relentless. His relationship with God made him relatable and trustworthy. Unforgettable! I am a better person for having been under his biblical teaching at PBC and Careers Alive. I will never forget his Easter message at SHCC in San Jose: “What a Difference a Day Makes” powerful, resonating, his message of resurrection life was powerful.
    Thank you, Ron Ritchie. Well done, good and faithful servant.

  25. Tom Coene says:

    Thanks for the beautiful tribute John. For me, my life has never been the same since my time at PBC, and those who served there. I have yet to find a church home to equal my experiences there with Ron, Anne Marie, and the others. The fellowship we shared in those times will never be surpassed. Farewell Brother Ron, there was still so much more I wanted to share with you and Anne Marie, but as Anne Marie said to me, we will have all eternity to share those things in our heavenly home.

    Tom Coene

  26. Annette Lane says:

    Ron Ritchie was one of the most influential people in the beginning of our marriage. His teachings set us up in the right path. He is now looking forward to meet with his maker. Thank you for all your guidance.

  27. esigward says:

    From Eric Sigward, a friend and admirer of Ron Ritchie: Intern at PBC 1972-1974. Please forward my condolences to him or his family. I remember the grace of God from him and Anne Marie.

    And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.
    For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren;
    and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.
    What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?
    He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
    Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies;
    who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
    Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
    Just as it is written,
    But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
    For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
    nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). (Ro 8:28–39). La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.

  28. Jacqueline Albulet says:

    I attended “Careers Alive”, in the 80’s. I became aChristian listening to Ron Ritchie, and Ted Wise!! I will pray for Ron’s family! I also got baptized, in Half Moon Bay, by him! Jacquie Albulet

  29. Joan Duckgeischel Buffini says:

    During the 70s, Ron Ritchie’s teaching and transparent life at the Careers group made a big impact on my life. Ann Marie and I worked at the same pharma company back then and she invited me to their home for dinner when I really needed encouragement. Even though they were so busy with ministry they took time for me which meant so much. Both so loving and kind; real examples of Jesus’ sacrificial love for everyone.

  30. Dawn Gail (Noller) Young says:

    Dear Heavenly Father, I thank You for Your faithfulness to my life. Thank You for providing pastor, evangelist, Ron Ritchie as a spiritual father in my life. 1970, I came to PBC Palo Alto because I heard teenagers could wear blue jeans at Wed. night Bible study. I worship the Lord Jesus for providing a year long mentorship with pastor Ron in a weekly “Timothy Group.” Thank You for Ron’s gift of exhortation and discipleship. Thank You for Ron’s faithfulness to preside over a backyard memorial service when my brother, Dave, died in a car accident. After my father took his life, thank you for Ron’s faithfulness to walk me down the aisle when I got married to Rick E. Young.
    We rejoice in our God and His transformation of our lives. Thank You for preparing us to meet You face to face and to rejoice in Your kingdom forever. (I John 3:2)

  31. Peggy (Bolton) Jensen says:

    Oh my! I haven’t heard this name in a couple of decades! Love this man, Ron Ritchie, who taught me a lot when I first became a Christian at Peninsula Bible Church. His smile, the way he delivered the Word, and his laugh, all so distinctive. May you be always remembered and rest comfortably at Jesus’ feet.

  32. Lloyd Huff says:

    When I met Ron for the first time I was barley 16 back in 1970, after a Body Life Service.
    When he took the time to talk with me and answer the questions that I had regarding whether or not Christ was all that he claimed. After speaking with me he walked away and within a few minutes came back and handed me a book entitled” Know Why You Believe” by Paul Little. After reading it I chose to follow Christ. I then in turn gave that very book away to my sister, Linda who read it and also gave her life to Christ. That is how Ron has impacted my family and I have been giving it away ever since. Most recently to my 16 year old grandson. Ron, was faithful to lead by example. May we do likewise.

  33. Homa Smith says:

    I met Ron at Careers Alive when they use to meet at the Menu Tree in Mt View., Ron was my favorite bible teacher. I loved how he taught the Word with great passion. I have often thought of him, I am so thankful that I was blessed to sit under his teaching.

  34. Dan Burke says:

    Good memorial. Brings back PBC memories & a series of highly influential summer camps on the east coast(Harvey Cedars) where I first saw someone & his buds who loved Jesus…

  35. Russ Lindley says:

    I can hear the Lord God of all Creation saying to Ron, “well done my faithful servant of the Lord”! My wife and I were married at PBC and prior to that my sister and I were involved with Careers Alive in the ’70’s at The Menu Tree in Los Altos. The teaching from the Bible that Ron taught was very practical, instrumental and challenging to all of that us that went there. The restaurant was jam packed every Sunday because Ron was not only very insightful of the Scriptures, but extremely funny! Many of us thought he would have been famous as a comedian! My wife and I had very special times with Ron, along with her father, Dr. Edward Murphy, one year on a cruise to Alaska. I never laughed so hard being around both of them. We both loved Ron and Anne Marie and pray for their family as they seek God for comfort during this time of his departure into heaven. We’ll see him again, just not yet!

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