On Saturday, May 2nd, Rusty graduated with his Master of Arts in Christian Ministry from Harding University Graduate School of Religion. The HUGSR chapter of our lives began nearly 7 years ago -- in 2002 when we returned from our three years in Japan as AET's. We arrived in Memphis on a hot August day with no jobs and nearly no money, only knowing a few people. Seven years later, we are once more unemployed and poor (financially speaking), but rich in the relationships we have formed and the experiences we have had during our time there.
In the years since Rusty first began taking classes at HUGSR, we have gone on a Let's Start Talking campaign to Kampala, Uganda, spent two years working with a church in northern Mississippi, spent another year doing vocational ministry in Japan, joined the Angola team, gone on a month-long survey trip to Angola, and had two precious sons born to us. It has not always been an easy journey. We have moved several times, twice internationally, cared for a dying parent, struggled through the loss of Rusty's mom, as well as our home and life in Japan, been without a home of our own for months at a time, been unemployed or worked jobs that didn't pay much just to make ends meet, and experienced financial stress and uncertainty. And all of this in addition to the normal stresses of graduate school -- hundreds of pages of reading to do each week, exams to study for, papers to research and write.
Through all of it, even during the semesters when Rusty couldn't take classes for one reason or another, I don't think either of us ever doubted that he would one day finish. But I think we both began to wonder when that day would come, especially as the 2-3 years we thought it would take stretched into 7. Rusty found the work of grad school much more difficult than he had anticipated. Some people thrive on study; Rusty is not one of them. There were many times when he felt like a round peg trying to fit in a square hole, when he got discouraged and wondered if he was cut out for this. But he stayed the course and finished what he had started. Watching him walk across that stage to receive his diploma was one of the proudest moments of my life.
Rusty wasn't the only one to receive a degree on May 2nd. At the luncheon for the graduates and their families following the ceremony, I received my PHT (Putting Him Through). After seven years of working to help pay the bills, staying up until the wee hours of the morning proofreading papers, and listening to him gripe about how hard his classes were, I definitely feel like I earned it! Congratulations, Rusty! It has been a privilege and an honor to "put you through" grad school, and I am so very proud of your achievement.