Everyday Heroes 3: Ate Ruth

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As a teenager, I used to think that missionaries were always foreigners. I never thought a fellow Filipino could be one. It simply wasn’t something that ever crossed my mind.

Until that July 1990 earthquake, that is. And Emmanuel International (EI) came into the picture.

It was then that I met the Copseys, a missionary family with EI. And I got to know them, especially the lady of the family. Surprise, surprise! Ate Ruth is Filipino. And a missionary! Could that mean I can be one too? Oh the possibilities the thought opened up to me! I would also discover that she was a kindred spirit.

I met the family at the rented building our church called home back then. I was a Sunday School teacher, and the oldest daughter was in my class. I think she was five then. After finding out they were from Canada, I asked if they’ve ever been to Prince Edward Island, home of my beloved Anne Shirley. And after our class, I remember spinning some yarn about Anne being somewhere in the vicinity and this turning into a fun game as we tried to find her. Sadly, she was always a step ahead of us and we had to give up the search in defeat.

The Copseys stayed with our church family for some time. Apart from the various ministries they did–community development, medical and dental outreaches, family and parenting seminars–I would have to say {and yes, I’m biased} that one of the best blessings their presence brought was the discipleship relationship Ate Ruth started with me. In many ways, the Bible studies we had, the times I spent with her family, and the opportunities I had to serve with her in the field have all shaped my understanding of what it meant to be a Christian woman.

I don’t think I can describe her fully {and I have a feeling it would make her uncomfortable}. After all, no one is perfect. But there are those souls {like Ate Ruth and Kuya Ken} who have fallen so much in love with Jesus that their lives can’t help but reflect that love relationship. And when they come into your life, they make an impact, and you’re never quite the same. And while all glory belongs to God for their example, I wanted to find a way to thank Ate Ruth for all she taught me, for Jesus’s sake.

For example:

I never heard her say anything bad about others. As far back as I can remember, and once I noticed it I always paid close attention, she never criticized or gossiped about anybody. It certainly packs quite a wallop each time I say something bad about a person and then be reminded of how unbecoming this is of someone who considers herself a daughter of God. During those moments, I find myself thanking God for bringing into my life people who live a better way. Like Ate Ruth.

She was also very generous. Whether it was to me, to our youth group, our church family, or those in the field, she was always giving something away. Some fun memories:

  • Our youth group liked to go caroling each Christmas, and we always loved visiting the Copseys. Apart from their warm welcome and enthusiastic response to our oft-out-of-tune renditions, we knew chocolate chip cookies and other refreshments would always be waiting for us. More, for many of the kids in our group, this picture of a happy family was a breath of fresh air, a welcome break from the realities of their own homes.
  • As a youth leader, I remember how Ate Ruth used to make strawberry jam, which we would then sell to raise money for youth   mission camps and trips. Or they would give, and encourage others to support us. If you’ve ever been a part of a youth group, you would understand how much the support of church leaders can mean to this area of ministry.
  • As a growing follower of God, I looked forward to our Bible studies. And I still have the Bible Study guides we used during our discipleship sessions. I kept them because Ate Ruth gave them to me, and because I have notes in them I still find very useful. Her generosity in buying me the books is part of the reason I give books to people, while her generosity of spirit as I spilled out my  seemingly-all-important worries and concerns became an example when, years later, I found myself to be on her side of the room.
  • When hubby and I first started dating, the Copseys were on furlough. Since I wanted Ate Ruth to know about Steve, I wrote her about him. She wrote back encouragingly, and sent me money so Steve and I could go on a date. As we were both seminary students back then, we didn’t have a lot of money, and her gesture meant a lot to us.

Also, Ate Ruth loved people. Especially the needy. In truth, I saw Christ best in her when she was talking to an impoverished mother nursing her all-too-thin baby, or explaining the doctor’s instructions to a toothless man smiling in deep appreciation at the anticipated relief the medicine she was holding would bring him.

Finally, I don’t ever connect Ate Ruth with prolonged conversations of shopping, of make up, or of any of those things that seem to characterize many of the women in our churches today. Instead, when I think of her, I always think of the biblical Ruth and her sister Martha. See, while Ate Ruth taught me how important it is to stay connected with God, she also showed me how important it was to serve Him through others. And those lessons, though forgotten at times, remain real in my heart.

I have to say, mine is a blessed life. And as I think back through all the people who have been as heroes to me, I thank God many times over for the Copsey family, and for Ate Ruth in particular.

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One response »

  1. Awesome!…and not only because it was about my family and I…but truly, well written and heart warming…PLEASE KEEP ON WRITING!

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