Pure & Genuine: A Tale of Two Ruths

Tonight in a little village near the shores of Lake Victoria, a young African widow named Ruth sleeps, uncertain of what the future may hold.

In two days her world will be rocked by the Almighty God, who today is “doing exceeding, abundantly beyond what she could ask or imagine” (Ephesians 3:20).

Ruth, A Widow In Africa

Her husband died 8 years ago. With no other family, distant relatives have taken her in. She supports her two children by working as a domestic for a Wycliffe missionary couple with three small children. They love her, consider her family, and are praying with her for the Lord’s provision in her current crisis. Because her relatives are moving away, she is facing homelessness. Her annual salary is less than what most young couples in California pay for one month’s rent, so even though she has a job, her prospects for finding housing are dim.

Ruth is resourceful however, and has begun to build a tiny home of rough concrete bricks on a weedy plot of ground she and her husband purchased before he passed away. When we first heard of her need, the walls were about waist high, but she had no money to continue building. Although this is only a shelter for sleeping, with no plumbing or electricity, it is essential for the family’s survival, and time is running out.

Ruth, a Widow In Israel

This month, it “just so happened” that the women of Journey Community church launched a five-week study of The Book of Ruth, the inspiring story of God’s provision for a widow named Ruth in Israel. We were encouraged by two main themes in particular.

  1. God’s Hidden Hand – one was God’s Providence, “the continuing and often unseen activity of God in sustaining the universe, providing for the needs of every creature, and preparing for the completion of his eternal purposes” (topicalbible.org). We saw this in the “it-just-so-happened” moments at key points in the narrative, like when Ruth just happens to find herself gleaning in the field of the one man who has the ability change her future.As we sought to apply the Scriptures personally, we determined to take notice of the seeming coincidences in our own lives in order to discern God’s hand and to give him glory. This was eye opening, and sometimes even jaw dropping.
  1. God’s Loving-Kindness – The other theme we explored was God’s chesed (khesed (חסד) – Hebrew) or “loving-kindness.” This is a word so jam-packed with meaning that one word in English will not do to express all that chesed encompasses:
    • steadfast love
    • grace
    • mercy
    • faithfulness
    • goodness
    • devotion

    Through this beautiful Old Testament story of redemption, we saw God bring Naomi and her daughter-in-law Ruth from emptiness to fullness, demonstrating his loving-kindness in the way he provided, protected, and cared for these two impoverished widows.

    We also learned that Naomi’s name for God, The Almighty, or El Shaddai (Hebrew) announces not only that he is all-powerful, but that he is also the nurturing God who generously provides for his people.

Providence and Loving-Kindness Meet

Was it a coincidence that I started teaching a study on this book of the Bible the very week I learned of the pressing need of a young widow in Africa?

When I shared this story and these pictures, the women of Journey began to fill a jar with offerings to help Ruth. Their generosity went above and beyond what any of us could have imagined.

In two days, Valentines Day in America, Ruth will awaken to discover that a group of fellow believers, half a world away, have joined together to contribute the equivalent of almost a year’s worth of her annual salary to help her finish her home.

It also “just so happens” that:

  • The meaning of the name Ruth is “friendship.”
  • The English noun “ruth” is a synonym for compassion and mercy.
  • Ruth’s family of Wycliffe missionaries translated their first two books of the Bible into the Jita tongue this year. One was Luke. The other was – of course – Ruth!

Albert Einstein said, “Coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous.” But when I connect all these dots placed by God’s hand of Providence, what emerges is the shape of a valentine from the heart of the women of Journey to the heart of a widow in Africa, signed with love by El Shaddai.

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress.” (James 1:27).

 

On Thursday, October 18, 2012, Wycliffe Missionaries Michael & Kelly Nicholls went to the village of Bukima to celebrate with the Jita people the publication of the books of Luke and Ruth in their language – the first books of the Bible to be published in Jita. Here are more pictures from the celebrations. Enjoy!

 

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