Being raised in the church, Ruth Ripken decided at age 8 that she would be a missionary when she grew up. At age 12, she presented a term paper about going to Africa and began writing an annual letter to the International Mission Board (Foreign Mission Board at the time) about her desire and availability to go.
BR photo by Dianna L. Cagle
Ruth Ripken, veteran missionary, was among the speakers at the Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina’s March 24-25 meeting. See BRnow.org/Photo-Gallery for more photos.
“It wasn’t that I was weird, I was wanting to do what God wanted me to do,” she said.
For its 126th annual meeting, also known as Missions Extravaganza, the Woman’s Missionary Union of North Carolina (WMU-NC) talked about the persecuted church and featured Ripken, who, along with her husband, Nik, participated in “The Insanity of God” documentary and book with the same name. Nik Ripken also authored The Insanity of Obedience. Nik and Ruth were originally scheduled together but he had to have surgery.
The Ripkens have been to 72 countries and interviewed more than 600 people who have been persecuted on various levels. Some of those discussions made their way into the books and the documentary.
Highlighting the theme “By Any Means,” the two-day conference March 24-25, which was hosted by First Baptist Church in Greensboro, drew on 1 Corinthians 9:22b-23 – “… I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.”
With 585 registered, participants also heard from Linda Cooper, National WMU president from Kentucky; Lottie Moon, portrayed by Rosalie Hunt; WMU-NC leaders and missionaries. Cindy Johnson and Stage 2 Ministries led the music.
It was women in WMU that taught Ruth as a GA and an Acteen about missions.
The Ripkens’ first assignment was in Malawi. They saw God do amazing things. “We were seeing people baptized every weekend,” she said. “Every week a church was being planted. Every time we drove down the road, we had new opportunity to share about Christ.”
When their entire family was struck with malaria, the doctors told the family they would have to leave. Ruth had always been called to Africa. Malawi was that answer to her childhood prayer.
“I was struggling,” while Nik was ready for the next adventure, she said. “I needed to be in Malawi so I could see how fruit grew and churches started.”
The next assignment – South Africa – brought Ruth to another realization. “I needed to go to South Africa because I needed to see what racism does when it takes over a whole country, and I needed to realize that racism is the greatest hindrance to the gospel, and it’s time for us to grasp that, and that’s why God took us to South Africa during apartheid,” she said.
Somalia was next. “Each morning as we worked in Somalia, we buried 20 babies who had died in the night of starvation,” said Ruth. “The urgency of the gospel is a reality, and we have the greatest news in all the world.”
The Good News Christians have is for “anyone and everyone,” she emphasized.
The body of Christ is connected around the world, she said. “When you smash the finger, your whole body hurts,” she said. “When part of my hand is hurting, we should all be hurting. We are not the body of Christ in freedom and a body of Christ in persecution. We are just the body of Christ. At all times we are persecuted, and at all times we are victorious.”
She reminded the women that it’s about obedience. She shared four things that every body of Christ needs that she learned from Al Gilbert, former North Carolina pastor and executive director of church mobilization at the North American Mission Board:
- Those who go.
- Those who send.
- Those who help those who want to go to go.
- Those who welcome the nations in our midst.
She added another item to Gilbert’s list: those who pray. “I want to thank you on behalf of them,” she said of the persecuted believers. “They cannot believe they have not been forgotten. Every believer falls down; you know that, but every believer in persecution gets knocked down.
“Even Jesus could not carry that cross all the way to Calvary.”
‘By Any Means’
Quoting Matthew 28:19-20, Cooper said the Great Commission is “not the great suggestion. [Jesus] said to go.”
As a dental hygienist, Cooper is able to share Jesus with her patients.
Wielding sharp tools, Cooper joked that she had a captive audience in her dental chair. After all, “the lost are not knocking down our church doors to get in,” said Cooper. “Yes, there is vast lostness in our world, and it can be overwhelming, but each one of us can make difference in the ones who God puts in our path every day.”
“We must ask the hard questions,” she said, “Are we willing to do whatever it takes, by all means, to see lost people come to faith in Christ?’ Will you be faithful to His call on your life? Will you say, ‘I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some?’”
All any believer really needs to know, Cooper said, is what they can learn from preschoolers being taught in churches:
- God loves me.
- God loves all the people of the world.
- Some people don’t know that God loves them, so God wants me to tell them.
She recounted a trip to a nursing home. As Cooper would begin quoting a scripture, one of the residents would finish the verse. She didn’t seem cognizant of what was really going on, but with the scripture Cooper quoted, that woman’s memory was triggered, remembering the verses she learned as a Girl in Action (GA).
“What we do in WMU really does matter, and it matters for eternity,” she stressed. “We are most like Jesus when we allow His love to flow from us to the people He puts in our path every day.”
Most believers “must focus on sharing or serving the gospel where we are with the people we know or with those in our community whom we are intentionally trying to reach,” she said. “God wants you to share with those He puts in your path.”
Ladies voted to move the dates of the 2018 and 2019 annual meeting and set dates for 2020 during its business meeting March 25.
The annual meeting is generally planned near the Baptists on Mission and Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina meetings, but Amy Pardue Boone, WMU-NC executive director-treasurer, made a motion to move the 2018 and 2019 meetings to the last weekend in April.
For 2018, the meeting will be April 27-28, and the 2019 meeting will be April 26-27. WMU-NC is required to vote on the annual meeting dates three years in advance. The 2020 dates are set for April 24-25.
“We believe our date coming between those two dates makes it very difficult for you to go to two or three events,” said Boone.
Dee Dee Moody, WMU-NC president, was re-elected, along with fellow officers: Deborah Taylor, vice president; Mary Ellen Bowman, vice president of development; Barbara Hill, recording secretary; and Beth McDonald, assistant recording secretary.
Women elected to the WMU-NC board include: Jeanette Tinkham and Frances Baker, Region 1; Beverly Butler, Region 2; Jessica Hatcher, Region 4; Julia “Cookie” Hamilton, Kim Bounds and Carole Lowman, Region 5; Sandy Page, Region 6; Sharon Poindexter, Region 7; and Angie Fowler Reid, Region 9.
Mary Ellen Bowman highlighted the many ways women can give to the organization and pointed people to the website to use videos to share with their churches.
Beth McDonald led a time of recognition for Bob and Julie Navey who have served at Camp Mundo Vista in Sophia. They celebrate 25 years of service this year.
In her executive director-treasurer report, Boone, introduced the WMU-NC staff and highlighted some of the many ministries, including a large Bible study library that is available for churches to borrow as well as Missions Carolina, a family-oriented day- or weeklong camp held this year at Camp Mundo Vista in June. The camp will celebrate 50 years in 2018.
She thanked WMU for giving around $10,000 to Hurricane Matthew relief efforts.
“We know that is a drop in the bucket when you have to replace everything that you own, but it is a start,” she said.
An offering raised $6,500 for ministries of WMU-NC.