Huntington University is a Christian liberal arts college in Indiana

meet RuthAnn

Huntington University Missionary-in-Residence

What attracted you to the mission field in general, and to Wycliffe in particular?

I had dedicated my life to Christian service during my late teen years while attending a Christian camp. I didn’t really know what that meant in specific terms and didn’t think it meant the mission field, since as a small child my father had told me I should be a missionary. I actually didn’t want to do that.

Several years later, while teaching school in San Diego, California I heard a woman speak who had taken early retirement from her career to serve in a support role with Wycliffe in the Philippines. (That meant she was in a role not related to translation or linguistics specifically.)

She talked of the need for school teachers to teach MK’s (missionary kids).
She spoke of one particular need where the mission removed a team from their translation project to teach at the MK school because the need was so great for teachers.

In the middle of her talk she pointed her finger and said “that means those tribal people will be delayed in receiving the New Testament in their language. In fact, some of those people will die never having heard of Jesus. If you had been there teaching that wouldn’t have happened.” I was convinced that she was pointing straight at me.

That was the first of a series of events and people God used to make me think seriously about it. I went to the Wycliffe admin office in southern California to talk about their need for teachers and whether I might “fit the bill”.

Years later, after having served with Wycliffe for about 10 years, I realized how “right” the fit was. For me, the more I knew of missions firsthand, the more important it was to me, that people have the Word of God in their own language. I truly believe in the concept that once people have God’s word I their own language, He could do the work necessary to use them to evangelize, disciple and build His church among their own people. They didn’t need expatriate missionaries to do that if they once had come to know God and could grow because they had the Word of God in their own language.

So, the compelling vision of God’s Word in every language was the “clincher” for me. I’ve realized over the 37 years since that there are lots of reasons to say "no" to staying in missions. However, the mission of taking God’s Word to those without it is worth the cost to stay with the task.

What are your chief strengths, and how have these been used in ministry?

I have a passion for developing people and I want to use my skills for that, whether it’s with college kids, seeing them grow and change, knowing more and more of God’s grace in their lives; or whether I’m working with people in a foreign country who could use resources I have.

While at the University I’ve been able to use my networking skills to connect young people with a variety of resources; I seem to have a “sense” that something I’ve seen or read or a person I know could meet a certain need and somehow contribute to a solution, so I’m able to help in that way.

I am a “cut to the chase”, get to the “core” kind of person and have a sort of “no-nonsense”—kind of “get the job done” problem solving work style. I work that way with people to deal with issues, students included.

I am told I’m a good communicator. I know that I work hard to communicate with everyone, even those with quite different styles. Along with this is my passion for clarity. So then, I have a desire to communicate clearly & that stands me in good stead not only in inter-personal relationships here, but going cross culturally as well. I work hard to make sure good, clear communication happens.

One of my colleagues has said: “Your skills at developing people are evident in the sorts of interaction you have with students and the way you approach designing classes.” And a Wycliffe colleague said : “I’ve seen you present information in such different, interesting ways, getting and keeping peoples’ attention.” Those are certainly characteristics I bring to my classroom teaching here.

I also have a wide variety of experiences because of my long years of living and my long years in missions. I believe that brings with it strengths to work with young people.

Briefly describe the missionary-in-residence program. How do you divide your time between Wycliffe and HU?

A stated goal for the MIR program is promote an informed awareness among the HU campus community of intercultural ministry needs, competencies and opportunities. It gives opportunity for HU to partner with an evangelical mission organization to accomplish this goal.

The MIR teaches cross cultural ministry courses, also is available to advise students regarding career options in world missions.

I divide my time roughly 50-50. As MIR here at HU, I’m now here during the Fall semester and part of the Spring semester, so I’m here for before and after the missions week. I travel internationally about three+ months of my year for Wycliffe doing consulting and training. I also do other consulting and training for Wycliffe through e-mail and shorter courses here in the US at various points during the year.

What classes do you teach at HU?

I regularly teach:

MI 401: Inter-Cultural Learning and Adjustment and

MI 331: Leadership and Structures for Educational Ministries

I have taught one or two other courses as there is a need in the department that I can fill. (I don’t have the training or experience to teach all the courses that are offered in the Ministry and Missions department.)

Because of my MA degree in Human Resources and my experience in that field, I have also been asked to (and have taught) the Ethics course for the EXCEL program.

What other interaction do you have with students outside of class?

Informally, I meet with students on many kinds of topics that relate to missions, e.g., what’s it like to live on the field? How do you build relationships with nationals? How do you raise your support? What kinds of questions should I ask missions about if I’m interested in working with them? etc.

I also do some networking with missions people & students to get resources students might need. Sometimes it’s as general as “I have an interest in this country. What do you know about it and where can I get information?” I do a fair amount of networking of this kind for different students, whether I have them in my class or not.

I have mentored some students since being here, mostly women who come to me to talk about different topics. I have lunch with some students semi-regularly, engaging in ongoing conversations about a variety of topics.

I entertain students in my home several times during the semester, usually hosting them for international meals.

In 2005 I was asked to be one of the devotional speakers at the all-campus retreat at Camp Crosley. I also was one of the speakers for the Jr. Class chapel on the topic of “persecuted peoples”.

The above are just some examples of the kinds of interactions I have with students.

What do the students gain from their interaction with you?

Well… hmmm … Maybe a sane, mature voice in the midst of the pretty frantic pace they live. ☺ I like to think I bring some long term perspective to what it means to be a woman of God … and a woman in the professional world of missions. I also like to think I’m a voice of someone committed to obedience to God, no matter where it might lead or what He might ask me to do.

I think they gain a current and realistic perspective of what it means to serve on the mission field. I seek to alter their “romantic” notions of what missionary service is, and attempt to present truth in a palatable way. In other words, I don’t hide the difficulties and struggles of life in missions.

Maybe one other thing I bring is that of a person who lives as a single woman, fulfilled and contented, in a role that serves to build God’s kingdom in the world. That’s a different perspective, I believe, from our current US world.

What do you gain from your interaction with students?

More of an understanding of what this generation is facing in terms of what it means to be a Christian in this culture. I also think I understand better what the possibilities for them are, to impact their world for Christ. I’m understanding more of the struggles they live and learning more what it takes to live as a young adult who loves Jesus in the midst of a post-Christian culture.

Do you believe the missionary-in-residence program provides HU students with unique advantages and opportunities? If so, what are these advantages?

Definitely, for many of the reasons that can be extrapolated from the above questions.

We have a growing major and minor on campus in ministry and missions. To have someone who is currently serving as a missionary, available to advise and consult and interact with students is a strength not available on many campuses. Additionally, my particular expertise in Human Resources and training and how it’s applied in the missions context is also different for many young people. It gives them a chance to see that professionals in a variety of fields have definite roles in missions. One doesn’t have to be a preacher, teacher, evangelist or medical person in order to have a valid role to play in missions.

How would you advise a young person considering service on the mission field, or pursuing a major in Ministry & Missions?

I believe that differs according to the students, also how they view their unique role in missions. Some, I’ve advised to go and try by short term missions, getting a “feel” for what it’s like. It not only gives them a chance to taste other cultures, but it also gives them a chance to understand the internal workings of missions organizations and I believe that can be helpful to them.

Of course, HU’s PRIME experience is great to provide them with opportunities to do that, too. Others, I’ve suggested they get more practical experience in the work-world at home before going. That’s often helpful for paying off school bills, but more than that gives them more of the sense of responsibility for living in a world where they have to pay bills and meet obligations.

I believe it helps prepare hem to have an appreciation for working in partnership with others. That is, in order to be on the mission field, people contribute funds which help pay salary and expenses. They become a missionary’s partners in very real ways. I believe young people need to understand that that comes as a sacrifice. Individuals who also have a commitment to see that the message of Christ is given to those without it make a sacrifice to give money toward that effort. I don’t want young people to take that for granted and some experience in the world of work can help them grasp that concept.

Others, I’ve recommended they get roots down in a home church, serving in a variety of ways before they move to overseas work.

So, I guess what I’m saying is that I don’t have advice that “fits all sizes”. There are lots of ways that young people today can serve in missions and I like to challenge them in light of their own unique giftings with regard to what directions to go, or what the next steps might be.

I think this is a wonderful time of opportunity for young people to serve in missions. There are lots of very different and creative ways to get involved than there were when I first went to the field.