If you think vacations should never be considered too important, then maybe you need this “close-up” meeting with Ruth Armstrong. As a child, Ruth and her family used to holiday near The Pas, Manitoba. Those summer vacations turned out to be significant experiences in giving direction for her life.
Ruth grew up in Swan River, Manitoba, the second of four children, in a Christian home where Biblical values and standards were lived out. “And we went to church every time the doors were open,” she adds without complaint. “I was taught the Holy Scriptures from infancy, which made me ‘wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.'”
At about six years of age Ruth accepted Christ as her personal Saviour. Unable to sleep one night after a Sunday evening church service, Ruth was thinking about heaven and hell, the topic of that evening’s message (“not fearful … just thinking,” she notes). She came to the conclusion that she must ask Jesus into her heart, which she did alone in bed. “To this day I can remember the peace that came over me … and I went right off to sleep.”
It was those summer vacations at The Pas — where Ruth’s family attended Sunday services at the Big Eddy (Reserve) Chapel and visited the home of NCEM missionaries, Cliff and Ingeborg McComb — that provided early exposure to missions.
But there was more. Visiting missionaries often stayed in the Armstrong home. And Ruth remembers listening to NCEM missionaries singing and preaching on the Cree Gospel Radio Broadcast — and wishing to grow up and be like them, speaking Cree. Also, Ruth’s folks had been foster-parents to many Native children over the years.
Following high school, Ruth wanted to be a summer missionary with NCEM — but a minimum of one year post-secondary education was required. And that’s what initially motived her to attend Bible school. Then, about a year after graduating from Peace River Bible Institute, she filled out application papers for full-time service. “I was listening to a song about ‘harvest time,’ and ’empty fields’ ” remembers Ruth, “and I decided to get on with it. There wasn’t any real consideration of a mission other than NCEM, because Native people were in my heart.”
Ruth wanted to serve among the Cree, but at the time that she joined NCEM there was a particular opportunity among the Inuit of northern Quebec. (Ruth would also later serve for awhile with the Tribal Trails television ministry in Prince Albert.) “The Inuit were a people I had not considered before,” says Ruth, “but I was willing to go ‘wherever.’ And not long after, God filled my heart with love for them.”