An Old Woman Named Ruby
by Dan Adler
I grew up in rural northwestern Wisconsin and attended a tiny Christian and Missionary Alliance church of about 60 people.
In that little church, there was an older woman named Ruby who was one of a tiny group of faithful church members who always attended the small weekly prayer meeting that was held there. My own dear mom was often there with her. My childhood memory of Ruby was that she was very nice, had a painful marriage, wore a bad wig and was hard of hearing.
So fast forward to one week this past November. In that one week, Sandy and I sang for two fund-raising events for two different charities for the poor and Heart of the City sang for The King's Banquet - an amazing banquet at a downtown Minneapolis hotel that was put on for the homeless and street people by another ministry. We were so blessed, in just one week, to be able to serve these three ministries that serve the very "least of these" that Jesus cares so much about.
But here's an even more cool part of that week. One of these fundraising banquets was held in my little hometown of Siren, Wisconsin. The organization that put this event on was called "Ruby's Pantry". When I was first called about doing a concert for this event, I didn't know anything about the organization. So I asked the guy who was calling me, about who the "Ruby" was that this ministry was named after. Come to find out, his grandmother was that little lady from my little church named Ruby and he named the ministry after her. He told me that he had remembered how Ruby, though very poor, would always share what she had in her pantry with those in need around her. He recalled one Christmas where Ruby, having heard that her neighbors had nothing to eat for Christmas dinner, went out on a cold winter morning, killed one of her chickens, and made their family a full Christmas dinner and brought it over to them. So, in looking for a name for this food ministry he had started, he felt that "Ruby's Pantry" was a great fit in honor of this obscure lady who was so faithful with what she had.
I was excited to sing in my home town again and I was excited to sing for this ministry now that I knew what was behind it. But I expected it to be a very small operation. I was wrong. Ruby's Pantry now utilizes hundreds of volunteers and serves thousands of people with hundreds of thousands of pounds of food in several locations throughout Minnesota and Wisconsin.
That night as I listened to the speaker talk about what Ruby's Pantry was doing and as we sang to this large group of volunteers and staff, my eyes kept swelling with tears as I looked at what was now being done in that dear woman's name.
I think back on those lonely little prayer meetings, in that tiny little country church, that very few people showed up to. I think of a poor woman, hard of hearing, whose life wasn't easy. And I think about how God knew her and saw her faithfulness to use the time and resources she had to serve Him. And I think about how He blessed and multiplied her efforts so much. But Ruby didn't live to see that day. She died quite a few years ago.
I like to see results from anything that I do - especially ministry. Many times I have had to ask myself if what I'm doing is worth it and if it's accomplishing anything. After all, there's probably as much or more racial tension now as when we began this ministry 16 years ago and Christian worship music is actually much less ethnically diverse than it was back when we started. But Ruby's story reminds me that much of what we do for the Kingdom of God will be seeds sown that we will never get to see bear fruit within our lifetime. That doesn't mean that what we are doing is in vain. I have a Bible verse I keep tacked on the wall in front of me from I Cor. 15:58 that says, "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm, let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord; for you know that your labor in the Lord is never done in vain."
Now knowing humanity, I'm sure that if you knew Ruby better than I did or were related to her, you'd probably also be able to list a bunch of flaws she had. We all have them. I know I do. The ability to be an ambassador for God is one of the most astounding acts of God's grace and mercy that I can think of. And in light of that amazing grace, we need to take seriously the call to make ourselves available and be willing to serve and sacrifice with the time and resources we have. As Ruby's life so beautifully demonstrates, we need to hold on to the knowledge that our prayers, sacrifices and acts of kindness and service, no matter how humble or unseen, when done out of love for God can cause ripple effects that even future generations are impacted by.
I'd like to be like Ruby. How about you?