Ruth grew up in the 1950s and was the baby of her family — the last of Tran Sung and Bui T. Tu’s eight children. Years before Ruth was born, a group of believers from a city church brought the gospel to her family’s farming community along Vietnam’s central coast. Ruth’s brother heard their message as a young boy and decided to follow Jesus.
The ripple effect of God’s Word impacted Ruth’s parents and siblings as over time, each one committed his or her life to the Lord.
Growing in Jesus
As a teenager, Ruth handled a litany of chores on her family’s farm, including taking care of the cows. She toiled in the hot sun and humid air, and her stomach was never full. “Despite our best efforts, too often we hardly had enough to eat,” Ruth said. “But we kept going and God sustained us.”
Ruth traveled south to the capital city, Dalat, to help care for her sister’s baby. One night, Ruth took a bus to a church and a visiting preacher’s sermon on Isaiah 1 captured her heart. Though she had heard Bible stories growing up, had been baptized in a river and took communion, Ruth hadn’t yet grasped what it meant to have a personal relationship with Jesus.
But everything changed that night. Though she was terribly shy, Ruth stood amid 300 people to publicly confess Christ as Lord. “God set me on a whole new journey,” she said.
Experiencing the Impact of War
Ruth traveled back home where her family’s village had been caught in the crosshairs of the Vietnam War. The conflict only exacerbated the community’s economic hardships and ravaged her family’s farm.
A letter arrived around that time from one of Ruth’s sisters who was serving at SIL’s* compound in the highlands of Vietnam. Ruth’s sister urged her to take a job there teaching Vietnamese to the Wycliffe missionaries who were translating the Bible for a local language.
For the next three years, Ruth thrived and she came alongside three Wycliffe missionary couples as they learned the national language. Though the compound had no electricity, running water or indoor plumbing, the team was undeterred. “Their exemplary life of Christian witness and service touched my heart and enriched my spiritual life in a powerful way,” Ruth said.
While Ruth spoke only Vietnamese to the missionaries during the day, she practiced English lessons at night by listening to recordings that one of the missionaries had made for her. Despite only completing the fifth grade, Ruth said the English words and phrases she learned helped her secure a good clerical job at a U.S. air base soon after she left SIL.
Ruth met and married an American colleague named Paul, and the couple was blessed with a son and daughter. The four escaped Vietnam just weeks before the country fell in April 1975. The family lived in Taiwan for four years until Paul was diagnosed with cancer, which prompted their move to the U.S.
When Paul passed away six months later, the challenges Ruth faced were daunting. She had two small children, no house, no job and no driver’s license. “But God was so good to me,” Ruth reflected. One of her past managers at the air base sent her to vocational school and she landed an excellent accounting position. “I felt closer to God as I experienced him wonderfully in a new way.”
A few years later, Ruth met and married Bill, a retired pastor and educator. He became Ruth’s number one cheerleader, encouraging her to quit her job and continue her education. She completed her GED, graduated magna cum laude with her bachelor’s degree, and then after completing a Master of Divinity, she became ordained.
Ruth’s three trips back to Vietnam confirmed the importance of Christian service, education and Bible translation. God led Ruth to serve Vietnamese refugees around Fresno, California as a pastor and social worker.
Giving to Share God’s Word
After Ruth retired, she reconnected with Wycliffe missionaries. Wycliffe’s commitment to seeing everyone have access to God’s Word in their language resonates with Ruth so much that she generously partners with the ministry through a charitable gift annuity.
“We prepare ahead for our latter years, but with the dollars left, [we can further] God’s work,” Ruth said. “Wycliffe has been part of the beautiful tapestry God has woven in my life. I thank [God] for his Word, and I don’t have enough words to express how I feel about Wycliffe’s work around the world. I encourage more people to support its ministry.”
*A primary strategic partner.