Thursday, May 01, 2008

Tribute to a mentor and family friend

I first met Mrs. Ruth Chan in 1984, when my [Jonathan] family moved to the lower mainland from Fort McMurray, Alberta. My family attended church at Richmond Chinese Alliance where Ruth was a grade 6 Sunday School teacher and was one of the adult leaders in junior worship.

Auntie Ruth, as we used to call her, was always keen on building relationships with the youth she mentored, and I am sure she prayed earnestly for each one of us. One day, as we were getting ready for singspiration, I distinctly remember her coming up to me, and saying something to the effect of "you should think about leading singing one day too." I don't entirely know what motivated her to say this - perhaps she had been praying for me, but I do remember shyly shrugging it off at the time. I was very much a quiet, shy person at the time. (Little did I know of course how God would begin to change me and use me in the coming years!)

At a gospel camp put on by the same church, I rededicated my life to Christ at the age of 15. Several years later, I went to univerisity, and my family moved. Meanwhile, Ruth and her husband Sam, after having studied at Regent College were commissioned to be COCM missionaries in England for four years.

It wasn't until 1995 (the year I met Karen) that I would reconnect with them. At the time, both Karen and I felt God leading us to Christ Church of China in Vancouver. To my great surprise, Ruth's husband Sam was pastoring there, and serendipitously, Karen's childhood pastor was also pastoring there at the same time. As it turns out, both Sam and Ruth finished their term in the UK in 1992 and returned to Vancouver accepting a position as pastor of CCC.

Pastor Sam and Ruth would continue to be an influence in my life. Pastor Sam baptized me in 1997, and officiated my wedding in 2002. Ruth continued to mentor women, and often shared her experiences with us through the career fellowship called "Faith fellowship".

It wasn't until Karen and I were called in 1998 to go out to Coquitlam (CCCC) that I began to feel the full impact of what God had done through their ministry. Though I never realized it at the time, hindsight provides me with a view of God's faithfulness in answering prayers of those before us. At CCCC, we were mentoring youth in grade 6, and indeed, I was called to lead them in singing praises to God.

Ruth fought a courageous battle with cancer this past year. She died peacefully and went home to be with the Lord on April 21st, 2008.

Today, Karen and I went to say our last goodbyes to Auntie Ruth. It was a bittersweet moment - one that cannot be described adequately in words. Though we both miss her dearly, we know that she is finally at home, resting with the Father and free at last of her failing body.

As she leaves the world, it was more than evident the impact and legacy that she left behind. Streams of people, young and old, unified as one because they were all affected by her and her husband's ministry poured in one by one to honour, comfort, show support and to say "until we meet again in heaven". I can only imagine what God has been able to do as a result of her dedication to demonstrating Christ to others.

Ruth, thank you for your dedication to following Jesus and for demonstrating his grace toward even the youngest of believers. You looked beyond the surface of who I was, and saw instead the person God could transform me to be. You prayed that a new generation of godly leaders could emerge from the people you influenced, and I am very grateful for that.

That is truly a life well lived, a life lived with purpose and a legacy left for the next generation.

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