17 July 2008

Heartbeats: Ruth Fuller Grings

While we have already spoken of the homegoing of (great) Uncle Mark, it seems appropriate now to summarize the lives of his parents. My grandmother, Louise Grings Champlin, wrote this in 1986, and it was published in a pamphlet called Missionary Heartbeats. - Matthew

Ruth Geraldine Fuller Grings
Graduation: from Moody Bible Institute 1910
"Like a candle burning lower and lower her life burned out." Thus penned my father that June 21, 1936 Sunday afternoon, of my mother's escort into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It doesn't take much imagination to sense the sorrow of heart that filled the scene of this wordless departure.

Hidden away, a thousand miles interior in the jungles of the then Belgian Congo, Africa, the father and five children gathered around the table of that small mud brick house to share their grief and comfort themselves from the Word. But not for long! There was only ourselves to take care of the burial arrangements. A report had to be made to the government, a grave dug and a coffin provided. With no boards available one of the hollowed-out logs used for catching rain water from the thatch roof would have to serve.

The illness that took her life is known as black water fever, because there is hemorrhaging through the kidneys. The simple facts are quickly told. She had been out on an extended village trip, made by bicycle over rough forest trails. Exposed to mosquitoes, she returned home and came down with malaria, which unexpectedly developed into the more complicated form. How we prayed! And she seemed to recover.

An emergency call from our nearest village to assist in a delivery brought her willing response. However, her weakened system was overtaxed. She took to bed, slipped into unconsciousness and all too soon her life drained away. Now it was up to her loved ones to lay her worn-out body to rest, assuredly awaiting that glorious shout, the voice of the archangel, the trump of God! It was this blessed fact that carried the family through the final ministrations.

A service was held in the little chapel next to the station village. The close-to-petrified villagers assembled stunned and skeptical. Death was such a dreaded enemy! How desperately they had tried to escape it! How often they had offered sacrifices and sought to appease the aggrieved spirits ... all to no avail, as victim after victim succumbed to death's fatal snatch. And now, here was the white woman no more able than they to free herself from its grip. Indeed, it looked hopeless and dark!

But what were they witnessing? Could they believe their eyes? Their ears? The family was not throwing themselves on the ground in frantic contortions with pleas to be spared! Here were six people, composed, standing before them and saying, "We do not fear death! This is not the end! Our mother is with the Lord Jesus in heaven, and we will some day be with her and see her again! Trusting Christ as our personal Saviour assures us of forgiveness of sins and life with Him." But, the people were in a state of shock and could not comprehend what was enacted before their eyes.

The crude log with its dear remains was lowered into that stark void. Heavy scoops of yellow earth fell one upon another. No hand was extended to aid in service. A lifetime of bondage to fear held them securely and when the grave was covered, they left without a word to go back to their huts, their understanding still unenlightened. A lonely grave, but known to God! "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints." When the dead in Christ are raised, life will come into action there in that solitary internment and death will have been swallowed up in victory!!

(Great-grandmother's sun-dried brick grave - 1936)

That is the future, but the on-going story was quickly forthcoming. Five young men who most often came to be taught by Mother, regardless of irregularity and inconvenience of time or day, to our surprise showed up saying the wanted to believe. When we questioned this decision, their response was, "Now we know that believing in Christ is good for dying. What you preached these years sounded good for living, but we didn't know it would help a death's advent."

They had witnessed no fear. Instead they saw calmness, confidence, the reality of the truth they'd heard. Now they were sure! And they believed, were baptized, and the cycle continued as they told what great things the Lord had done for them. A corn of wheat fell into the ground ... and died ...

Let us go back briefly to where it all began Ruth Geraldine Fuller was born in the small town of Garretsville, Ohio, December 5, 1888. Her folks had a small farm where an older brother, sister, and herself grew up, attending church and living exemplary lives. God's call singled out Ruth and she went to Moody Bible Institute. Her folks moved to Bozeman, Montana as missionaries to the Indians. And Ruth after graduation in 1910, fit right in as school teacher. Excellent preparation for the next step to Africa in 1917 with the Africa Inland Mission.

This was the time of pioneering missions and no well-developed station with comfortable housing awaited the new arrival. But she had purpose and she had come to serve! It didn't take her long, wherever she was assigned, to get a group of children together and start teaching them, while at the same time learning their language, her dedication didn't escape notice. A fellow missionary, an enthusiastic young man, Herbert E. Grings, had been much used in opening new stations for couples to develop. When he wearied of this single man's task, it was the field director who suggested to him that a very suitable helpmeet was already God-sent.

And so their lives blended and God gave them wonderful years of service there in eastern Congo, as well as four children. Furlough time came and they settled for awhile in Florida. Always quick to find areas of service for the Lord, they were soon starting Sunday Schools and establishing churches. Two more children came along, but the death of their last born in Africa roused then hearts to return to that country.

June of 1933 found them again on their way to the Congo. It was a trip much fraught with danger and delay, including the sinking of the first ship and loss of all their outfit and equipment. They held to their commitment, however and Christmas found them in a village, deep in the tangled forest of that central African country. Again, it was a rugged way of life bare necessities and few, if any, conveniences. What, woman of God Ruth was! Truly, whatsoever her hand found to do, she did it with her might! How blest we, her children, were with her patient and persistent teaching and example. Her larger mission family never lacked her time and assistance either. She was not one to spare herself always doing for others whether it was testifying the gospel of the grace of God, or making a dress for her little girl's stuffed doll.

(Biking to a village service)

How frugal she had to be! There was no specified amount of monthly support coming in regularly. Ingenuity was essential to meet necessities, make gifts, or have little surprises. No stores were near where purchases could be made. How deft she was with her hand-turned sewing machine! Last year's clothes had to be lengthened and made do for another stretch. No refrigerator or stove ...yet we had smoked meat sun dried tropical fruit, our own cereals from rice and corn, home ground peanut butter and delicious banana jelly made without sugar.

She attended well to these physical and material matters, but how careful she also was with our spiritual and mental development. The Bible was our "First Reader." A thorough familiarity of phonics prepared us to handle mature reading. It was upon completion of the Gospel of John that this writer's heart was deeply moved by the suffering and sacrifice of Christ's death on the cross. A wise mother's application - "It was for YOU" and going back to chapter one verse twelve, "Believe, receive, become a child of God" that led to a personal acceptance of God's gift of salvation and placement in His family by the age of seven.

Discipline was consistent - no one "got by" with things. Authority was well respected. There was order and organization and cleanliness. What can I more say of this woman whose price was far above rubies whose mouth opened with wisdom and spoke with kindness, who looked well to her own household, but whose hands were outstretched to the needy? Strength and honour are Still a robe about her and true the prediction "She shat rejoice in time to come." We hasten to "give her the fruit of her hands" that "her own works may praise her in the gates."

To close this tribute, let me submit what characterized her life. On the bare, whitewashed walls of our mud brick home, written on the back side of last year's calendar in a school mom's neat script, was this earnest prayer.

Not I, but Christ, be honoured, loved, exalted;
Not I, but Christ, be seen, be known, be heard;
Not I, but Christ, in every look and action;
Not I, but Christ, in every thought and word.
Not I, but Christ, to gently soothe in sorrow;
Not I, but Christ, to wipe the falling tear;
Not I, but Christ, to lift the weary burden,
Not I, but Christ, to hush away all fear.
Not I, but Christ, in lowly silent labour;
Not I, but Christ, in humble earnest toil;
Christ, only Christ, No show, no ostentation,
Christ, none but Christ, The gatherer of the spoil
Christ, only Christ ere long will fill my vision;
Glory excelling, soon, full soon, I'll see -
Christ, only Christ, my All in All to be!

How well this was exemplified in her daily living! How "soon" (only 48) was Christ filling her vision: the "glory excelling" her portion. And ... we were left to carry on ... We stayed on for ten more years. Home, with all its ties was given up and we lived from village to village full time. The door of salvation opened by the death of a missionary in their midst, now yielded fruit in abundance. Believers sprang up in many of the villages, baptisms followed and the establishing of churches. The "going forth" had been with weeping, but God gave the sheaves bearing time with rejoicing!

Now, FIFTY years later the story is still unfolding! Daddy was called to glory in 1977. The children are continuing the "family business" on three continents. Eleven grandchildren and ten great grandchildren share the heritage.

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!
He died to make men holy, let us die to make men free,
While God is marching on!

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