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Tentmaker Training Tentmakers – Ruth Siemens, 1925–2005

Diana Lynn Severance

Lying on the hospital bed after three surgeries and with only one functioning lung, Ruth knew no missionary agency would accept her. It seemed the end of what she thought God had planned for her. Ruth came to a personal faith in Christ and was baptized when she was thirteen. She early became strongly interested in missions by listening to the many missionary speakers at the Mennonite Brethren Church where she grew up as well as reading numerous missionary biographies.

In college, Ruth learned that to live in obedience to Christ she needed to daily renew her commitment to Him. Active in the Student Missionary Union, she signed a promise card that she would serve God abroad if He would open the door. Then, as World War II was coming to an end, Ruth contracted tuberculosis and became seriously ill. Her road to recovery was slow.

Thinking being a missionary was no longer an option, Ruth enrolled at Chico State to get a degree in education and English. On the secular campus she found herself on the mission field! She became active in InterVarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) and learned to study the Bible inductively. Upon graduation she began teaching elementary school. She and two other Christian teachers started a teachers’ Christian fellowship with Bible study groups. Ruth was learning to reach others with the gospel and the truth of Christ wherever she was.

In 1954, Ruth had the opportunity to teach third grade at a bi–national school in Peru. Ruth began a Bible study for Peruvian teachers in her home, taught a sixth–grade Sunday school class at a nearby church, and began a Bible club for high school girls. To improve her Spanish she audited classes at San Marcos University. Language lessons with fellow–students turned into Bible studies. Without the sponsorship of a missionary agency and while being paid working at her secular teaching job, Ruth discovered she was doing the work of a missionary!

Ruth went on to develop student work in Spain and Portugal and to conduct training in evangelism in France, Switzerland, Austria, and even communist Poland. In 1976, she began Global Opportunities, an organization to recruit and train missionary ‘tentmakers’ – people who, like the apostle Paul, might support themselves in secular work while carrying on the work of evangelism and discipleship.

One of the college students Ruth met in Spain was Rebecca Manley, who learned much about evangelism and the Christian life from Ruth. For Ruth’s eightieth birthday, Rebecca wrote Ruth:

In observing you I saw what a walk of faith looked like up close. Everything you thought, felt, delighted in, or regretted was viewed in relationship in the Living God. Your relationship to Christ was one of such delight and awe that it was impossible to understand you unless one knew the God that you worshipped. And that, I believe, is your epitaph. Your life has been a clarion call to everybody you ever encountered that we must give our lives unreservedly to Christ – for it is only in radical surrender to Him that we find our true joy and freedom.


Walk in wisdom towards outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

~ Colossians 4:5–6 ~



This extract was taken from Her–Story: 365 Devotions from 21 Centuries of the Christian Church.

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