Ruth Siemens had just arrived in Peru just a few days before to teach third grade in a secular international school in Lima. She was attending the back-to-school and welcome-new-teachers party complete with dancing and alcohol. One of the teachers, a nonbeliever, asked Ruth, “Would you like to have a drink?” Ruth responded, “Yes, I’d love to. Do they have any Coke or ginger ale?”
For a Christian from a very conservative, non-alcohol church background, this was a startling response. Why did Ruth answer this way? “Because this colleague wasn’t asking me to drink. She was asking to get to know me. I was responding to her intention. I was delighted with her desire and to get to know her.”
This is the most insightful response I’ve heard to this question. An invitation to have a drink was bound to come at this party. Ruth had to think this through, preferably beforehand. But her primary focus was the other person. What is she intending to communicate? And how can I respond to affirms her and build friendship.
We’ll always find ourselves in uncomfortable situations with nonbelievers at times. Think how badly Christians have treated people because they focused on their own scruples rather than the other person’s intentions. Without meaning to, we have alienated and killed opportunities to connect with people.
Ruth was always thinking about people’s motives when interacting with them. I saw this over and over. One day we had lunch at a restaurant near her home in California. A Hispanic waitress came to our table, obviously pregnant. Ruth smiled with delight and said in Spanish, “I see you are expecting. What a wonderful blessing God has given you! I pray it’s a happy, healthy baby.” The waitress just beamed with pleasure and gratitude.
Ruth’s warm response at the party led one woman to say to her, “I think you know about God. Could you teach me?” This woman had lost her airline pilot husband in a tragic plane crash leaving her with two teenage boys. Ruth responded, “I’d love to!” and led Bible study with them for months. All three came to Christ and Ruth discipled them.
In Lima, Ruth led faculty, staff, students and parents to Christ at her school. In spare time, she studied Spanish at San Marcos University, led Bible studies, and started the Peruvian IFES (International Fellowship of Evangelical Students) movement.
From Peru, Ruth moved to Sao Paulo, Brazil to head up an international school where she repeated her pattern. She again led students, faculty, and staff to Christ, and in spare time, started Brazil’s IFES university movement. When she left for Spain and Portugal, there were groups on 30 campuses. After returning to the States, Ruth launched Global Opportunities.
Want more? I am working on writing her story. Watch for it. In the meantime, you can find several of her articles on GO’s website, www.globalopps.org. For starters consider Why Did Paul Make Tents?, Workplace Evangelism, Guidance – Understanding God’s Will, Inductive Bible Study: Preparation of a Passage, and How to Write Questions.