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Ruth Tipton

Retired Missionary to Papua New Guinea
"I retired from WGM, but I am not retired from mission work."
By Rachel Elwood, Staff Writer, November 2011

Ruth served in Papua New Guinea with the Churches of Christ in Christian Union and World Gospel Mission for 39 years. However, a quiet, peaceful retirement is the last thing on her mind. Currently buried in the endless reading that comes with pursuing a PhD, Ruth has made return trips to PNG periodically to do research for her doctoral degree in intercultural studies.

The idea of a lifelong career in missions began when she was a child growing up in Ashville, Ohio. Ruth was saved at the age of 5, and she enjoyed meeting missionaries at her church or at prayer meetings. The Lord confirmed her call during her freshman year at Ohio Christian University (then Circleville Bible College).

While studying education at Malone College (Ohio), she met a representative of Wycliffe Bible Translators, and he suggested that she get some training in linguistics in order to do Bible translation. Ruth became fascinated with the study, and she earned a master’s degree from Wycliffe’s Summer Institute of Linguistics. When CCCU appealed for translators to go to the new work in PNG, she knew that God had been the orchestrator of it all.

“In 1969, when I first arrived, PNG was not a literate society; it was an oral society. The literacy rate was zero percent,” she said.

Ruth’s first love was for translation, but like many missionaries, she found herself doing more than that at different times. She served in field accounting, teaching, leadership, women’s ministries, literacy work, and more. “I did just about every job there was to do on the field at some point,” she said.

But the reason Ruth went to PNG in the first place was for Bible translation. In 1986, the task finally started: translating the New Testament into the Angal Enen dialect of the Nembi Valley of the Southern Highlands Province. This project took 16 years of concentrated work. The translation was completed in 2001, and it was dedicated in 2002. During the process of translating the New Testament, Ruth also developed an alphabet, a dictionary, and grammar for the Angal Enen language.

Ruth was involved in other translation projects as well. She helped create materials for literacy classes in Pidgin, the trade language of PNG. The government took over the work, but in some areas, they still use the primers and materials that Ruth helped create. The literacy rate in PNG is now 40 percent.

“We still have a lot to do,” said Ruth. “In order to effectively present the gospel, we need to understand the worldviews of our brothers and sisters in PNG. They need to understand Christ and follow Him and make Him the Lord of their lives. That’s the reason for the whole thing: to bring people to Christ.”

“PNG is by far the most undeveloped country that WGM works with,” said David Lattimer, professor at OCU and former missions superintendent at CCCU. “Ruth’s steadfastness and perseverance in the face of disappointments, delays, and challenges is a testimony to her strong faith in Christ.”

There are no gifts or words that can adequately express gratitude for Ruth’s gift of her skills and abilities in furthering the Lord’s kingdom. With deep appreciation, WGM thanks Ruth Tipton for her 39 years of faithful service in Papua New Guinea.

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