Listen: Laura & Duncan hear from Nik and Ruth Ripken about their journey of faith.
Nik and Ruth Ripken’s Christian journey has been anything but average.
The American-born couple were missionaries overseas for more than 30 years and saw first-hand the horrors of war in Somalia, the tensions of apartheid in South Africa, and the struggle of religious persecution in the Middle East. They even walked through the tragedy of their own 16-year-old son’s death while serving as missionaries in a foreign land.
Despite their suffering, though, they wouldn’t change the choices they made to serve God in some of the world’s toughest places.
With all of those tough experiences under their belt, they’re now on a mission to help the Western Church understand what it is to really share their faith in Jesus. It’s a lesson they’ve learnt from Christians in 60 countries, many of them persecuted. Partnering with Open Doors, they’ve made a film about their life experiences, based on their book called The Insanity of God (a reference to God’s selfless love for humanity).
They’re now touring Australia to share their message with churches across the nation.
Learning From the Persecuted Church
“While we were [overseas] we realised we had no clue how to live for Christ in places where it cost everything to follow Christ,” Ruth told Hope 103.2’s Laura and Duncan. “We realised we needed some help. We went to believers in persecution and said, ‘Those of us from the west have no clue. Will you teach us?”
Nik said that there were two times in his missionary years that he wanted to give up.
“The first time was in Somalia, after three days of landmines and kids dying and getting blown up, I told God ‘I’m done, I want out of here.’
“And the other time was when, two weeks after I’d had communion with four Somali believers, they were killed for their faith. They were hunted down, scalped on the way to their respective jobs and bullets put in their heads.”
Unapologetic About Their Mission Work
While many people ask why they took their own children onto the mission field, into nations where it was dangerous to be a believer, the Ripkens say they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“From scripture, we know that God uses families, and sharing Christ as families is so vital,” said Ruth. “From the beginning, we wanted to do this as a family.”
They’re also unapologetic about sharing the gospel in nations where it is deadly to convert to the Christian religion.
“People say to us, ‘You give people Christ and you get them hurt and you cause suffering’ – but these people are already suffering,” explained Nik. “Their countries are ruled by dictators, they can only send one kid to school, they can’t protect their wives and daughters from the government.”
They believe that sharing Christ is the most compassionate thing they can do because it gives people hope for eternity.
Being a Missionary Begins in Your Own Street
For Christians who dream of serving God overseas, the Ripkens say the best way to start is to share your faith “across the street”.
“If we share Christ with our neighbours, it becomes so natural to us.”
“If you learn to go across the street with the gospel, you can go anywhere in the world,” Ruth said. “But if you try to go across the world with the gospel without going across the street first, it will never work because you’ve never really experienced it in your own culture. And when you add extra culture issues and language issues into the mix, it does take a lot more effort.
“If we share Christ with our families, our neighbours and on our streets, in our workplaces, it will be so much easier because it becomes so natural to us.”
Suffering Christians and Free Christians: One Family
Nik and Ruth Ripken say that persecuted believers are just as much a part of the body of Christ as Christians in rich, free nations.
“There’s no such thing as the persecuted church and the free church, there’s just the church,” said Ruth. “It’s always persecuted, and its always free. I think we’ve tried to make the persecuted church something that’s off to the side, that we don’t even talk about. But they’re as much a part of the body as the person I sit next to on Sunday morning.
And they cannot understand why we give up in freedom what they never give up in persecution, and that is their witness to Jesus Christ.”
The Insanity of God DVD is available through the Open Doors website.