Saturday, August 25, 2018

“Baba” and Ruth: Following God

Whenever  I consider the book of Ruth, I am always reminded of my grandmother, “Baba,” who helped raise me from the time I was born until she went home to be with the Lord when I was 14 years old.

The first reason the book of Ruth reminds me of Baba is that she donated to her Russian Orthodox church in New York City a large oil painting of Ruth gleaning in the fields of Boaz (Ruth 2:2-9), which occupied a prominent place on a side wall in the main sanctuary. This was no small accomplishment and sacrifice considering her very modest means!

But more importantly, Ruth’s character and life have many parallels to that of my grandmother. Ruth left her home country to follow her mother-in-law to a new land and a new life. She left behind her family, customs, and pagan gods for a new country that worshipped the true God, Jehovah (Ruth 1:6-19).

At 16 years of age, my grandmother left her small village outside the city of Kiev, Ukraine, to follow her husband to a new world in Nova Scotia, Canada, with an entirely different society, form of government, climate and customs. The Ukraine was known as the bread basket of Russia because of its abundance of wheat fields, and farming these fields was the main occupation of her village. So it is not a stretch to imagine Baba as a young girl, gleaning wheat from the fields much as Ruth later was allowed to glean in the fields of Boaz!

In contrast, Nova Scotia was a harsh, unforgiving land, with bitterly cold winters leading to frequent illness, including pneumonia that claimed the lives of Baba’s nine children, leaving only my mother who survived past infancy. Baba’s husband Ivan, who worked as a mining engineer, was at risk for mining accidents and other occupational hazards that had led to the death of several of his coworkers.

One evening, Baba’s joy and relief to see Ivan return safely home from work quickly abated as he told her of an unusual experience he had while in the mine.

“I’ve seen Jesus, and I’ll be going home soon to be with Him,” he said.

Two weeks later, at the age of 35, Baba's husband collapsed and died, apparently from a fatal heart attack or stroke.

Ruth met her husband in her home country of Moab (Ruth 1:1-4), a pagan nation that worshipped Chemosh, also known as the fish-god, god of stone, or god of Baal. Chemosh may have been the same false god as Molech, whom the Ammonites worshipped with infant sacrifices (1 Kings 11:7,33; 2 Kings 3:27).

Ruth’s husband, his brother, and his parents had come to Moab from the Hebrew nation of Bethlehemjudah, which had been struck by a famine (Ruth 1:1:2). Rather than trusting God to provide for them at home, they ventured to where the grass seemed greener, even though it could not have been God’s will for them to assimilate into such an evil culture (Ezra 10:11; Nehemiah 9:2; 2 Corinthians 6:17).

Soon tragedy overcame them, as Ruth’s husband, her father-in-law and her brother-in-law died in Moab (Ruth 1:3-5), yet God had a plan that would work all things together for good (Romans 8:28), as we shall see in later posts. Only Naomi, her mother-in-law, and Orpah, her sister-in-law, remained of her new family.

After Ruth and Orpah were widowed, Naomi encouraged them to return to their family and old way of life, and Orpah eventually agreed. But Ruth dearly loved her mother-in-law, and she loved their true Jehovah God even more (Ruth 1:6-15). 

Ruth 1:16 And Ruth said, Intreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God:

Ruth vowed never to depart from Naomi nor from her faith, and she followed Naomi back to her home town of Bethlehem (Ruth 1:17-19), which (like the Ukraine!) means “bread basket.” Bethlehem, in God’s chosen nation of Israel was the birthplace of Jesus, Who is the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 48. 51), so the name is fitting.

Like Ruth, Baba was then faced with an important decision – go home to the Ukraine and her old way of life, or remain in the new world that seemed to have treated her so cruelly. She and my mother chose the latter, although they moved from Nova Scotia to Manhattan’s lower East Side, which had a growing Russian and Ukrainian community.

Praise the Lord that we are not chained to the evil ways or false beliefs of the society in which we were raised! God offers each of us a choice to be made of our own free will – to accept His Son Jesus Christ and His freely given gift of salvation (Romans 6:23), or to reject Him and be condemned to eternal separation from Him and everlasting punishment in hell (John 3:18; Mark 9:43-49). We cannot be saved simply because we were born into a Godly home, nor can we be judged for the sins of our fathers (Deuteronomy 24:16; 2 Kings 14:6).

Once we become God’s children by trusting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we can have faith that He will never leave us nor forsake us (Hebrews 13:5), that He will always provide for us (Psalm 37:25), and that He will answer our prayers exceeding abundantly beyond what we could ever imagine or think (Ephesians 3:20). Both Baba and Ruth are a testimony to this, as we shall explore next time!

© 2018 Laurie Collett



Sandi said...

What year did your Baba leave the Ukraine?

She lost nine children and her husband at age 35...

Are you Russian Orthodox too? I would love to attend a service in one of those huge golden churches.

Frank E. Blasi said...

Dear Laurie,
The Story of Naomi and Ruth is a beautiful story, and her faithfulness to God led her of becoming the mother of King David and in turn, Jesus Christ.
Also a very interesting story of your grandmother, and particularly with her husband, who received a revelation that shortly he will be at home with Jesus.
You are right about growing up in a godly home does not guarantee salvation for the children. I know of two different Christian couples whose offspring have married and divorced over a short period of time, and of another couple, related to Alex's family, whose son was once a minister of a church and preached good sermons - until he read Richard Dawkins' book, "The God Delusion" and ended up as a committed atheist.
Whether such people were ever saved or not, only God knows. But what I find so difficult is how a true, Spirit-filled believer can turn away from God and eventually disown him.
I'm looking forward for your next installment. God bless.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Sandi,
I don't know the exact year they left the Ukraine, as record keeping was poor back then, although our son is trying to do some genealogical research. Of Baba's 10 children, only my mom survived, and of the remainder, there were 3 sets of twins. As an infant, I was christened in a Russian Orthodox church as well as in a Presbyterian church, and attended the latter while growing up. Once I was saved decades later, I have been a member of a Baptist church. But I do remember a few funerals and Easter services in Russian Orthodox churches, and I still have wedding photos of my parents in that same church in NYC, with crowns being held over their heads as is the Russian Orthodox custom.
Thanks so much for your comment, and God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Dear Frank,
It is sad to hear of apparently devoted Christians who stray so far from the truth. A friend of ours, a pastor married with 3 teen children who love the Lord, is going through a divorce at the request of his wife who now believes a cult that preaches that Jesus was just a good man, and that anyone who follows Him is an idolater. In this case, I believe she was never saved to begin with, but as you say, only God knows.
Thanks as always for sharing your experience and insights. God bless,

Donald Fishgrab said...

Praise God, he loves us and has given us the freedom to choose whether to follow him or just follow the examples we had in the past. I fear that many who turn away have just been following the examples without really making a conscious choice, and when things aren't they way they expected, they turn away.

Aritha said...

Nice to read! Thanks for sharing. We study "Ruth" on facebook with a groep women. There are such great lessons in it!

Laurie Collett said...

Great point, Donald! We need to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and not on the pastor or other Godly example. All but Him are human and will ultimately let us down, but God will never let us down.
Thanks so much for your comment and God bless,

Laurie Collett said...

Thank you, Aritha, for your encouraging comment! May you be blessed by your study of Ruth!
Love in Christ,

Brenda said...

Hi Laurie,
what a beautiful story, even though it began with much sadness within it,which God knew would happen from the beginning.
I learned the Russian language for a year but then they could not get enough people for the second year. My husband and I were at the Berlin wall just after it came down and I went over to a Russian soldier stood nearby who was on guard duty at a nearby building.
I thought I would practice my Russian so I spoke a few sentences. I ended up with total egg on my face as he answered me with so many words that I lost track. We ended up laughing together.
I can sympathise with your ancestors as my mother was born of Jewish parents who came into the UK from either Germany or Austria. I did some research into their ancestry but never went further back than when they entered the UK when their name was changed to the English translation.
God bless you Laurie, and my near death experience has shown me that there is far more to God's plan than what we see on earth.

Laurie Collett said...

Hi Brenda,
Thank you as always for your encouragement and for sharing your experiences. That must have an interesting encounter with the Russian soldier! Baba spoke with me in a mixture of Ukrainian and pigeon English, which it turns out was not very useful for communicating with anyone else -- it was our own special dialect! I studied Russian for a semester in college, and can understand a little Russian if it is spoken slowly, but I am far from fluent or even conversational.
It is true that a major challenge to determining family trees from different countries is the transliteration that occurred randomly when immigrants entered this country, making it difficult to trace our roots.
As you know better than most of us, God's ultimate plan for us is far beyond what we could even imagine, praise the Lord!
God bless you too,

Susan said...

Hi Laurie, what a wonderful post, as always! My husband and I live in Ontario Canada, I always wanted to see Nova Scotia, it is beautiful in summer, but like you say, winters are often exceedingly harsh. I love the story of Ruth, that and Esther are my favourite O.T. books. Sorry I have neglected blogging again, the tyranny of home and garden work have kept me away. Thank you for remaining faithful, when I do make the time to visit, you always reward me with a wonderful post ☺️😘

Laurie Collett said...

Thanks so much, Susan -- I truly appreciate your visit and encouraging comment! I have visited Toronto and enjoyed the city, and also Nova Scotia once in the summer, which was quite lovely as you say. I agree that Ruth and Esther capture my attention and admiration the most from the O.T., except of course for Psalms. God bless,

S. Knowles said...

I really enjoyed reading this Laurie. This was so encouraging. I will be sharing it with others. God bless you :-)

Laurie Collett said...

Thank you, Sateigdra, I am blessed to hear that you enjoyed the post! May God bless you too! Hope you'll read the second installment of this series, posted this morning.
Love in Christ,