Ordinary Woman, Extraordinary Investment

It’s been about 40 years since Sandy Wisdom-Martin got to know Ruth King in the small town of Marissa, Illinois.

But she’ll never lose the mental image of the small lady protecting her from snarling dogs.

“I was afraid of dogs,” said Wisdom-Martin, who was a teenager back when she used to walk through town with King on Wednesday nights. “Before Bible study, she and I would go out into the community together and invite people to church, and the dogs would chase us. She had to protect me.”

But even though that memory stuck, something else stuck with Wisdom-Martin even more, she said.

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“As we walked around town, she taught me how to witness,” Wisdom-Martin said. “She became a role model for me. She taught me about missions, and as a teenager, my worldview changed completely because of her. She showed me that there was a world beyond my tiny rural community.”

In Wisdom-Martin’s eyes, King brought the world to the small Illinois town when her husband became the bivocational pastor there.

But King said she wasn’t doing anything extraordinary — she was just doing what God had called her to do.

“I had been an Acteens leader in the church we had come from, and they had no Acteens in Sandy’s church,” she said.

So King started an Acteens group with just her daughter and Wisdom-Martin. About a year later, another girl joined them.

And King poured her life into the tiny group of girls.

“I felt like God sent us there, but I never did anything special in particular,” she said. “God just gave us the blessing of having worked with Sandy. She was already ready to respond to the call; I was just grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of her life.”

It’s been decades since the two saw each other, but when Wisdom-Martin was named executive director of Woman’s Missionary Union in 2016, King saw the news and sent her a letter congratulating her.

“I’m thrilled for her,” King said. “I know God has used her greatly, and I can’t imagine what He has before her still to do.”

But Wisdom-Martin says King is the one God has used greatly.

“I do believe that her starting Acteens changed the course of my life,” she said. “She faithfully met with the few girls who gathered. She helped me see the vast world beyond my rural county through God’s eyes. Her efforts enabled me to understand I have a part in God’s plan.”

Not only that — King taught her how to study the Bible. She taught everyone, Wisdom-Martin said.

“There was a time when she was the Wednesday night Bible study leader, and she taught us how to methodically and systematically read the Bible,” Wisdom-Martin said.

It made an impression — King was “one of the most powerful discipling influences in my life,” Wisdom-Martin said. “She’s a person who made disciples who made disciples. She was passionate about spending time with God, and she passed that passion on to others.”

This article was featured in the April 2018 issue of Missions Mosaic.

Zachariah Seanor

Director of Mission Advancement