God allows us the privilege of managing the resources of time, energy, talent and means, which He has provided. As Dick Ruder and his wife, Sharon, discovered, we can either squander life’s resources or invest them in God’s mission and His purposes.
Dick and Sharon met in grade school in Spokane, Washington, after Dick’s mother returned to the Adventist church. Dick grew up in an unhappy home with an overbearing father and parents who did not share the same faith. His picture of God was not a positive one.
While Dick and Sharon were attending Upper Columbia Academy, a special friendship developed between them. Dick also established a good relationship with Dean Wisbey and enjoyed his school year. Unfortunately Wisbey transferred to Monterey Bay Academy, and the following year Dick enrolled in public school after being asked to leave the academy.
Not wanting Dick to stay in public high school, Wisbey encouraged him to come to MBA. Dick did and completed his high school years there. Following graduation, Dick enrolled at Pacific Union College. Sharon, meanwhile, graduated from UCA and went to Walla Walla College.
While in the Northwest on vacation, Dick met Sharon again. Their friendship redeveloped, and, shortly after they married, they moved to Olympia, Washington, where Sharon began teaching and Dick began a construction business.
Developing his own company required a lot of energy, and Dick soon found himself consumed by work. While successful professionally, his relationships with God and with Sharon were neglected and soon began to deteriorate. In the end, Dick not only lost touch with God, but he also lost his marriage. Sharon returned to the Inland Empire and began teaching at the Lake City Junior Academy in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Twenty years passed, but Dick had not found happiness. Financial and professional success had come at a great price. One day Dick cried out to God, “There has to be something better than this! Please show me how to find it!”
God heard that prayer, and Dick began attending church in Lacey, Washington, where he met old friends that he and Sharon had once known. These friends welcomed Dick and invited him to their home fellowship group. Before long, he gave his heart to the Lord.
One day talk turned to Sharon, and one of his friends suggested Dick get in touch with her. This friend said she knew Sharon still cared deeply for Dick. That Christmas, Dick found Sharon, their love grew, and within a year they were remarried.
“From the day I gave my heart to the Lord, miracle after miracle has taken place in my life,” said Dick. “These miracles continue to this day.”
Dick also took some proactive steps. He recognized his business had been all-consuming and had obstructed his relationship with God and with Sharon. So he closed the business, moved to Coeur d’Alene and began work as a project manager for another construction company. He joined Sharon as an active member of the local church and a home fellowship group. Together they began reaching out to friends such as Glen Shafer, who likewise had left the Lord earlier. Glen’s return to active membership and his wife’s conversion is another inspiring story.
More evidence of God’s leading involves the purchase of a new home in Hayden Lake, just north of Coeur d’Alene. Dick and Sharon’s daughter married someone who also worked in construction. His boss had a home that he wanted to sell. Dick contacted him, and he told Dick he would sell it to him for just what it had cost him. While the home was larger than they needed, Dick and Sharon knew the home had a higher value and felt God was leading in its purchase. They bought the home and waited to see where the Lord would lead them next.
During this time the Upper Columbia Conference Executive Committee invited Wayne Kablanow and his wife to plant a church in Hayden Lake. They encouraged Dick and Sharon to join this venture and before long there was a core group of 26 meeting together. As they prayed about a place to meet, they realized God had provided them a home with sufficient space for the group. It became their worship center for the next six months until the group grew so large they rented a facility.
Today, this group numbers more than 100 and has ventured forward in faith to acquire 10 acres of prime property just off Highway 95. God led in miraculous ways to open this prime piece of land for the group. Dick and Sharon’s lives are fully invested in ministry for the Master as Sharon continues her full-time teaching ministry and Dick is project manager for the construction of this new church plant. They are active in giving Bible studies, and Dick mentors a young elder.
Dick is amazed at the wonderful way God has led in his life: “We have been inspired through the ‘Experiencing God’ study series at our home fellowship meetings. One of the main principles it teaches is, ‘if you want to see God working in your church, see who God brings to the church.’ Another is ‘if you don’t understand where God is leading at the moment, be assured that as you look back you will see that He was leading.’”
Dick and Sharon realize now that even when Dick was out of the church and they were experiencing such heartache, God was at work grooming him with the experience that now is being used for God’s glory in the leadership he is giving for this new church in Hayden Lake. They both agree there is nothing quite like investing one’s life resources where it counts—for time and eternity. •