Howard and Ruth both were raised in homes where Christ was center and service to Him was a high value. It was in their early years that they came to know and accept Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord of their lives.
Howard believes that his father’s work with Christian Reformed Home Missions with Native Americans sparked his interest in cross-cultural ministry. As a youth, he sought out areas where he could use his gifts to serve God. Howard went to Calvin College and then to Calvin Seminary, graduating with a Master’s of Christian Education. He then spent a year in Chicago ministering with an inner city community church. Later he moved to Grand Rapids, MI where he worked in a church that was committed to demonstrating the love of Christ in their community. Through his work at this church he led several young people on a service project to the Dominican Republic. This experience prodded Howard to seriously consider overseas missions. It was during this time that he met Ruth.
Ruth can remember very specific times that she felt the call of God on her life. She felt the challenge and call to overseas mission work even in her elementary school years. She loved hearing the stories of visiting missionaries and looking at the pictures they brought. Then while attending Reformed Bible College she met a number of international students who opened her eyes to a huge and wonderful world. After her freshman year, Ruth spent a summer in Mexico to learn and participate in missions. This again confirmed her call to serve God somewhere in His world. She and Howard met during her last year at RBC.
Howard and Ruth married and kept this dream alive. In 1991 they went to Christian Reformed World Missions and asked if there were any opening for them to serve God overseas on a volunteer basis. The team in Haiti at that time invited them to join them. They learned a great deal during that 1 1/2 year time and they fell in love with Haiti, the people and the ministry they became involved with. God opened the door for them to stay and become full time missionaries with Christian Reformed World Missions. Howard’s first role was Director of the John Calvin Bible Institute. Today this ministry continues training pastors and deacons but with a new name, a national director and a board of trustees.
Howard’s work has changed much since 1991 as has Ruth’s. Ruth began by teaching English, editing Creole discipleship material, and keeping the books for the team. Since that beginning four children joined their family and Ruth’s focus turned toward home. Today, since all the children are in school fulltime, Ruth is once again finding her niche at the office as an administrative assistant to the whole Sous Espwa team.