from the Original Winter Texan
WESLACO — First things first. It seems before getting down to their story, our Winter Texans of the week wanted another story to be told — that of the Brownsville Teen Center/Distribution Center. This is not surprising considering they have their own ministry and this is the Christmas Season, right?
Bob Clark, now in his 80s with questionable health, has a dream to help the teens of Brownsville. They have a building, which is in shambles, that he is trying to redo. However, it is broken into weekly and even the stronger plexiglass windows, installed to help slow down vandalism, are being broken.
Bob was desperately ill this summer but he’s back trying to distribute items for Christmas. With a determination that won’t quit, he plunges ahead. He needs help in order to help the kids. Anyone interested, please call (956) 542-7755.
Now down to brass tacks. Sometimes it seems a painting would do a much better job than words in describing the life paths for the people in these stories. Bob and Ruth’s painting of their life’s path would look like a dance - maybe a square dance for they were in and out of each other’s lives for years before they ended up doing the reel to wedding vows.
Ruth, who was supposed to be Anna, was born at home, the 10th of 13 children, as a breech baby of over 10 pounds. Since her mom almost died during the birth, her father renamed her after her mom, Ruth.
Growing up on a farm, 15 miles from Geise, Minn., Ruth found herself lost in the 13.
“You’re just part of the family and being a poor family you didn’t excel in anything,” she said.
But Ruth wouldn’t trade her up bringing by her mostly absent father and hardworking mother.
“People like to say you are part of your environment. It forms your way of thinking and it forms your way of looking at the world,” said Ruth. “If I had all of it to do over, I would still rather grow up in a fairly poor way of life because you tend to appreciate things better. I really think my childhood was great even though we didn’t have anything.”
One thing she did have was a nickname — Dukes. Since she grew up mostly with brothers, her sisters were already out of the house, Ruth tended to be a tomboy and got a reputation of being a pretty tough little girl.
“Her brothers would say, ‘My sister can whip you,’” said Bob. “She’d go out there and she’d whip ‘em.”
“They would make bets behind my back and I never knew it,” she said, laughing. “My brothers would make money off this because they would get me riled and anger me just to see who would win. Then I’d end up winning but they would get paid off and I got nothing!”
Ruth was working in the bindery of the Old Web Publishing Company, where she worked for 20 years, which used to publish the Old Farmer Magazine, a big magazine, when she met her first husband, Tom.
Married only seven years when Tom developed Multiple Myeloma, he died from a bone marrow transplant. But out of ashes rises the Phoenix and it was during this time Ruth’s life took a dramatic turn.
“His sister and I would spend a lot of time talking about the Lord and what I was going through with her brother’s death,” Ruth said. “She taught me about prayer. She said it’s just a simple conversation with the Lord and she and I would pray together. It was during that time when I became a Christian. I thought it was quite unusual that God would choose me because of all the things I had done in my past. When I asked, ‘Why me?’ she said, ‘He wants everyone and you don’t have to worry about how you are. He cleans you up later.’”
Having a lot of time to herself, she began reading the Bible. “I had a hunger,” she said.
After a while she found it time to move nearer her family in South St. Paul. So, she found a house there and needed help to clean up her home in Wisconsin renters had left a mess. Guess who that was? Why, her brother’s business partner, a man who had known the whole family for quite some time. It was during a phone call hunting for her brother that Bob Chryst called and offered to help clear out the house.
Bob was born and reared on the east side of St. Paul, Minnesota. He was the youngest of the three siblings. His father was a car salesman but the family was poor.
“They didn’t make much money selling cars like they do now,” said Bob.
Playing hockey since he was old enough to walk, his first shin pads were magazines. However, he remembers his childhood fondly for they had a neighborhood where the children stuck together.
“We would all meet and go to school together and in high school we’d all stay together so we had our friends we grew up with. That was neat,” he said.
At 12 years old, his dad passed away which put a bind on his mother.
“That changed our lifestyle a little bit,” he said. “My mom did the best she could.”
After high school he went into the Navy. One assignment during his four years was on an aircraft carrier flying in hurricane hunter planes.
“There’s a certain way to go in and a certain way to come out. When you’re in the eye of a hurricane it’s quite calm. The planes are made for it. It’s not that bad,” Bob said.
That same carrier also went to Vietnam where he flew radar reconnaissance as the war got started. On another aircraft carrier, the USS Oriskany, they did helicopter rescues. Sadly, it was also the ship where a flare exploded in a locker causing a major fire killing 44 men, 11 were officers of his squadron.
The years after the Navy found him working in electrical maintenance after trade school, with the economy chasing him from one lay off to the next. Married with three children and later divorced, he wasn’t sure where he fit but he had been a Christian for years and trusted he would be led. He simply watched and stayed alert.
Of course now you know he was in the trucking business with a man named David, whose sister was named Ruth.
Helping Ruth clear out her home in Wisconsin, they stopped at a restaurant for lunch.
“We had taken a secluded place so we could talk and get to know each other. While I was talking I heard a very clear voice behind me say, ‘This is the woman I want to you to marry,’” said Bob.
He must have had an unusual expression on his face as he turned to look over his shoulder to see where the voice came from for Ruth questioned the look.
“I said, ‘I don’t really want to tell you,’” he said, chuckling, “because I didn’t want to go in that area with her. But I said, ‘I just heard a voice behind me say, ‘This is the woman I want you to marry.’”
She knew if she ever married again she wanted to marry a Christian man so she didn’t even doubt what he said. After two years they married — 11 years ago.
Only eight years ago, their dance led them into ministry work. They had been doing more and more bible studies, getting involved with the bible college at church. Before it was done, Bob had become an Ordained Minister and Ruth was a Licensed Child Evangelist.
“Kids today are so vulnerable that we need to bring God to them early on,” said Ruth, “or we can lose them.”
It was while they camped at Bemidji, Minn. that the final decision was firmed up for Bob. When the minister didn’t show up, somehow Bob found himself volunteering to lead the service. Opening the bible where it had fallen upon the large rock in front of him, he talked of God’s healing through Jesus. When he was finished two women stood and told how they were here for a one year reunion of their healing from breast cancer.
“This is how God puts it all together,” he said, in awe.
From there they developed a RV Park and campground ministry named Spiritglow Ministry which has stretched into Indian reservations in New Mexico and work camping where ever they are led. As full timers now, God’s dance keeps them ever busy.
“My life before becoming a Christian was quite dull,” Ruth said. “It was God that really livened things up!”