'My husband's murder deepened my faith'

Published 25 July 2014

Costa-Rican theologian Ruth Padilla DeBorst shared how her faith grew in the midst of her grief, after her husband was killed by thieves on the road in Ecuador.

Speaking at the Keswick Convention this week, she also described her unusual upbringing, which included both heavyweight theology at the dinner table and the drug addicts her mother invited to live with them.

"My husband was actually murdered in Ecuador and as a family we witnessed that. I was eight months pregnant, I had two small children. Many people have asked me well, did that not shake your faith? It shook it, but it also deepened it profoundly.

"I encountered Christ in the midst of that... not just as somebody who sought to comfort me, but as someone who took on the pain, and the senseless murder of a person who was innocent. It came to be as an incredible expression... of a whole new experience of God in the midst of suffering. It also opened up a new chapter in my awareness of the suffering of others."

Ruth described how she was the supported in her grief by her family, and he former colleagues at IFES (The International Fellowship of Evangelical Students), with whom she worked on mission.

"Even if I had wanted to just dash my head against the floor out of desperation and pain and loss, I could not have: because there was a cushion, it was provided by the Christian community and their support.

"It made me realise, how many people, especially women are left in the world in all kinds of circumstances, without that cushion, without that support. It made me open my eyes to the reality of injustice and need and suffering in our world. It began a whole new chapter of understanding of God and God's purposes and also of the world and our place in it."

Since then Ruth has been seeking to live, act and speak in ways that contribute to more justice in the world and a better life for the least privileged in it. She also teaches on 'integral mission' – the theology of living out Christian faith in practice.

Ruth has always had an unusual life, having grown up with a famous theologian, Rene Padilla, for a mother.

"I had an incredible privilege of growing up with my house lined with books, and the conversation around the table was spiced with constant issues about what it meant to live as people of God in the world, and a home open to an incredible diversity of people. Not just for a day not, just for a meal, but for long extended stay. My mother welcomed an entire family of drug addicts, we took care of the children so that the parents could recover, and things like that."

Ruth has also previously worked for development charity World Vision, and is closely involved in the evangelical theological community in Latin America.

Some of Ruth's talks on integral mission are available free here

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