Ruth Rhoda Clark was born to Ervin and Inez Rhoda on November 22, 1950 on a potato farm in Hodgdon, Maine. She continued their legacy of strong faith and dedicated service to others throughout her life.
Many missionaries stayed in the Rhoda home over the years, and at the age of nine, Ruth remembered standing in one of the family potato fields thinking she would like to be a missionary, teacher, or nurse. After graduating from Eastern Christian High School, she attended Covenant College and received her nursing degree from Columbia University in New York. She went on a short term mission trip to Liberia, making her 9-year-old self's dream a reality. On return, she was asked to share her experiences with a young handsome man, Brian Clark, who was preparing to go on a short-term mission trip to the exact same place Ruth had been. They corresponded throughout Brian's mission trip, fell in love, and were married on June 19, 1976—just 8 months after he returned to the U.S.
They went straight from their honeymoon to SIM's missionary candidate school and then returned to Liberia together. Ruth worked as a prenatal nurse, offering medical care and sharing the gospel at ELWA hospital and in the surrounding area villages. Their daughters, Joy and Karen, were born in Liberia.
Fourteen years later, when war prevented them from returning to Liberia after home assignment, they moved to Ethiopia, where Ruth showed her flexibility and intelligence by taking on a variety of roles from computer teacher to accounting assistant. Together, she and Brian began leading a discipleship group for young adults in Addis Ababa. Many of the members of the group still consider them surrogate parents. Ruth was often found deep in conversation with young ladies from the discipleship group or other missionary women. All of them gravitated toward her listening ear and loving heart. Ruth's gift for counseling was so clear to all around them that eventually SIM asked her to officially take on the role of women's counselor.
It was in this role as counselor that Ruth set off toward a village in Southern Ethiopia in July of 1996. Unfortunately, she never reached the village, stopped by the car accident that would leave her paralyzed for almost 26 years.
Ruth didn't let her accident stop her from loving people and ministering to them. Many found her more approachable in her wheelchair, and she would say that she didn't "have to" be in a wheelchair, but she "got to." Her attitude was a true inspiration. With Brian's help, she gained enough independence to drive a hand-controlled van and joined SIM's U.S. member care team, where she served until 2018. Even as breathing became more and more of a challenge (her lung had been punctured in the accident, and scar tissue led to COPD), she still reached out by phone to many and in-person to her friends, family, and home-health aides. She made everyone she encountered feel seen and understood, and was an expert at being family to those who didn't have any.
Ruth collected stuffed lambs as a reminder of the Lord's watch-care over her, and she met her Shepherd in person on Easter Sunday, April 17, 2022. She is now enjoying a heavenly reunion with her parents, her brothers John and Herb, her niece Lori, and the baby miscarried in her second pregnancy. She is survived by husband Brian, daughters Joy and Karen, 5 grandchildren, brother Jim, foster-sister Lois, and many who see her as the mother or sister of their heart.
A Celebration of Life Service will be held on Monday, April 25 at Hope Fellowship Church, 95 Bird St., Rock Hill, SC at 6:30 p.m. with an opportunity for family and friends to fellowship afterwards. A family graveside service will be on Tuesday, April 26 at Rock Hill Memorial Gardens, 700 Heckle Blvd., Rock Hill, SC at 10:30 a.m. Both events will be live streamed at the links below:
Link for Celebration of Life Service: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCo1GoRmW2G5fovQh-fa04nQ
Link for family graveside service: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCY-Zj-726I6y55qQGRN2A1w
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the following:
Discovery School, Burundi, Africa: Donate to Discovery School
Hillcrest Baptist Church missions, York, SC https://www.hillcrestyorksc.org/give please click on missions for your donation
SIM USA, Fort Mill, SC https://www.simusa.org/give/?id=037559-050&name=Conard&dsg=Ministry
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