Friday, January 02, 2009

Memorial to my Aunt Ruth

Ruth Billman is preceded in death by her beloved:
Husband – Herb Billman
Parents – Oscar & Julie Bergh
Brother Oliver Bergh, Sisters Marie Bergh & Audrey Iverson

She is survived by her beloved 4 children,
18 grandchildren & 2 great-grandchildren:

Daniel Billman and wife Pat of Duluth, MN
Joseph, Tim & Sharon
Martha Towner and husband Jim of Bloomington, MN
Grandchildren: Elisa (& husband Matthew Berry &
great-grandson Judah). Daniel, Laura (& husband Michael
Woolridge & great-granddaughter Archangela),
Ruthie, Anne Carolyn & Johnny
John Billman and wife Michelle of Burnsville, MN
Steven, Annemarie, Christina & Brian
Carol Freeman and husband Tim of Bloomington, MN
Jenny, David, Rebecca, Michelle & Megan

Beloved Sisters:
Cecelia Holter of Bruce, SD, Thea Bergh of Hutchinson, MN,
Marjorie Davies of Hutchinson, MN, Dorothy Steinberg of
Seattle, WA, Clarice Dravland [Alvin] of Bottineau, ND;
Brother-in-law, Walt Iverson of Toronto, SD
and many nephews, nieces and cousins.

We all will dearly miss her.

Celebrating the life of

Ruth Olive Billman

May 26, 1918 -
December 29, 2008
Bethany Church,, Bloomington,
The Way to Make Peace with God

Ruth’s desire was that the way of salvation be made very clear in her obituary, and we would like to honor that. Here is what she wrote for her husband’s obituary. Nothing has changed.

To be saved, that is to be adopted into the family of God, to have your sins wiped off the record, to share the very nature of God, you must be informed of some basic facts. First you must know that God has such incredible love for you and for all men that he volunteered His own and only Son to take on Himself the punishment you and all people deserved. ‘He spared not His own Son.’ The Son, Jesus Christ, was crucified. In this crucifixion, Jesus took the punishment we deserved. He opened the way to heaven for us.

Your reaction to these truths will decide the difference between heaven and hell for you. It calls for a certain humility on our part. It is somewhat like an abdication. We part company with that old selfish part of us and come under a totally new regime. It is like a pledge of allegiance, allegiance to Jesus Christ. We are now under His dominion. The Bible calls us new creatures. God considers us sons and daughters, brothers and sisters of His son, Jesus. Ruth would greatly rejoice if she could see you now, as you read this tribute, turning to the Lover of your Soul. Jesus yearns for you more than you’ll ever know. Come to him, while it is still ‘day.’

Memorials are preferred to Bethany Church who will send them to Jeff & Diane Littleton, Bethany missionaries to Asia & long-time personal friends of Ruth.

Order of Service

Prelude Kristofer Bergh (grandnephew)
Greetings Pastor Jared Winger
Invocation Michelle Billman (daughter-in-law)
It’s So Sweet to Trust Pat Billman (daughter-in-law) &
in Jesus Cathy Brokke
Hymn And Can it Be? (congregation)
Scripture Reading Phyllis MacKinnon Ps 37:1-9
Tribute - children Martha Towner & John Billman
Tribute - grandchild Namesake Ruthie Towner
Living for Jesus Billman Clan
Meditation Pastor Jared Winger
I Shall Know Him Jim Towner (son-in-law) & Dan
Towner (grandson)
Hymn Amazing Grace (congregation)
Tributes – children Carol Freeman
Meditation Tim Freeman (son-in-law)
Closing Prayer Dr. Bryan Bergh (nephew)
Power Point of Ruth’s Life
Postlude Laura (Towner) Woolridge

Please join us for a luncheon reception in Bethany’s dining rooms immediately following the service. We invite you to take the opportunity there to share a story or memory about Ruth.
John Billman Dan Towner
Jim Towner Steven Billman
Tim Freeman Joseph Billman

In Loving Memory
Ruth Olive Bergh Billman was born on May 26,1918 in Cereal, Alberta, Canada. When Ruth was 8, the family moved to Volga, SD. Known as the fastest cow milker among the 8 siblings, she would practice her debates on the cows. When she was a young adult, an evangelist preached at their Lutheran church, and Ruth put down a burden of guilt she had carried for years, received God’s forgiveness and was released into a place of peace in her relationship with God.

She earned her teacher’s degree from Augustana College in Sioux Falls, SD, and began her lifelong career of teaching, starting out in a one-room schoolhouse in South Dakota. During this time, Ruth and her sisters Thea and Marge were gripped by the message of living in victory over sin that was being taught by Pastor Hegre. They joined the newly forming Bethany community located on Blaisdell in Mpls. in 1946. Soon the three Bergh sisters felt called to missions and were commissioned in the first group of missionaries sent out from Bethany Church in 1949, joining the WEC mission. While Thea & Marge went to India & Liberia respectively, Ruth headed to Guinea Bissau, W. Africa. The 3 sisters had a strong time of prayer, releasing each other to go where the Lord would lead them, even if that meant never seeing each other again.

After 2 years in Guinea Bissau, at the age of 34, Ruth married her co-worker Dr. Herbert Billman in Africa. They spent 22 years in missionary service, committed to bringing healing to the body and soul. First, they did leprosy work in Guinea Bissau, during which time their 3 oldest children were born. The third child was born during Ruth’s first bout of tuberculosis. Their youngest was born as they transferred to Viet Nam where they gave eye care. In 1963 they moved to Timor and then on to Australia. They returned to America in 1964 to give their children an education. Missionaries frequently lived in their home those years. Twenty-six years later in 1990, they returned to mission work, this time to Ghana, West Africa, where they built Emmanuel Eye Clinic. In the midst of all the medical work being done through the years, and raising 4 children born within a space of 5 years, Ruth faithfully shared the gospel with the patients as they waited their turn to see the doctor. She became a proficient writer, as she prepared follow-up discipleship materials to send to those who came to Christ. These writings eventually were sent to thousands throughout Africa who were seeking a closer walk with God.

After ‘retiring’ from mission work in Ghana in 1998, at the age of 80, Ruth continued to write stories that tell of how God still speaks to us today. She was going through the last edit of the compilation of these stories into her book entitled The Journal and the Red Pen when she was called Home. To obtain a copy of this book, contact her daughter at It is chock full of amazing stories of God lovingly walking with His children.

In her 70’s & 80’s, during their travels to and from Africa, Ruth made frequent trips with Herb to NE Spain, where Martha lived. There Ruth had a vital ministry & friendship with many who understood her Portuguese clearly and considered her their own dear grandmother. When her husband of 52 years passed on 4 years ago, she did not lose her zeal for living, but rather continued trips to Spain, & intensified her writing & time in prayer and worship.

Ruth was known for her kind, gracious ways, her sweet hospitality, thankful spirit, generous giving and encouraging words. She tenderly loved and interceded for all her children and grandchildren, as well as all those God brought her way. She taught all her children and several grandchildren to read. She was a tough opponent to beat in Scrabble and loved a picnic.

Ruth lived the last 6 months with her daughter Martha & family. She had a great sense of humor and when the teasing began she could dish it out to match the best of them! She loved attending the times of intercessory worship at the Bethany House of Prayer, and even talked about possibly moving on campus to become part of the team of intercessory missionaries. She wanted all her days to count for eternity and felt that prayer was the best way to do that. The intercessory team considered her their own ‘Anna’ (Luke. 2:36)

Ruth was active until her last days here. The day before her stroke, she took her daughter out for a birthday breakfast, baked homemade brown bread, wrote Christmas newsletters, taught a Mexican visitor an English lesson and sent an email to missionaries Jeff & Diane Littleton at 3:35am (her normal time to rise for an hour of prayer in the night), assuring them of her love & prayers, just a couple hours before her stroke. Ruth has always been a teacher, Now she has once again gone ahead of us. Let us make peace with our loving God, so we can follow where she has gone.



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