Ruth N. Larson (Rask), age 96, of Cambridge went home to be with her Lord and Savior February 19, 2023. Funeral servcies will be held at 11:00 A.M. Saturday, February 25th at First Baptist Church in Cambridge. A visitation will be held on hour prior to the funeral at the church. Interment will be in Isanti Union Cemetery. Memorials are suggested to Converge, PO Box 850001 Orlando, FL 32885-9930 or to the family for a nursing scholarship to be set up in her name at Assam.
RUTH NAOMI RASK LARSON
March 3, 1926 – February 19, 2023
“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors……….” 2 Corinthians 5:20
As a young teenager, Ruthie obediently climbed the stairs to scrub the linoleum floors, part of her Saturday chores in the small town of Isanti. There her eye caught sight of some books on a lower shelf, particularly one entitled Mary Slessor of Calabar. Soon the scrubbing was forgotten and the story of another young woman in Africa gripped her heart and mind; the missionary spirit was planted. She too wanted to share the gospel and love of Jesus Christ wherever God led her. Unbeknownst to her, Emma Rask, her mother, had dedicated Ruthie to the Lord when Ruthie’s birth turned precarious and even dire as a snowstorm had moved in. Emma’s prayer for a healthy baby was answered on March 3, 1926. Ruthie was the 6th child of a family of 8 children born to Andrew and Emma Rask, immigrants from Sweden.
Ruthie enjoyed her elementary and high school educations in Isanti and Cambridge, excelling in music. She was well loved and active in many youth groups; band, choir, girls’ clubs, camps at Wood Lake, church activities and good ‘ole street fun like tag, hop-scotch, kittenball, skating and swimming in the Rum River. She was surrounded by a large extended family that held many picnics and farm visits.
At a “fiery” revival meeting in South Isanti Baptist church, Ruthie, age 12, put her stake in the ground. Grabbing a friend’s hand, she made her way to the front to commit her life to Christ, a decision that set her on a path of profound meaning and purpose. When she graduated from high school she set her sights on Bible School but where would she get the money? She had saved a little money from working at Leader’s and Silchar’s Drug Store in Cambridge. Her two brothers, serving in the armed forces, contributed a bit and her mother sold a pig to cover the rest. Now she was set to take the Christian Worker’s Course at Bethel College. She was often the chapel pianist at Bethel which is where she caught the eye of a certain Dana Larson, a Bethel Seminary student, also preparing for the mission field, who just also happened to be handsome and popular. They married August 16, 1946 at Elim Baptist Church in Isanti.
In 1947, with baby Jonathan in tow, they boarded the troop carrier, now a passenger ship called the “Marine Swallow”, as commissioned missionaries by the Baptist General Conference to serve the people in Assam, India. Ruth and Dana’s twenty years of service in Assam were filled with indescribable joy and challenge as they helped grow churches and nurture personal relationships with all who crossed their path. They especially treasured their 11 years in Baligaon (sandy village) now called Gogamukh, located in the upper reaches of Assam with the mighty Subansiri River on one side and the imposing Himalayas to the north. This was where their eight children enjoyed their childhoods. Their very humble home was a magnet and refuge for many: the tribals from the mountains who came to trade, the villagers nearby needing medicine, outcasts, the curious, officials, and quite often elephant carts. Visitors were always welcomed with a drink of water, cup of tea, a biscuit, a listening ear, but most of all a message about Jesus, the Friend to all. Ruth’s warmth, humility, openness and grasp of the Assamese language won her over to many. Her gift of music through an accordion brought joy to tired ears. For teaching the word of God she used a flannel graph board or the wind-up gramophone to play records of Bible stories or songs in various languages.
Although untrained formally, her job description included the operation of a dispensary/leprosarium with the help of 2 national workers. This was the only clinic in the area where common ailments and diseases could be treated and where patients with the dreaded Hansen’s disease could find comfort and medication. For a number of years, Ruth helped set up eye clinics for cataract surgeries conducted by Dr. Joe Schoonmaker. Her part was to swat the flies and shine the torchlight!
Above all, Ruth devoted herself to caring for her children and husband. In an area with few conveniences, and no electricity or plumbing, it was necessary to have the help of our beloved cook and ayah (nanny). While Ruth organized and taught the homeschooling lessons for first, second and third grades, our cook and ayah busied themselves with meals, washing and childcare. Food supplies were garnered from nearby bazaars on bicycle or major trips to the nearest town. The dhobi (washerman) came once a week to collect the linens and such. It was all very labor intensive but also gratifying to work together. For fun, Ruth and Dana organized serious camping trips up the river in dugout canoes loaded with tents, bedding, food boxes, stoves and fishing gear. They were joined by other missionary kids as well. Picnics and swimming outings were also popular. The evenings were a time for music, letter writing or board games, especially Scrabble. When the older children had to go off to boarding school, Ruth and the smaller children would make the arduous 4-day train journey to northern India to spend 2 months at 7000 feet in the mountains to be reunited with the older ones, with Dana to follow for the last month. The refreshing mountain air, brisk hikes up and down the hillsides and school activities were a needed respite from the sweltering heat of the plains.
Ruth’s memoirs often cite the verse “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God concerning you,” a hard verse to apply when notice came from the Indian government that their time in India was terminated. It grieved them both deeply to leave their Christian community and the land they had come to love. But the notice to leave did not crush their missionary spirit. While on furlough they prayed about another field to serve in. Soon they were presented with the opportunity to serve in Argentina. Would they be willing and able to go there? Confident in God’s leading, they accepted the invitation and headed off to language school in Costa Rica for a year. However, plans took a turn when Ruth had to return to Minnesota with son Stephen who needed medical attention. A year later the family was reunited in Catamarca in NW Argentina where Ruth and Dana’s ministry focused on supporting churches and nurturing believers in the outlying areas. Their home had “an open door” policy and was always filled with young people, neighbor ladies, town folk, music, and always food. Ruth learned to play delightful tangos and to cook the Argentine way. Her friendly visits to the market made her well-known and well-loved.
In 1987 Ruth and Dana retired from missionary service having completed 17 years in Argentina and settled in New Brighton. For ten years they helped minister in the Spanish church in Minneapolis. In 2000 they moved to Cambridge to help their son, Stephen, and wife LaDonna raise their family, including newly born triplets. They were active in First Baptist Church of Cambridge where Ruth’s piano playing was much appreciated. They kept up their links with mission work on both fields through letters and prayer, and even trips back to visit their stations in Argentina and Assam. Incredibly, Ruth insisted on one last visit to Assam at age 91! In 1997 Ruth and Dana spent a year in Limon, Costa Rica as interim leaders. Ruth faithfully visited Grandview/Riverplace to play the piano for their monthly hymn sings. A favorite pastime for Ruth and her nearby family members was to gather for rousing games of Dominos or Scrabble or folksy sing-alongs, always accompanied by Swedish rolls and coffee. No evening could pass by in her apartment without first watching “Wheel of Fortune”, a game she could easily have been a winning contestant. When asked how she was doing, she’d always reply cheerily, “I’m fine! Not a pain in my body!” Folks always appreciated her generous spirit, quiet attention, willingness to pitch in, and most of all, her unflagging faith and prayer.
She is preceded in death by husband Dana Larson, son Mark, daughter Martha Thomsen, grandson Joel Dean, grandson Colin Larson, her parents Andrew and Emma Rask, and all her siblings. She is survived by son Jonathan (Mary Kay) Larson, son Timothy (Cynthia) Larson, daughter Bette (Gordon) Dean, son-in-law Jeffery Thomsen, daughter Sara (James) Wiegner, son Andrew (Jodie) Larson, son Samuel (Peter Duffin) Larson, son Stephen (LaDonna) Larson, 20 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.
Ruth sent the following quote in a letter to her daughter, Bette, in 1966. It is an apt expression of her life work.
“Measure thy life by loss instead of gain;
Not by the wine drunk, but by the wine poured forth;
For love’s strength standeth in love’s sacrifice.” (T.H. Somerville)