My first conversation with Mr. Sam Ruble revolved around the topic of cows and stoplights and how the cows outnumbered the people and the people the stoplights in Rappahannock county. In the four years since that first meaningful conversation, I have come to realize that our brother truly knows more than a thing or two about wrangling cows, taking down bucks, and rebuilding limbs. Sam knows the outdoors well, but he knows people even better.
He knows how to make the forlorn and neglected feel welcome. He knows how to love those who have lost a loved one and readily sheds a tear here and there for the many fishing buddies, family members, and friends who have already transferred their membership to heaven. He also stands ready to rejoice with those who get good medical news or who take the first steps towards adulthood or career success. A large hug, a quick joke, and a warm smile are never more than a moment away. Our brother loves us well.
I can say this as both his pastor and his friend. It was Sam who drove us around when April and I first came to the hills of Rappahannock county. It was Sam who took me on my first hospital visits. And it was Sam who helped my son catch his first fish and visited us when cancer raged in April’s body.
In one sense, the loving character of our brother and of his bride, Mrs. Karen, needs no description. Without fail every new member going through our membership classes since I arrived has made reference to you guys. Some perspective members struggle to recall your name. But once they start talking about how this one slightly older couple welcomed their family the moment they walked in the door and how this couple was so nice, friendly, and kind, I need only say, “Oh, you mean Sam and Karen,” before I hear, “Yes that’s the couple, I really like them.” Sam and Karen, thank you for loving us well.
I know that your love for us has cost you a few gray hairs. If nothing else my inability to spell your last name correctly in the bulletin and on official church documents has surely added at least one extra gray hair.
You have also weathered some of the darker days of this congregation’s history. But instead of leaving, you both stood firm and do what you do best. You loved fiercely. You faithfully made phone call after phone call, brought meal after meal, pumped out water system after water system, visited member after member, and went to doctor’s appointment and after doctor’s appointment. Whenever the phone rang, you stood ready to serve. Undoubtedly, you earned some of your grey hairs at ABC. But these little reminders of times past are not a curse but a sweet blessing, a testimony of how well you have loved the men, women, and children of ABC. Proverbs 20:29 reminds us that,
The glory of young men is their strength, but the splendor of old men is their gray hair.
Sam and Karen we are thankful for those gray hairs that crown your head. I am here because you guys loved well. Pretty much everyone at ABC today and watching online is here because you loved the Lord your God with all your heart soul mind and strength and your neighbor as yourself. Thank you!
Thank you for pressing on and for making the most those opportunities to do “good to everyone especially of the household of faith (Gal 6:9).” Sam and Karen as you look out on the congregation today full of happy faces, I believe you are seeing the first fruits of your labor. Our church is what it is today because hundreds of people have been able to identify you with the hands and feet of Jesus. Thank you!
Though Sam is stepping down from our deacon board today, I still affirm that he possesses the heart of a deacon. He has not grown weary either of us or of our great God. But our Lord has placed physical limitations on our brother that prevent him from continuing on as a deacon. No ministry is forever. We are all but stewards. We must all step aside at some point. Brother you have steward your time on this deacon board well. You leave behind a legacy of care and compassion. We will miss you.
Yet, we will not leave you adrift on the pond of boredom to watch the Sunset. God still has much for you to do and we will look forward to ministering beside you in the days ahead. The parameters of your service will change. But I fully expect you both to go on deaconing and serving the church until Jesus calls you up yonder. Sam, I also suspect you will rightfully be one of our deacons most trusted advisors in the days ahead as you know both this congregation and our Lord and savior well. As Paul told Timothy,
For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus (1 Tim 3:13).
Brother by God’s grace, you have achieved such a standing at ABC.
Thank you for standing firm in the faith. Thank you for loving my family well. Thank you for loving all of us well.
Brother, there may be more cows than people and more people than spotlights in Rappahannock county, but I would be hard pressed to find either a cow, or stoplight or even another person who has loved us as well as you and Mrs. Karen have.
Thank you, Sam and Karen for your 18 years of faithful ministry. May God bless you richly in the days ahead!