She raised 8 children on the field in Uruguay
Marcus Rowntree, Baptist Press
June 29, 2010

She raised 8 children on the field in Uruguay

She raised 8 children on the field in Uruguay
Marcus Rowntree, Baptist Press
June 29, 2010


102 years old, Ruth Carlisle still knew the power of prayer.

When one of the hospice

workers tending to Carlisle told her about a grandchild who had been diagnosed

in the womb with a serious birth defect, Carlisle did not hesitate.

“Let’s pray,” she said.

Seven months after

birth, the baby was completely normal.

The faith in prayer,

concern for others and trust in God that Carlisle showed in that moment were

constants in her life, which included 29 years on the mission field. The

longest-living retired International Mission Board (IMB) missionary, Carlisle died June 5 at the age of 102.

Her passing sealed the legacy of an unassuming woman whose life and ministry

continue to astonish those who knew her.

Carlisle, a native of

Shawnee, Okla., and her husband Robert were appointed as missionaries to

Uruguay in 1940 by the Foreign (later International) Mission Board. Their

orientation was a 30-minute chat with the board’s president, followed by a

journey by ship to Uruguay.

Arriving in Uruguay

with no Spanish language or cross-cultural training, the Carlisles learned on

the job while planting churches. In 1956, they started a Bible institute in

their home.

It was difficult work

in a country where most people were agnostic.

BP photo

Ruth Carlisle, who died at age 102, was the International Mission Board’s oldest retired missionary.

“Little by little,

people came to the Lord. It wasn’t fast,” Carlisle told a reporter in 2007. “Uruguay

has never been an easy place to win people.”

In addition to raising

a family that expanded to eight children, she managed a multitude of other


“I am the administrator

of the kitchen, dietitian, adviser to the counselor of the students, teacher of

various courses and, in case of sickness among the students, I help in the

diagnosis and consultation with the doctor,” Carlisle wrote in a 1964 report.

Her son Jason, Hispanic

mobilization consultant with the IMB, remembers her devotion to her family,

even after long days of work.

“Sometimes in high

school when I was studying for a test, I would come downstairs around midnight

to get a glass of water,” he recounted. “My mother would be ironing clothes for

all of us. Then I would get up in the morning and the biscuits would be made.

It was just amazing.”

Carlisle’s service in

Uruguay was punctuated by times of suffering, which included absence from

family. She was notified by letter when her mother died, the only time Jason

recalls seeing her weep. A devastating car accident left her and Robert in the

hospital for weeks. It was all part of the calling that she willingly followed.

“It took a lot of hard

work, a lot of loving the Lord and trusting Him,” Jason said of his mother’s

time overseas.

The Carlisles retired

from missionary service in 1969, returning to live in Louisiana. Carlisle

supported her husband’s ministry until his death in 1978, an event which drove

her to rely even more on the Lord.

“I remember after my

dad died, (my mother) told me, ‘That was the time when I felt God’s closeness

more than any other time in my life,’” Jason Carlisle said.

She devoted herself to

prayer, spending hours each day interceding for her children, Uruguay, people

she knew and other things dear to her heart.

“We would ask her to

pray for a new believer or someone who came to our church,” Jason said. “Six

months later, she would ask what happened to them when we had already


Even though Carlisle

lived on a fixed income, she continued to give generously. Jason recalls that

his mother, then in her 90s, wrote him to announce that she had reached her

annual goal of giving $3,000 to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering for

International Missions.

Carlisle’s physical

toughness was legendary among her children, some of whom jokingly called her

the “comeback kid.” She survived the car crash, a crushed pelvis doctors didn’t

even notice and a heart attack in 1969 that nobody knew about until years

later. She initially refused to have open-heart surgery at 90, claiming it

would likely add only “a year or two” to her life. Eventually she relented.

She avidly read news

and updates on international missions. Her longevity and mental sharpness

allowed her to continue to minister to women. Carlisle frequently visited

hospitals and invited other women to her home for a favorite activity: English

afternoon tea.

“She used to go out and

visit everybody,” her son said. “Then when she couldn’t go out as much, she

would call everybody and check up on them.”

But she was, after all,

only mortal. Jason recalled his mother’s final moments, surrounded by family,

and the unexpected way in which her life ended. As she approached death, the

family began singing some of her favorite hymns. But there was one they couldn’t


“Finally somebody

remembered it,” Jason said. “When we started singing that song, she opened her

eyes. She just looked straight up. When we finished singing, she almost closed

her eyes, looked around, closed them, and that was it. It was almost like she

was waiting for that hymn.”


Rowntree is an intern writing for the International Mission Board.)