Famous legends are not where everyone had an easy life. Stories that stick are those where there's triumph after enduring times of sacrifice and hardship. They are remembered because we can relate to them, and their example helps us to press on when we face our trials.
The life of Matewos and Ruth Cremer is such a story. Only God could orchestrate events where two people from different cultures could come together to make an eternal impact.
Matewos was born and raised in Kafa region, in southwest Ethiopia. He accepted Christ after high school and started to work at a local government operated health clinic. Coming from a family of non-believers, and living in an area where born-again Christians are looked down on, was challenging for him, but Matewos had every intention to live out his faith in his community. But he wasn’t satisfied with only getting a paycheck, he also wanted to grow in his faith and serve the Christian community around him. He started volunteering at his local church in everyway he could. He met Ruth Cremer for the first time when she came down to his church to lead a workshop.
The hope of living peacefully in Bongo, Kafa came to a streaking halt when the, then communist government conscripted Matewos into military service and told him he would be going to the front line of the war. The government was strictly atheist and looked for ways to extinguish any other religions, especially Christianity. One can only fathom the anguish Matewos felt during this time.
But God was always in control of Matewos’s life and enabled him to escape his captors in the middle of being transported. Matewos then fled to a place in Addis Ababa, where he had heard believers from Kafa were doing translation work. This was where he met Ruth Cremer for the second time as she was the person overseeing this project. One can only imagine the reunion that took place as teacher and student met once again. But their relationship didn’t end. Four years later, when Ruth needed a full time Kafa translator, she went to look for Matewos. He agreed to drop everything else and dedicate his life to resume this valuable work.
So far, the story is memorable, but it doesn’t stop with the life of Matewos amazing escape and his divine meeting with Ruth Cremer. Ruth had her sensational tale of sacrifice and devotion. She was a missionary from New Zealand who devoted her entire life to share her love and the gospel to the Kafa people.
Ruth would travel to the most remote villages in the Kafa region by a wide assortment of transportation, including helicopter, car, and mule, with the sole intent to instruct others on spiritual matters. She would not let anything distract her, deciding to forego TV, radio, and even email to spend her time serving those she loved.
Ruth’s everyday life consisted solely of prayer and translation work. When her health started to decline, she didn’t wallow away in self-pity but took the time to make her remaining years count for eternity. Her devotion of more than 54 years will have a lasting impact on untold generations, as evidence by the lives she touched and the finished translation of the Kafa Bible -- which is having its dedication ceremony on May 2021.