NEWTON, Kansas (Mennonite Mission Network) – Alice Ruth Ramseyer, who served as a long-term mission worker in Japan, died Nov. 5, 2018. She was 89.
Ramseyer was born in Kai Chow, China, Sept. 27, 1929, to S. F. "Floyd" and Sylvia (Tschantz) Pannabecker, who served as mission workers in northern China. In 1941, she attended Bluffton High School where she met her husband, Robert Ramseyer, through a school newspaper interview. She graduated from Bluffton College in 1951.
The couple served for three decades in Japan through the General Conference Mennonite Church's Commission on Overseas Mission (COM), a predecessor agency to Mennonite Mission Network. Upon moving to Japan in 1954, they worked in the city of Miyazaki on the island of Kyushu, helping to plant churches and foster youth ministry.
"All the missionaries called her 'AR,'" said Sandra Liechty, who, along with her husband, Carl, served as long-term mission workers in Japan for 16 years. "We admired their knowledge of the Japanese language and culture." Liechty recalled that while Ramseyer was soft spoken, she was a strong and vocal advocate for national pastors in church leadership, as well as women in ministry leadership roles.
The couple left Japan in 1972 and moved to Elkhart, Indiana, where Robert taught at the Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS). Ramseyer was well known for her hospitality, and often hosted AMBS students and COM workers in their home.
Rick Derksen, whose parents served alongside Ramseyer in Japan as mission workers, recalled knowing her as "Aunt Alice Ruth" as a child, as well as experiencing her characteristic warmth as an adult when he and his wife, Marilyn, applied to be mission workers with COM. "It was then that I learned to appreciate her keen intellect and vibrant faith," said Derksen.
Alice Ruth and Robert returned to Japan in 1978 to serve in the city of Hiroshima. There, they helped establish Hiroshima Mennonite Church, and worked with the World Friendship Center to translate books and articles by survivors of the atomic bomb. They would move to Elkhart again in 1982, where Ramseyer graduated with an MDiv from AMBS, and return to Hiroshima in 1987 to continue work with the World Friendship Center. The couple retired to Bluffton, Ohio, in 1996.
Ramseyer served as a board member for Mennonite Mission Network at its founding in 2001 until 2004 and maintained a keen interest in the organization in the following years. "It was her and Bob who sparked a new appreciation for my position with Mission Network," said Trisha Handrich, Donor Relations representative for Mission Network. "Her advice on how to live as Christ did, combined with her wry wit, will forever stay with me."
"[Ramseyer] always remained a passionate advocate and interested friend in mission," said Stanley W. Green, executive director for Mission Network. "Her legacy will long be valued, and her contributions deeply appreciated."
Ramseyer is survived by her four children, Mark (Norma Wyse) Ramseyer of Lexington, Massachusetts; Joy (John) Betts of Bryan, Ohio; Sue Ramseyer of Bloomington, Indiana; and Jeannie (Tom) Stenson of Quakertown, Pennsylvania, as well as 10grandchildren and one great-grandchild. Her husband, Robert Ramseyer, passed away in 2016.