"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness which the Lord….will award to me on that day." 2 Timothy 4:7, 8
On March 20, 2018 (Wilma) Ruth Betts (86) finished her race and received her crown. Eleven days later, on March 31, 2018, Joe Delton Betts (95) also finished his race and received his crown.
Born July 24, 1922 in Fairy, Texas to ranching parents Tom and Beulah Betts, Joe learned honest country values and work ethics. He graduated from Fairy High School and worked a year in Los Angeles for Lockheed aircraft then moved to Dallas and began working at the North American Aircraft Factory. On July 20, 1942, he joined the Navy and was a sonar-man on the destroyer U.S.S. Mugford during World War II. He served in the Pacific theater, and survived a Kamikaze plane attack which killed many of his shipmates during one of the biggest sea battles of the war. His was one of the first four ships into Nagasaki after the bombing to rescue the POWs. This became a pivotal event in his life when, witnessing the bodies of Japanese women and children floating in the water; he realized he had been fighting a government, not the people. After the war, he was stationed at Treasure Island, California where he taught at the Naval electronic school. While attending the Berkley Church of Christ he met many missionaries from Japan and was encouraged to become one himself. In 1948, he chose to attend Harding College in Searcy, Arkansas, a big supporter of missions. It was there that he met a freshman, Ruth Majors.
Born March 13, 1932 on a dirt-poor farm in Heber Springs, Arkansas to parents Bernice and Lucy Majors, Ruth learned the value of hard work early on. Her dream was to be a missionary, although not to Africa as she was afraid of snakes and lions. At age 16, she entered Harding College where she met Joe. They married on December 24, 1950 and graduated two years after that, he with a BA degree in Bible and History and she with a BA degree in Home Economics. The dream of being missionaries to Japan never left them and they worked hard to raise support for that purpose.
Finally, on March 20, 1956 with their two young daughters, they stepped onto post-war Japanese soil. They settled in Ibaraki prefecture ninety miles north of Tokyo with other missionaries who were already there, and immediately Joe began teaching at Ibaraki Christian College and preaching for the surrounding churches. He taught English and Bible and later developed his own Hebrew and Greek textbooks in Japanese. He and Ruth began intensively studying the language and both became so proficient they began to think in Japanese.
In a war-ravaged country, Ruth learned to navigate a different language, culture, food and customs with only the universal language of love and commitment at her disposal. She was the family doctor and health provider, boiling drinking water and washing fresh produce in a Clorox solution. She grew as much of their food as possible and canned everything she could. During this time, Ruth was also busy preparing her own textbook on teaching western-style home economics to Asian students for the Ibaraki Christian College. This class became a most popular and prized course on campus and many long-term friendships and associations grew from this small beginning. She incorporated a Bible lesson in every class, even using it as a textbook for teaching English.
She orchestrated quilting giveaways to the less fortunate, clothes-mending parties for the children in the children's home and was recognized by the governor of Ibaraki for her community good works.
During his time in Japan, Joe preached, taught, mentored and was a shining example for all who knew him. He became the director of the Old People's home, Chairman of the Board at Ibaraki Christian College, helped run the Hitachi Christian camp during the summer for the students, was instrumental in establishing several congregations in that area as well as the Preachers' School in Mito, and many other endeavors. Once a month, he preached at one of several military congregations where he got a chance to reconnect with other Americans and became known for his love of ice cream! Ruth was also constantly busy and there was not a moment when she wasn't doing something for others. With her servant heart, she showed God's love to those around her and was totally dedicated to teaching them about the love and salvation of Jesus.
In May 2006, after devoting 50 years to the mission of spreading the gospel of Jesus to the Japanese people, Joe and Ruth returned to Abilene, Texas, leaving countless friends behind. These friendships remained throughout their lives and they frequently hosted Japanese visitors in their Abilene home. Although transitioning to a new culture in the US was difficult, they quickly found a church home at the Hillcrest Church of Christ congregation. Joe was a preacher to the core and his last sermon was on Sunday night, March 4, 2018, with Ruth sitting in her wheelchair on the front row. Ruth had a missionary heart to the end and, even with declining health; she set up a Bible study in her last month. Joe and Ruth loved their church family in Abilene and lived for those moments when they could spend time with their friends.
Joe and Ruth were preceded in death by their son, Robert Joseph Betts, grandson Joe Austin Betts, granddaughter Kayla Betts and Baby Cuddlebug Thompson, both their parents, Ruth's three brothers, and Joe's brother. They are survived by their daughters Donna Hanson (John) and Becky Tribble (Brent) and son, Thomas Betts (Michelle). They have five grandchildren; J. Delton Hanson, Laurie Hanson Thompson (Anson), Andrea Hanson Taylor (Nathan), Scott Hanson (Melanie) and Randy Betts as well as eight great-grandchildren; Alyssa, Clark, and Gracie Thompson, Heidi, Jonah, and Clara Taylor, and Madeline and Seth Hanson. Ruth also has one living sister, Jennie Majors Moshier (Charles).
A Memorial Celebration of their lives will be held on Wednesday, April 4, 2018 at 2 pm at Hillcrest Church of Christ with Terry Brown officiating. A reception will follow. A private interment at the Veterans Cemetery will occur at a later date. Services are under the direction of The Hamil Family Funeral Home, 6449 Buffalo Gap Road, Abilene.
We, the family, would like to thank Dr. Will Shudde, the nurses at Hendrick Medical Center, Dr. Tommie Farrell and the staff at Hendrick Home Hospice and Hendrick Hospice Center for their tender care.
We are especially grateful to the Hillcrest church family for the love and care given to our parents throughout their years here and during their last days. Additionally, we also thank the Baker Heights Church of Christ family for their support of us in this difficult time.
In lieu of flowers, please send donations to East Reach Missions (Baker Heights Church of Christ, 5382 Texas Ave., Abilene, TX 79605), Faith Works of Abilene, Inc. (1229 N. Mockingbird Lane, Abilene, TX 79603) or Eastern European Missions (12700 Preston Rd. #275, Dallas, TX 75230).