When Meadow Rue Merrill met her, Ruth was a sixteen-month-old child that some church friends were hosting from an orphanage in Uganda. She had cerebral palsy and was so weak she couldn’t lift her head. Meadow had always felt a call to adopt, but was this what God meant? Part family drama, part travel adventure, and part memoir, Redeeming Ruth is a heartwarming, against-all-odds story about the most unlikely pairing of a typical American family and a physically challenged orphaned girl from Uganda.
I’m thrilled to say that Meadow has agreed to participate in an interview with us, sharing a preview of the book as well as some additional, exclusive details that aren’t in the book!
1. For those who haven’t read Redeeming Ruth, would you mind giving a brief overview about your journey?
My husband, Dana, and I had often talked about adopting, but he wasn’t sure we were ready. So together we prayed, “Lord, if you have another child for us, you will have to bring that child to us.” Miraculously, he did. Only the child he brought wasn’t anything like what we were expecting. Ruth, who was born prematurely in Uganda, abandoned, and sent to an orphanage, had profound disabilities. The director of Ruth’s orphanage, Welcome Home Ministries, Africa, sent her to Maine for six months of physical therapy. We met Ruth through her host family. About the only thing Ruth could do was smile, but her smile captured our hearts and the hearts of our three young children. To adopt Ruth, we needed to take her back to Uganda, not knowing whether we’d be able to bring her home. God used this incredible journey and the years that followed to show us his love for people the world often overlooks.
2. The subtitle of Redeeming Ruth is Everything Life Takes, Love Restores. How have you seen love restoring your and your family’s life since you finished writing the book?
First, God is faithful. Second, even when we journey through the darkest and most painful places, as we did, God’s love does not abandon us. His love is a promise. Our job is to keep looking ahead. Third, what is ahead is hope. And fourth, the fulfillment of that hope is our everlasting joy. “Because of the joy awaiting him, [Christ] endured the cross,” (Hebrews 12:2 NLT). When we are walking with Christ, we will walk through sorrow. But there is literally nothing in life—no hardship, no pain, no sickness, no loss—that God will not ultimately rectify and restore. Even when we felt most alone, God faithfully guided and provided for our family. There is not a single moment where I can look back and say, “God, you were not there. You were unfaithful.” Some losses won’t be restored until heaven, but we are confident that God will restore them because we have seen his faithfulness here.
3. What are some ways that you see Ruth’s life influencing your life now?
Having been to the places Ruth brought us and met the people she introduced us to—people who are struggling just to survive—I don’t look at money the same way. Hearing a news story about a $200 hairbrush makes me crazy. How much do we really need when others have so little? Loving Ruth has also made me more focused on eternity. The things that seem so hard now will truly be over in an instant. The challenge is to trust God and live generously even in our difficulties. When we trust God with the little things, he will do big things.
4. Writing this book must have been both extremely painful and rewarding at points. What inspired you to tell her story?
Years ago, I read my children a biography about George Muller, who cared for English orphans in the 1800s. One morning, 300 children had nothing to eat. Muller thanked God for the food they were about to eat anyway, and they all sat down in front of empty plates. Within minutes, a baker arrived with three trays of bread, saying he’d thought of the children all night and hadn’t been able to sleep. While they were eating, a milkman’s cart broke down in front of the door with ten full cans of milk, enough for every child and some left over for tea. Reading this, I begged God to do the same miracles today. I didn’t want to tell my children and friends what God had done a century ago. I wanted to tell what I had seen him do for me personally. Only God could have worked out the details of Ruth’s story, and even though writing parts were so painful I often had to turn away from my computer screen, my great desire is that readers would see and know God’s faithfulness.
5. Are there any stories about Ruth that you wish you could have included but didn’t?
Many! A favorite memory was being invited to a friend’s beach in Maine for an April picnic. To reach the shore, we had to scramble down a cliff. Ruth had just turned seven. Since she couldn’t walk or support herself, getting to the beach seemed impossible, but my friends cheered me on. With Ruth’s gangly arms and legs hanging out, I strapped her body against mine with a sling and made it down. My agile friends—two sisters—carried down Ruth’s jogging stroller. We spent the morning with ten children boiling hotdogs over a small fire and collecting shells from tide pools. That bright sunny day remains one of my happiest because even though it was hard, everyone worked together so Ruth could enjoy it too.
6. What made you see the importance of including the stories of other families and of the institutions—such as Welcome Home Ministries, Joni & Friends, and the Governor Baxter School for the Deaf—that you encountered while caring for Ruth?
Before meeting Ruth, I didn’t realize that children with additional needs existed. I knew, but I didn’t really know. I’d never heard their stories, sat with their parents, or seen their struggles. After adopting Ruth, our social lives were very limited. For one, we didn’t have a lot of energy or money. But invitations also dwindled. Once our daughter Lydia—the same age as Ruth—was invited to a birthday party, but Ruth wasn’t invited, even when I offered to help. I wrote this book, in part, as an invitation to love more broadly.
7. What advice would you give to those who are struggling through a difficult adoption or to those who are thinking about adopting?
Spend time with families who have adopted. God blessed us with an abundance of friends who had adopted children—internationally, domestically, and through Foster Care. Spending time with them helped us prepare for Ruth’s needs and gave us someone to talk to who really understood. Also pray. There are so many children who need homes and just as many ways to help. Adoption is one way, but it is not the only way. While not everyone is called to adopt, we are all called to give.
8. What projects do you have in store for the future?
I started out writing for children. I’ve got several children’s books that I hope to see published. But I’d also like to spend more time gardening and more time with my husband and kids enjoying the sunshine. It’s been a hard journey, and we are still healing. It hasn’t been easy, but it has been good.
Meadow Rue Merrill is an award-winning journalist with two decades of published writing experience. She began her career by reporting for The Times Record a daily newspaper in Brunswick, Maine, and spent the following eight years corresponding for The Boston Globe. Most recently she has written for The New York Times, Harvard University, and The Boston Sunday Globe Magazine. She also has regular columns with The Portland Press Herald, Maine’s largest newspaper, and Down East magazine.
For more information about Redeeming Ruth, feel free to check out our website.