By JENNIFER JOHNSON
Special to the Progress
For Valley Grove Baptist Church, Jesus’ command in Galatians 6:2 to “carry each other’s burdens” has taken on greater significance in the past year. In the fall of 2007, the church’s “Hands and Feet Ministry” embarked on a mission to build a home for one of its own.
Home had become a big concern for John and Ruth Redden: their floors were weak, plumbing was in major disrepair, and neither Ruth nor John was sure how to begin to tackle the problems.
That’s when Valley Grove’s congregation stepped in to help. Dr. Jim Alford, pastor of the church, said even though it’s quite an endeavor to build a home, the congregation has already reaped the rewards of their efforts. “We are blessed to be a part of this. It’s important work because God has told the people of this church, ‘This is where I want you to work, and this is what I want done.’ It’s truly a ‘God thing’ because He’s using His people and increasing our faith and our willingness to obey Him.”
Mike Bass, a volunteer for the building project, said God’s work is being carried out. “I see God doing so much through this project. Yes, He is building a house, but He is also building up His body, the church. I think as a church we are learning how to really love and care for each other and how to carry that love outside the four walls of the church building.”
John Redden said he and his wife, Ruth, are overwhelmed by the generosity of their church family to take on such a monumental task. “When Chuck and Linda (Wiggins) invited us over for supper that night, we had no idea they were going to tell us the church was building a house for us. That’s a big deal. We couldn’t believe it … we just broke down and cried.”
Flash back 35 years ago: John Redden, who grew up in the Delta, said he was persuaded to visit the Furrs community in Pontotoc County to meet “a certain young girl named Ruth.” John said, “Ruth’s oldest brother was already married, and it was his wife who told me I needed to come by and meet Ruth.”
It was love at first sight, and only a month after that meeting, the two decided to marry. John said even though he and Ruth knew they were meant to be together, their families were a little skeptical. In fact, John joked that Ruth’s sister said “it wouldn’t last two weeks.” This year, John and Ruth celebrate 36 years of marriage and a family of three children, seven grandchildren, and two step-grandchildren.
Over the years, John and Ruth raised a family, and John spent 29 years working in the tool room at Super Sagless. Ruth’s job at the former Dacus facility, later Precision Foods, brought in additional income for the family.
Then, in 1997, life changed for John Redden. He suffered three heart attacks and endured six heart by-passes. In addition, John was diagnosed with emphysema, congestive heart failure and diabetes. He continued to work until March 2002, when his physician told him he would be unable to work because of the severity of his physical problems.
Two years after John’s heart attacks, Ruth was diagnosed with vertigo, and the surgery that followed left her completely deaf in her left ear. Later, she endured four back surgeries and, like John, Ruth was diagnosed with diabetes. She became disabled in 1999.
The Reddens said they are not sure what would have happened with their living conditions if the church had not stepped in to help. Tears welled up in John Redden’s eyes as he looked around at the blacked-in structure that will become home for himself and Ruth. “We were getting by, but everything where we live now is falling apart … We are amazed that these people are willing to give up their time for us. Some people have spent their days off working out here, and we appreciate that.”
Ruth added, “It’s helped me realize just how many people really care about us.”