September 14, 2020

Grateful for Shadow Mentors by Ruth L. Snyder

 This month we are blogging about those who have influenced our lives through their books. As I thought back over the years, I became teary-eyed, realizing again how blessed I have been in so many ways. God has provided numerous people to mentor me directly and indirectly. I'm grateful for all of them. 

Books, reading, and writing were all important in my early years. Since my family lived in South Africa, across the ocean from all our relatives, the only connection we had was letters sent and received by snail mail. I was only six weeks old when our family left North America, which meant I "met" and learned to love my relatives through reading and writing letters. Since there was no internet at the time, books helped me experience life in many different realms.

I still remember the day I learned how to read. Actually, I was just spouting off a memorized version of a favorite book while pointing at the letters. When I figured out those squiggles on the page had meaning, whole new worlds opened up. I read dozens of books about Noddy's adventures. Enid Blyton made me laugh and cry. She helped me experience life with Noddy—a great example of showing, not telling!

"The best way to treat obstacles is to use them as stepping-stones."
-Enid Blyton

My mother spent countless hours reading books to us. When we were preparing to return to North America, she started reading books about Canada. One of the books she read was Love Comes Softly, by Janette Oke. The characters and their journeys captured my heart and mind, and her descriptions of the Canadian Prairies made me feel like I was going to a place I already knew. (I didn't know that I would have the opportunity to meet Mrs. Oke in person decades later at one of our InScribe Fall conferences.)

“The truth of God's love is not that He allows bad things to happen, it's his promise that he will be there with us—when they do.”
-Janette Oke

Reading godly books is one of the anchors that pulled me through my teen years. I was shy and found it hard to reach out to people I didn't know. Perhaps that is why Ann Kiemel's books had such an influence on me. The stories of her trust in Jesus for practical needs, and how she sang to strangers and told them about Jesus challenged me. She made faith seem so personal and enjoyable.

"One simple person plus a great God can do things..."
-Ann Kiemel Anderson

During my teen years, I had the privilege of living on the campus of Prairie Bible College. I didn't realize what a rich heritage this was until I left. Orchestral, choral, and instrumental music surrounded me. All through high school, Bible class was part of the curriculum. Twice a year Prairie hosted conferences where speakers like George Verwer, Helen Roseveare, and Elisabeth Elliot challenged me. 

I remember Helen Roseveare sharing about how God was with her when she was abducted in the Congo and mercilessly raped. She also shared about a time when she came across a group of people gathered around a pot of gold they were refining with fire. She asked one of the men how he knew when all the impurities were gone. He invited her to climb a tree and look down into the pot. She was startled to see a clear reflection of her face in the molten gold. Her guide told her, "That means the fire has done its job. When I can see my face, I know the gold is pure." She challenged us to allow God to refine us so that others could see Jesus reflected in our lives.

"We are called to reflect the Lord's beauty through our lives as much as through our words, and God will use this in His own perfect time."
-Helen Roseveare

My mother read Through Gates of Splendor to us. It made me wonder what my reaction would be if some of the same events happened to me. Several years later Elisabeth Elliot came and spoke at Prairie. That was when I was introduced to her book, Passion & Purity, and challenged to allow God to be in control of my love life.

"One reason we are so harried and hurried is that we make yesterday and tomorrow our business when all that legitimately concerns us is today. If we really have too much to do, there are some items on the agenda which God did not put there. Let us submit the list to him and ask him to indicate which items we must delete. There is always time to do the will of God. If we are too busy to do that, we are too busy."
-Elisabeth Elliot

After high school, I returned to Prairie as a college student. My studies to earn a Bachelor of Religious Education degree were challenging, but enjoyable. I discovered many more authors but especially appreciated Charles Swindoll and his amazing storytelling ability. Those stories drew me in and opened me up, preparing me to hear and accept the deeper biblical truths he taught. 

"The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life.  

Attitude, to me, is more important than facts.  

It is more important than the past, than education, than money, 

than circumstances, than failures, than successes, 

than what other people think, say or do.  

It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill.  

It will make or break a company... a church... a home.  

The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude 

we embrace for that day.  We cannot change our past... 

we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way.  

We cannot change the inevitable.  

The only thing we can do is play the one string we have, and that is our attitude... 

I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.

And so it is with you... we are in charge of our Attitudes”

-Charles Swindoll

Looking back, I realize my shadow mentors were all gifted storytellers. Their polished writing made me want to communicate more clearly. And now that I think about it, they all reflected Jesus Christ to me in ways that I could grasp. It is my hope and prayer that in some small way I will be able to do the same thing for my friends and readers.


  1. Oh Ruth, this is just beautiful! Loved the thread of all these wonderful authors speaking into your life all along the way. I remember Helen Rosaveare coming to Briercrest when I was there and being enraptured with her stories.

    1. Thanks, Brenda! We have a rich heritage.

  2. I liked following your journey, Ruth. You can see God's hand in it all the way through, too!

    1. Thanks, Lynn :)
      Yes, God's hand is always on us even when we are not aware.

  3. This was wonderful, dear Ruth. I also loved reading many of the same books you mentioned, our mentors via pen and page.
    Blessings - Wendy Mac

    1. Thanks, Wendy :)
      Yes, mentors via pen and page are so valuable.

  4. This is a delightful journey of mentors! I admit that there were a few i did not recognize, but all obviously had an impact.

    1. Tracy,
      I'm glad you enjoyed reading about my journey. It's interesting to see the overlap in the posts.

  5. Thanks for sharing your mentored journey. What impacted me the most were your comments, "they all reflected Jesus Christ to me in ways that I could grasp. It is my hope and prayer that in some small way I will be able to do the same thing for my friends and readers." That is my prayer, too.

  6. Thanks, Sandi
    May God give us wisdom and strength as we share Jesus in our unique ways.

  7. I agree with the comments. I also hope to be somebody's shadow mentor, especially in spiritual matters. We often never know whom we'll influence. For example, a man on a Liverpool bus gave a boy named John Lennon a harmonica so he'd stop playing his cheesy mouth organ.

    1. Amen, Bruce!
      That's a neat story. God gives us each unique qualities that we can use to minister to others. May we all be faithful.

  8. What a rich range of mentors, education, and life experience you’ve had, Ruth. I appreciate your selected quotes from your various mentors, be they shadow mentors or in-person mentors. I love the photo of you and Janette Oke. I can only imagine how wonderful that would be to meet a favourite author, especially since your mom had introduced you to Canada by reading you one of Mrs. Oke’s books. Your blog evokes warm emotion in me. Thank you.

  9. Sharon,
    Yes, I have been richly blessed by many others. May God help me to be a blessing to many more.


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