The following article is from a special newsletter marking the 75th anniversary of Columbia International University.
Joy Ridderhof was fitly named, for a spirit of joy was to mark her character throughout her life. She attributed that spirit of rejoicing to her association with Robert C. McQuilkin and Columbia Bible College.
When she came to Columbia Bible School in 1923, she lived with the McQuilkin family and became well acquainted with their lives. She watched Mr. McQuilkin lose his baby son and heard him repeat, "God makes no mistakes."
Joy was one of the three graduates of Columbia Bible College in 1925. God had brought her to Columbia after she heard McQuilkin speak in her home church in Los Angeles, California. She had heard him call worry "sin." She heard him say to trust God and to rejoice. She embraced the message, and her worry-filled life changed.
When McQuilkin told her he planned to start a Bible school in Columbia, South Carolina, she told him she would like to go, but it didn't seem possible. "The Lord will guide you," he said. And so she prayed, asking God, if He wanted her to be at Columbia, to pay her fare.
Soon afterward, her married sister, Susan, told her she would pay her way to Minneapolis if she would help her for a few weeks. Joy realized Susan could pay her fare on to Colombia instead of back home to Los Angeles.
She went to school without funds, but God supplied her needs. Thus started a habit that was hers throughout her life. Asked later in life where she got her money, she said, "I just tell the Lord what I need. This is God's work, so trust Him to provide. And...He always does."
After she graduated, the door to Honduras opened to Joy. Through her work in the village of Marcala, many Hondurans accepted Christ. Her spirit of rejoicing and trust in God took her through difficult times when she was threatened by unbelievers and when there was no food.
After six years, Joy went home ill, expecting to come back to Honduras in a few weeks. But God had other plans. The illness didn't go away. But as she prayed for her Honduran friends, she suddenly thought that she could make them a Gospel record complete with the music they loved, "Bible verses and comments - all in the Spanish language.''
She began making and shipping records to Honduras. Then someone asked her to make a record for the Navajo Indians. And Joy, realizing that wanted the Gospel to be heard in many languages, said, "Lord, I'll make recordings in as many languages as You want me to.
Joy wrote scripts, then located native speakers to record the records. A friend, Ann Sherwood, volunteered to be her helper. Gospel Recordings, an organization that has recorded the Gospel in more than 4,600 different languages was born.
They went to Mexico to record, then to Alaska, where they put the Gospel into the Eskimos' language. Then it was on to the Philippines, with its 7,000 islands and many languages. They traveled into dangerous jungles. In the 1950s Joy, Ann and Sanna Barlow Rossi reached Africa.
Joy experienced miracle supplies, like the time during World War II when there were no gas ration coupons for their work in Mexico. A doctor gave them, not only a car, but gas ration coupons. And when they arrived in Mexico, a man gave them full use of his new recording studio.
She and her associates came up with inexpensive record players, the most basic a piece of cardboard with a needle fastened to one edge and a tiny spindle for a record on one side. A pencil placed in a tiny hole turned the record.
Joy Ridderhof had the ability to inspire others. The fire that touched her would touch others through her. Her letters said, "I am praying for you by name," and "Are you practicing rejoicing? Remember, the hard things make good rejoicing practice."
Joy died December 19, 1984. Columbia would in 1985 name its media and music facility in her honor. President Robertson McQuilkin spoke at her memorial service, recognizing her "joy-filled faith" and her "indomitable pioneering.
Dr. Bob Bowman, president of the Far East Broadcasting Company, said Joy and Ann's work in the Philippine jungles enhanced the ministry of every, evangelical missionary in the Philippines, in the jungle and city alike. He called Joy "one of God's choicest servants in the history of world evangelization."
Phyllis Thompson, Count It All Joy (Los Angeles: Gospel Recordings, 1986)
Betty M. Hockett, Catching Their Talk in a Box (Newberg: George Fox Press, 1987)