Chapter 11: Rainbow in the Clouds

No life story of Joy Ridderhof, however superficial, would be complete without reference to the period spanning the years 1966 to 1968. Outwardly, as far as her activities were concerned, there was little about it to distinguish it from others. Her travels at home and abroad continued, and she spoke at numerous meetings, maintained a voluminous correspondence. The end of 1966 found her travelling by car in Europe, the staccato notes made in her little pocket diary giving the sketchiest idea of what was actually contained in her days.

27.12.66 Car keyhole blocked. To Amsterdam. Lunch in car. Hunting for hotel. Supper Wimpeys.

28.12.66 Shopping in Amsterdam. Visited girls on Bible Club boat.

30.12.66 Spoke at Ede.

31.12.66 Returned from Ede. Raining. Good to get home. Prayer.

She went on to the little town of Halver where Ann Sherwood with Marlene Muhr from France were establishing the first Gospel Recordings base in Europe.

1.1.67 Halver. We had a virus in our system. Ann dizzy. Good day prayer. Blessed fellowship.

2.1.67 Stayed in to write letters.

3.1.67 Wonderful promise about eagles wings...

4.1.67 Kindness of young people on train.

5.1.67 Train trip to Brake.

6.1.67 My cold gone! Important mail sent off.

The following week she was travelling in Switzerland - Basel - Le Locle - Lausanne. On arrival in Geneva she noted briefly in her diary that she had a headache, and reminded herself of things to do.

18.1.67 Write to Marjorie about clothes. Sanna about fruit cake. M.C. about other answers. Ann about money. Cassette to Board. David as to my arrival in Bombay.

Before the end of the month she was in India, then she went on to Australia and New Zealand. The following year she went to India again.

The work in various centres, Australia, England, India, South Africa, Europe was prospering, and it was during this period that the Gospel Recordings centre in Canada was officially opened with John Gray in charge. He and his wife had returned from Bangalore to look after his elderly mother, their earthly possessions contained in two suitcases and two 45-gallon drums. In a very short time they had found themselves in possession of a furnished house with ten rooms, and almost simultaneously had received an invitation from Gospel Recordings in Los Angeles to set up a distribution centre in Toronto.

Gospel Recordings as an international organisation was evidently forging ahead.

But Joy knew that at the very heart of it, in Los Angeles itself, there was uneasiness. Just as years before, on the outset of the memorable first overseas recording trip to the Philippines a pall seemed to have descended on the team working there, so it was now, though with a subtle difference. Previously there had been no threat to Joy's leadership. If her administrative methods were acknowledged as being somewhat haphazard, no-one had doubted that her vision, her faith and her intimate knowledge of every aspect of the work qualified her to be Director of the organisation she had brought into being. But now that was being questioned. Even the Board, with its final authority, was uncertain about it until a sudden turn of events settled the matter and established her position. But during that stormy period nine workers, for various reasons, resigned. They included - the head of the stamper department and his assistant; the two deputation speakers; the executive secretary; the lathe operator; the two in charge of the press room.

Although the field recordists were largely unaffected by what happened in Los Angeles, it was during this same period that several of them left the work. Vaughn Collins was the first, and Joy could scarcely believe it. Vaughn who had never complained, who had endured hardships of which he made no mention and of which she only heard from others; who, when asked once how he did it, what made him press on alone, steeling himself against the softer things of life, had answered quietly, 'The Judgment!' It didn't seem possible that God was calling him now into another type of missionary work, in which Gospel Recordings could have only a secondary claim on him. She rejoiced on principle, but it was a long time before she could really accept it.

Then there was Kathleen Hoffmeyer. Kathy had heard about G.R. from Vaughn Collins and Don Richter when she was a student at Prairie Bible College, and as a result had gone to Los Angeles as an I.C.L. She wanted to be a recordist but said nothing about it except to the Lord, and one day Joy had asked, 'Would you be willing to go to Nigeria? Ann Sherwood is there now and needs a fellow worker.' Kathy had dissolved into tears of joy, and although she was short of U.S. $40 to pay the fare for her flight the day before she was due to leave, she received it in time, and other gifts sufficient for her to take U.S. $200 in travelers cheques with her.

She'd had her exciting experiences in Nigeria, too. She was not supposed to travel alone, but she did so sometimes anyhow, and on one occasion her car broke down three times in country where she'd been warned not to stop even if she knocked someone down! 'Go on to the next police point and report it, but don't stop till you get there!' she'd been told. She hadn't stopped, but the car had, and now what was she to do? A man on a bicycle came along and got it started again the first time. The second time the car stopped it was some African war dancers with white painted faces who cheerfully managed it for her. The third time it was a Roman Catholic priest in his chauffeur-driven car who came to her rescue. She was a good recordist too was Kathy, and always came up smiling. It wasn't surprising that when Colin met her in Kenya he wanted to marry her, and Joy had no great difficulty about rejoicing over that. She didn't expect girl recordists to remain single all their lives, and Kathy had helped capture over one hundred voices during her stay in Africa.

But it meant that another recordist was off the field.

It was the same with Evelyn Baillie. For five years she'd been a field recordist in the Philippines, then in Africa, with over sixty new languages wrested in some cases out of as grim and discouraging experiences as Joy herself had ever known. It hadn't been easy for the young American to team up with an Australian whom she had never met before, and head off on a trip in the Philippines which included plunging into a head-hunting tribe that had taken their last head two weeks earlier. It was on that trip trudging through the jungle with their packs, including the Nagra, on their backs that Noela Elvery, the Australian, had complained to the Lord, 'Where are the men? This isn't women's work - I'm a soft city girl, I go everywhere in cars. I can't take it.' The answer she received had fortified her for all that lay ahead. 'To you, as a woman, I have given the privilege of introducing the Gospel to these people.' Evelyn had shared in that, and when, in 1967, she married George Janzen of the Los Angeles staff, Joy rejoiced. Evelyn had done a good job on the field. There would be those among the multitude before the Throne who would be there only because Evelyn had responded when God called her.

But who would take her place?

Then there were 'the two Swiss boys', Dan Grossenbacher and Jean-Jacques Rothgerber. Since 1963 they had been going on recording trips into Africa's remotest spots, capturing 275 languages in the four years. But now the time had come, as Joy had known it must, that they would enter into the work for which they had been preparing. They'd do what they could in the future when opportunity arose, to capture more languages, but now they must move on.

Ted Jones, too. He joined Wycliffe Bible Translators, and that was something to praise God for. But it meant one less G.R. recordist.

Then, in 1969, Don and Eunice Richter resigned. Between them they had captured over 300 languages, some among very fierce tribes in New Guinea, and there had been some remarkable conversions. Don had been at it for nearly twenty years - but now he believed God was calling in another direction, and it meant leaving Gospel Recordings.

Those were shadowed years. Joy's resilient spirit and deep-seated confidence that God would work it all out for good helped her to stand up to the reverses. Her manner of life, too, as she continued to travel widely, made ever changing and immediate demands on her which in measure off-set the grief she felt as one after another resigned from the work. For the depleted teams in the factory, the studio and the offices in Los Angeles it was different. They were there all the time, and at one period Virginia Miller found herself almost dreading the weekly prayer days, coming to them with the lurking fear, 'Whose resignation will be announced this time?' On them, too, fell the burden of maintaining the work, fulfilling the orders for records that continued to flood in, dealing with problems that arose to which no one seemed to have the right answer. Worst of all, perhaps, were the murmurs that reached them of what was being said, 'The glory has departed from Gospel Recordings.' Too busy now to maintain one flow of information that sustained the interest of supporters, too busy to respond to invitations from churches to 'come and speak about the work', it was all they could do to keep the work itself going.

But God who giveth songs in the night, had inner joys for them about which those outside knew nothing. The sense of unity among them deepened to new levels, and the original team, Virginia, Doris, Al Rethey, the Dyks, the Olsons, Mable Erlandson, were reminded of the early days when together they had joyfully shouldered the burdens of the exciting new organisation. Also, the flow of letters from all parts of the world, reporting on the results from the records, continued unabated. Whatever was happening at Los Angeles wasn't stopping the little discs from whirling, sounding out in voices the listeners could understand the fact that Jesus died and came to life again, opening the door of everlasting life to all mankind. That news was still the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believed, and as far as they were concerned there was nothing to compare with proclaiming it, even if it did mean longer hours than ever in the factory, filling in forms for the export authorities, completing the hundred and one tasks that needed to be done. While they were busy about those practical details from morning till into the night in Los Angeles, God was working salvation in the midst of the earth and it wasn't difficult to rejoice over that!

Furthermore, they had the comforting evidence that their Master was with them in the very practical matter of financial supplies. Gospel Recordings never accumulated any capital, and rarely had substantial reserves on which to draw. The money that was given was spent on the work. Over the years there had been times when funds were low, when economies were stringently practiced, when the staff had been called privately for prayer that the money urgently needed would be forthcoming. But during the dark period when general outside interest was subsiding, when Gospel Recordings was given no publicity, when there were even those who assumed it was closing down, at the very time when income might have been expected to subside the funds flowed in so smoothly, so lavishly, that there was never any need to think about money except to give thanks for it. The Lord who tempers every storm, and knows how much His servants can bear, saw to it that no financial embarrassments were added to their trials. Among other unexpected provisions a number of legacies fell due just at that time.

There was another thing that bound them together which had nothing whatever to do with the work. It was a simple but very deep human sorrow. Stephen Brown's parents had known about Joy before she went to Honduras, and later, as missionaries themselves in Guatemala, used the records frequently, were convinced of their value, and after returning to Los Angeles joined Gospel Recordings. Stephen, therefore, was known to all, since Joy insisted that Gospel Recordings workers' children were all members of the family, and when the lad fell ill there was general concern. Throughout the whole of the darkest period in Gospel Recordings history his parents had the added grief of knowing their only child was in constant pain. His complaint was eventually diagnosed as incurable. In 1971 he died. The sympathy and tenderness which this pain and sorrow in their midst drew out from all of the team threaded indefinably into the fabric of life, knitting them together, adding a quality of gentle affection to their comradeship. Sorrow and pain have strange and enriching uses.

The admiration of those remaining on the staff for Joy deepened during this period. The work which meant more to her than life itself was obviously being tested to an unusual degree, yet in spite of it - perhaps because of it - her spirit of rejoicing soared. She sincerely believed God was over all, and that out of the trials He would bring triumphs. They knew her faith was genuine, and their own faith was strengthened by it, while her love for them was quickened by their loyalty. When she was away on her long and sometimes erratic travels she wrote to them frequently, long and chatty letters in which she quite unconsciously paid tribute to the many people whom God had sent to help her. However defective her memory might be for other matters, it was prodigious when it came to colleagues and friends. In one long letter she wrote to 'Dear, dear family,' she mentioned over fifty people by name, with something about each one that revealed an intimate knowledge of their affairs.

In 1968 she started off on a journey that was to take her round the world, and she was ill at the time of leaving.

'What a pleasure it is to travel with the Lord Jesus as Companion and Guide,' she wrote from India, relating her experiences en route. 'Yes, it is even fun, because He carries all the burdens.' Then she went on to enumerate some of the ways in which He did it.

A lady in Denver vacated the best rooms of her home so that Joy could be alone there with Ann, who had arranged to meet her.

'Ann arrived when I was at the lowest rung physically. Without her assistance I would not have been able to get through my meetings.'

She was suffering acutely from bursitis. 'At the right time the Lord sent me to... a consecrated Christian doctor... The pain began to ebb and within ten days had almost ceased, and now it is completely gone.'

She arrived in London extremely tired, and to her delight was met by the Livingston Hoggs. 'Muriel has been my comfort and support many times when in physical need, and this time she had a bed ready and literally tucked me in. It was my precious Companion and Prince doing this through her.'

The list of addresses of people she could contact in Europe that was posted to her from Los Angeles did not arrive in time. 'But my Guide did not need the information. In Holland I was met by our worker, Marlene Muhr, who was right on deck in Amsterdam.

'What a blessing it was to see her and to deposit all my "too much" luggage and let her take over, to drive, to find places, and I am ashamed to say, to pay the bills as well. She felt the Lord had sent her some extra provisions for this very purpose, and we had a wonderful time. Although I wasn't too well my Elder Brother gave strength and gladness for all that was needed.' They travelled in Holland, West Germany and Switzerland, then she set off for Turkey and Israel.

'I arrived in Istanbul, on a very late flight from Barcelona. Everything was so strange on arrival. How should I get money changed? How much should I pay the porter? Where should I stay? Somehow I latched on to an Indian businessman and his wife and did what they did...' She shared a taxi with them and 'just relaxed knowing that there would be a resting place soon. Then the taxi stopped at the great glamorous Hilton Hotel!'

It wasn't what she expected, or what she would have chosen, and when she found herself being assigned a private room with bath she did not know what to do. But, 'Sometimes my Elder Brother, who is also a Prince, likes to treat His family to the best, so I did not fuss.' Instead, she enjoyed a delicious bath and the benefits of modern comforts, and later, in the spacious lounge, 'I had the opportunity to witness to a hungry-hearted South African lady who was travelling alone.'

A telephone call to the only Istanbul number she had in her book seemed rather unlikely to elicit any useful response, since she knew no Turkish. But there was a phone in her room, so she decided to try, and to her amazement an English voice answered. 'My "host" on the phone saw that I was entertained in two Turkish homes and given a personally conducted tour of the city. Some meetings were soon arranged in two different churches. This visit, arranged I am sure by my Elder Brother, opened up exciting new vistas for Gospel Recordings Ministry.' This was always her primary consideration. What possibilities were there for the distribution of records, where were there people with no Word of God in their own language, were there any ethnic groups among whom a voice could be captured...? There were great barriers as well as great needs in Turkey, she discovered. One visit there did more to enlighten her than a dozen letters.

In Israel she met an old friend who 'couldn't have done more for me if I had been a queen. The Israel experience was thrilling - a great privilege. There are untapped opportunities for greater distribution there but the high tax or duty is almost prohibitive.'

'All this time my Elder Brother and I were headed for India,' she continued. David Macnaughtan was to be married in Poona, but there was no scheduled flight due to arrive there in time. 'However, I felt certain my Prince wanted me to go to the wedding.' So she made enquiries, and decided the next step should be a midnight flight to Pakistan. 'It was a packed plane. I am sure my Guide wanted me in it, because I was able to witness to a Pakistani surgeon en route.'

So she arrived, unheralded, in Karachi. The first thing to do was to book a flight for Bombay, from where she could get to Poona by train. Having done that her mind flew to her permanent business - Gospel Recordings. There was time to meet their distributor in Karachi, if only she knew where to find him. But in this unknown city of millions of people, how could she locate him?

As always, her question took the form of prayer, swift, spontaneous, conversational. Just as simply the answer was given.

The name of Bishop Chandu Ray came to mind. Perhaps he could help her. She had heard that he was to be in Singapore about that time, attending an important conference, but decided nevertheless to look for his address in the telephone book. 'I feel hopeless looking up telephone numbers in foreign phone books, but I did find it...' She somehow had the conviction that this would be a lead, so instead of phoning hired a taxi which took her direct to the church office, several miles away.

'And there he was, Chandu Ray himself. After a chat and a cup of tea he phoned a friend thinking he might know how to locate our distributor, Marlin Summers... A short time later Marlin Summers arrived at the church and carried Joy off to meet his wife and children. 'How wonderful to have a Brother-Companion-Guide who can make a way when there is no way!'

On she went to Bombay - and thence to Poona by train.

'The train pulled into Poona. I did not know where to find David Macnaughtan or the wedding party, but there, wreathed in smiles and looking straight at me through the window of the train was David, the groom. What a happy occasion that was. We of Gospel Recordings are so grateful to God for this lovely new worker, Alice Byers, now Mrs. David Macnaughtan.'

Joy was invited to visit the Ramabai Mukti Mission, and arrived so exhausted and feverish she had to go straight to bed.

'The Lord had it all arranged. They gave me the nicest room and put a girl at my service to bring breakfast or tea and snacks and to keep me supplied with everything I needed. The Lord knew there was a hospital there and a dear Australian nurse to look in on me each day. I am thrilled to see what He has prepared,' she concluded, 'and look forward to the remainder of my journey with Him.'

That particular journey took her on to Africa - Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Rhodesia, Mozambique, Congo, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Gambia, Senegal, South Africa. After that she took a plane to Brazil...

A year later she was in Colombia again, to attend a Latin American Congress with over 900 delegates before going on to South America and then to the West Indies.

'What a surprise and blessing it was to learn a day after my arrival here that our own Larry DeVilbiss had come in from his work in Panama.' Larry DeVilbiss had come to Gospel Recordings in 1965 and was now one of its most experienced and daring field recordists. His journeys took him deep into the jungles. Travelling at times with little more than his recording machine he had learned to live off the land, existing for days on end on what he could find in the forests. He was reluctant to talk of his experiences which, when reporters heard of them, sent them eagerly on his track. To have him with her on this occasion was an encouragement, for she always drew strength from the companionship of members of her own G.R. family. Together they introduced the records to those who knew nothing about them, handing out 1,000 individually to people who returned to nearly every corner of Latin America.

The Congress over, they went their separate ways again.

'Larry will be heading out to the tribes immediately,' she reported. 'He has a lead through a government officer to go to one of the most ferocious tribes of South America. One tribe of 2,000 possesses a huge area of land in Colombia and Venezuela. After praying for this tribe for twenty years, could this be the time when we will be able to get messages recorded for them that will give them the essence of the message we have known for so long?'

Give them the essence of the message we have known for so long. This was her consuming desire, and it kept her on the move.

... To Latin America.

... To Texas.

... To Canada.

... To Colombia

... To the Caribbean... Hawaii... Tours of Canada... Tours of the U.S.A.

As she grew older, conscious of the strain of continually travelling alone, she would sometimes ask a friend to accompany her. Travelling with Joy opened up new vistas of faith to them. On the one hand Joy's natural lack of organisation in all matters apart from the work of Gospel Recordings often landed her in awkward situations that could have been avoided by care or forethought. On the other hand her confident faith that the Lord would work things out for her in spite of everything proved well-founded.

'It is an experience of watching miracles performed to travel with her,' wrote one of her travelling companions. 'The Lord answers prayer for her in such a way that one woman commented, "He doesn't answer prayer for me like that." Of course, I believe the secret is not only her faith but the fact she is so in fellowship that she asks what He delights in answering.'

When she was 71 she set off on another trip around the world, with an air ticket to take her to 35 countries. She lost the ticket, along with her passport and health card, when travelling on a bus in Nairobi. She and her companion had agreed it would save money to go that way rather than take a taxi from the Mission Guest House where they were staying, and Joy's handbag was rifled on the crowded vehicle. She did not discover anything was missing, however, until the next day, when they were on their way to get their visas for India.

No passport. No air ticket. No health card.

'Rejoice!' said Joy. 'Rejoice. There must be a reason. This is good rejoicing practice.' Her travelling companion did not immediately view it in that light, but when in less than twenty-four hours Joy was provided with a new passport, new health card and new air ticket, she gasped. 'It was simply amazing, for the airline had to telex to Los Angeles for permission to rewrite the ticket and they had to telex back all those places and routes - the ticket was about an inch thick! Then she had to get some more injections, but it was a miracle how quickly these were secured.'

On another occasion they arrived at a tiny airport in the Sudan where there was no telephone, no telephone book, and where nobody seemed to know anything about the Sudan Interior Mission. Joy had hoped to meet the missionaries there to discuss records distribution and the possibility of doing further recording. Her custom was to arrive unannounced, then phone someone she knew or had heard about and enquire about accommodation, a habit which some of her travelling companions found rather disconcerting. They couldn't help wondering if the arrival of two unexpected visitors would be as welcome and as convenient as Joy took for granted. She herself was always cheerfully willing to move out of her own room at Witmer Street if an extra bed were needed, and it did not occur to her that other hostesses might be less adaptable. On this occasion, since she had not made a note of the S.I.M. address, there seemed nothing else for it but to take the next plane out. An hour before it was due to leave, however, Joy was chatting to an old lady at the airport, and discovered that her nephew, who had come to see her off, worked for the S.I.M.

They didn't take the next plane out after all.

The culminating excitement of that particular incident was to be taken to a Sunday service where some of the congregation were second generation Christians, children of those who had come to know the Lord through Gospel Recordings records.

They went to some thirty countries and forty-odd cities, and only about six times were they met at the airport. In most cases no-one knew they were coming. Yet it seemed that there was always someone who could direct them to the places Joy wanted to go to, or the people she wanted to meet.

Her travelling companions noticed other things, too. Joy suffered from arthritis and was often in pain, but she never complained - only rejoiced. 'And her singleness of purpose was something to behold. She had but one thought in mind, and that was Gospel Recordings.'

Her activity and her influence extended beyond her organisation, however. She had travelled so widely, addressed so many meetings in all sorts of places, that everywhere she went were people who knew her or knew about her. When they were in Singapore Joy was invited to speak at a conference, and at the close of her address one of the young preachers present told the others that he was in the ministry because he had heard Joy speak in his seminary. In Perth, Australia, the same thing happened. She was invited to speak in a church where the minister announced it was through hearing her, years ago, that he was a minister today.

She had been invited to attend the World Congress on Evangelisation in Lausanne, sponsored by Billy Graham, as one of the comparatively few women delegates, and here again, she was constantly being greeted by people who knew her. One man, over six feet tall, engaged in Christian radio broadcasting, had used some of the records, and chuckled when he saw her. 'Here we big people sit at home,' he said, 'and little Joy goes out into the bush country and does the work!'

Joy described the whole Lausanne experience as being like a foretaste of heaven, a preview of the time when those from every tribe and nation will come to worship Christ. Yet it was shot through with sobering reminders that that time had not yet come. 'Much of the suffering of people around the world was portrayed to us,' she wrote. 'The huge population clock in the dining hall reminded us how many thousands were being born each day of the conference. It was fantastic to see how the need of the world to hear the good news of Jesus is ever increasing. The need for our records was newly impressed upon my heart.'

She arrived back from the seven months' tour that had taken her round the world in time to attend the Board Meetings of Gospel Recordings in Los Angeles, where Robert Thompson, having made a worldwide survey of missionary work, gave a masterly summary of the situation as he saw it. The urgency of the hour that had been impressed upon her had been even more deeply impressed upon him. He saw, as well as she, the strategic part that Gospel Recordings could play in those areas where time seemed to be running out, where the opportunities for evangelism might not last much longer.

'Look at Vietnam, for instance...' Something must be done and done quickly.

It was agreed that a conference should be called of the leaders of the G.R. centres worldwide to co-ordinate the work, unite resources and press forward, especially to those isolated tribes, the by-passed, the resistant, those who had never heard the Gospel in their own tongue. The conference was called for June of that year, for there was no time to lose.

There was another reason for calling such a conference. Joy was in her seventies now, and the question arose, 'How much longer can she continue? Whatever happens, the work must go on.' At that memorable conference, not only was the aim of reaching every last little tribe on earth with the Gospel re-affirmed, but the Gospel Recordings International Council was established.

* * * * *

One day, on returning to Los Angeles from one of her speaking tours, Joy was told of a visitor who had come to look round Gospel Recordings. Many visitors came for that purpose, but this one was unusual because of something he told the staff member who showed him around. The elderly widower, recently re-married, said in the course of conversation, 'I knew Joy Ridderhof when we were both young. As a matter of fact, I asked her to marry me - but she turned me down.'

Joy had no need to enquire his name. She knew he was Francis. She looked back to the occasion, forty years ago, when he had spoken of marriage and she hadn't known whether he was proposing or not, and had reacted in a way that he had evidently taken as being a refusal. It was the only time in her life when she had been seriously prepared to marry anyone, and she remembered the bewilderment, the grief of that weekend when she hoped he would broach the subject again, and when he had walked off with another girl instead. She understood now. He had acted that way because he was hurt, not because he did not care.

She understood something else, too. She understood why it had happened, why what she had so deeply desired at the time had not been granted to her. And now she thought of the little discs whirling in so many countries, so many remote regions, proclaiming with voices the listeners could understand that Jesus gives life, life that endures... Oh the joy, the joy of that! Not for anything would she wish to exchange such joy now. How absolutely right it had been to rejoice, even out of the pain then!

Chapter 12: As at the Beginning

Find out more