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Keith and Ruth Snider
Photo courtesy of the Snider family
Keith and Ruth Snider

Have God, will travel

Marriage | Daily worship together has been the stabilizing force in Keith and Ruth Snider’s 37 years of marriage on the move

This article is the 22nd in a series profiling couples who have been married for at least 35 years. As sociologist Mark Regnerus writes, “Young adults want to know that it’s possible for two fellow believers to stay happy together for a lifetime, and they need to hear how the generations preceding them did it.” It is also important to see that marriages are not always happy all the time, but commitment is crucial.

YAOUNDÉ, Cameroon—Ghana. Holland. Quebec. Cameroon. “The most stressful times for our marriage are when we travel or move,” says Ruth Snider.

In 1976, Keith was 23 and Ruth, 21. After a lot of letters and a year’s separation while he worked as a carpenter in Ethiopia, Keith knew Ruth was right for him. He moved home to Alberta, Canada, and she said, “I do.” But she got more than a carpenter: They soon left their prairie home to embark on a career as missionaries. They’ve never stopped moving.

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The newly married Sniders studied linguistics in North Dakota and Texas. They were Bible translators in Ghana, moved to Holland for Keith’s Ph.D. study, and went to Quebec for French. Then came six years in Cameroon, where their older sons finished high school. Regular walks together then and now keep the relationship vital. “We have a similar faith,” said Keith, “a pattern from our parents.”

The stress of living in foreign countries with little money did not rattle them because they trusted in God for their lives and were used to pulling together to reach a goal—which usually meant putting a premium on helping others. Both grew up in families that habitually entertained guests and travelers. Welcoming and serving others as children honed skills they now use in creating what they call an “open home” in every culture they live in—providing either a hub of activity or a haven.

In 2000 they became a haven for Erin Chapman, the daughter of colleagues killed in a plane crash off the African coast. Even though she is now married with children, Chapman still considers the Sniders her family. Amid the pressures of cross-cultural life and all the moves, openness to others goes on strengthening the Sniders’ marriage and family bonds.

Daily time in worship together, they said, “has stabilized the marriage and home. From day one we’ve done it.” After supper, even with company present, they read the Scriptures and pray. Keith honors Ruth’s and his own father’s counsel for how to build their life around this “altar” of daily worship. Their sons, now 33, 31, and 25, are “following the Lord” and continue the tradition.

Now based in Abbotsford, British Columbia—where Keith taught linguistics for 10 years at Trinity Western University—they often travel across Africa for Keith’s consultant work.

Ruth quoted a mainstay verse for their marriage: “Faithful is He who has called you and He will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24). And she playfully revealed the other secret ingredient: “Always remember what drew you to your lover … those things are still there.” Keith joked, “I tell Ruth we need to go on eHarmony and put in our details—just to see if we’re a match.”

Rob Holmes
Rob Holmes

Rob is a translator and linguist in northern Africa. His five children love it when he reads to them and does “the voices,” especially in Hank the Cowdog. Follow Rob on Twitter @SouthernFlyer.

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