Friday, January 1, 2010

Captured by Heart

The following is what I wrote for this week's Trident (editorial column) in this week's edition of The Clatskanie Chief. I have only written the Trident twice in my almost 11 years at The Chief, so this was quite an honor.



It is such a small word, but one that can hold great depth of meaning and feeling.

There is an oft-repeated saying that “Home is where your heart is.”

 Almost 21 years ago, my family and I moved our hearts to Clatskanie. And since that time, this little community has been a treasured home for us and our love has only deepened over the years. Strangers have become friends and as dear as family. I wouldn’t trade anything for the privilege of growing up in this small community.

I have bragged about our one-stoplight city and the fact that you can rarely go downtown without meeting at least one person you know. There is comfort in the fact that you can walk right up and talk to our dedicated community leaders and know they will listen to your questions or concerns. It is a reassuring realization that in times of disaster or tragedy, this community knows how to pull together, like in the February 1996 flood or the Woodson slide of December 2007.

Rather than let a fellow citizen give up or be defeated by storms, floods or even bureaucrats, Clatskanites know how to form ranks and stand tall. This town may be small, but it has a huge heart.

We are also blessed to live in such a beautiful pocket of the world, tucked in a valley and surrounded by incredible beauty. Oh, Clatskanie, you are a gem.

A little more than 11 years ago my writing heart found a home at The Clatskanie Chief. Having never received a formal education in journalism, I came very green. However, I had the privilege of learning from one of the most talented and capable small town journalists, who is driven not by wealth or fame (and if she was, she’s in the wrong place), but by a fiercely loyal heart to her hometown and her fellow citizens. I have learned from her that there is more satisfaction in writing a well-crafted story or a piece that spotlights the good deeds of one of our hometown heroes, than the paycheck at the end of the week.

To tell you the truth, I have gained far more at The Chief than any college course or internship at a larger newspaper could have offered me. And, I have been enriched personally and professionally far beyond measure and what I could ever repay. Thank you, Debbie.

It is a dedicated team that puts this newspaper out each week as a labor of love. Hours upon hours are invested by a small, but skilled group who I am so grateful to call my co-workers and friends. They have also taught me much by their patience, attention to detail, work ethic and sacrificial efforts. Thank you so much to the ladies of The Chief (and to Phil).

It’s hard to imagine that any other place or any other people would capture one’s heart quite like Clatskanie and its dear folks.

However, call me a traitor, but ever since a journey three years ago, my heart has been divided between two places.

By a good friend’s invitation and God’s leading and provision, I spent almost five months, from October 2006 to March 2007, in southern Uganda on a mission trip. For most of that time I lived on Lingira Island on Lake Victoria, located about 15 miles from the nearest mainland city of Jinja. My original plan was to stay for three months because I was positive I would be homesick by then and ready to return to the good ol’ U.S.A. However, something happened in my heart. The island became a “home away from home.” I fell in love with the place, with the food, with the slower pace of life, with the sights and sounds, but I especially fell in love with the people. I found them to be warm, hospitable and generous and I quickly made lifetime friendships. Uganda captured my heart.

It was with mixed feelings that I returned to Oregon in March 2007. I was excited to see the friends and family whom I had missed during those five months, but now my heart was divided, longing to also return to Uganda, at least for a visit. For the past two and half years, I have waited, wondering if God would again make a way for me to go back to east Africa.

While I waited, I returned to work at The Chief, learning new skills as I began covering Rainier happenings and meetings, following the retirement of longtime reporter Betty Mayfield.

As time passed, I began having my doubts that I would return. But earlier this year, God brought to my attention a niche I might be able to fill there and not just during a short-term visit, but for an extended stay. This realization was confirmed and I am making preparations to leave Jan. 9 for a one-year term in Uganda.

I was happy to be accepted by the mission agency Global Outreach International and I am very excited to be traveling with my good friends Andrew and Karina (Thomas) Smith and their young son, David. I will be working in their ministry, Shepherd’s Heart International Ministry, and living on the island, my home away from home. I am anxious to be involved in the ministry’s child development program, a type of child sponsorship, and assist with communications and any other area of which I can be a part. Also, I can’t wait to see those who I left behind nearly three years ago and renew those dear relationships, as well as meet new friends.

I believe that is nothing is wasted in God’s economy. He uses every experience, relationship and opportunity in our lives, weaving them together into a plan that is far better than we could imagine. I believe my coming to Clatskanie 21 years ago was all part of His plan of taking me to Uganda in 2010 and He has orchestrated every detail in between. I heartily agree with the message of Proverbs 16:9, “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.”

When I board the plane Jan. 9 in Portland, I will be taking Clatskanie with me. This will always be my hometown. There is no way to separate what I have gained from this place and its people from the person I am.

Home is the place that captures your heart.

The property of Shepherd's Heart International Ministry (SHIM) on Lingira Island. This photo was taken in March 2007, just after the land was purchased and before it was developed. It now boasts buildings and gardens. I will be living here.


  1. Beautiful, Ruthie. Your post captured exactly how I feel about my hometown, Longview, even though it boasts a couple more stoplights.(-:
    I'm not a big-city girl, and that's certain, but who knows what God has in store for me!
    Congratulations on writing this for your newspaper-that certainly is an honor!

  2. Thank you, Lauren! It is interesting how a place captures your heart.
    It is true, we just never know what God has in store for each of us. I never would have thought I would be going to Uganda!:)
    I'm excited to see what God has in store for you - I know it will be great!