A note from the blog team: We reached out and invited our retreat attendees to share a piece of their stories as a way of exploring what it means live out our identities as sisters. Throughout the year, we look forward to sharing these sister-to-sister interviews in the hopes that you will recognize a bit of your story in theirs—and that you will be encouraged in the living out of your own authentic calling as a valued member of the Open Door Sisterhood.
In this first installment of the series, we are delighted to introduce to you Ruth Bell Olsson and Angie Ryg, who began their friendship as college roommates. Here they are to share with you a bit of what it means to them to belong to the Sisterhood.
~ ~ ~
Ruth: I was a super-achiever in high school. I attended an intense public high school and had a lot of acquaintances but no deep friendships with other Christian girls my age (“friends of the heart” as my mother used to call them). I dutifully participated in youth group and tried to find where I could fit in, but it was always a struggle.
I decided to go to Wheaton College. There was a lot of pressure to attend Wheaton because it is the “family” school. Yet, I also harbored a sense that perhaps “my people” were there. I was incredibly nervous on moving day when my parents pulled the station wagon up to Fisher dorm. I had filled the car to the brim with all of the carefully planned items I had packed to try to make my dorm room feel like the home it would be for the next nine months. I was eager to see if I would connect with any of the girls on my floor or in my dorm. If I could not find any of “my people” at college, would I ever find them???
One of the first girls I met in the dorm was my suite-mate Angie. We both had very nice roommates, but they were a bit on the quiet, introspective side. Angie, on the other hand, lived life large. Her big personality and warm spirit were just what I had hoped for . . . I had found a kindred spirit. Angie had a marvelous fearlessness and would talk to anyone. When you are new on campus, having a friend who talks to anyone and everyone is a gift! We met all the other girls on the floor in the first day (and most of the boys in the dorm within the week!).
I do not have a sister, so all of the girl-energy in that dorm suite was a lot for me to take in. But, Angie showed me how to live like a sister—from sharing clothes, to late night snack runs, to those long, long talks about anything and everything.
Angie: And I am so thankful for those long, late-night talks in our bunk beds because that is when I was able to see that Ruth and I were very much alike—desiring connection and friendship. Even though at first, I didn’t think so! On that first day, I immediately felt like the plain girl next door who should still be in high school. Ruth, on the other hand, was the upscale college girl with her exquisite fashion sense, impeccable nails, and the family who had all attended Wheaton. While I came from a Christian family, I was the first to go to a Christian school. She seemed to me to feel so comfortable in her skin, afraid of nothing.
Having grown up with a sister, I knew how to get along with girls. These friends from college became my sisters. Although at first our relationship as suite-mates was chosen for us, I quickly knew that Ruth was a friend who was not afraid to do new things and meet new people (girls and boys). I wanted to spend more time with her. She was the one who showed me how to be brave when she pushed me to wear a blond wig and dance to “Rolling Like a River” in front of the entire student body. She was the one who showed me what family devotions looked like when I visited her home in Michigan. She was the one who showed me what sisterhood looked like when, years later, she sent me an ornament of pink, porcelain baby boots after my daughter was born.
Those who write books on friendship often describe the ebb and flow of women’s needs in friendships. I would point out, however, that my needs should not be the focus of friendship, but what I give in my relationships for the glory of God. Although Ruth and I have not talked face to face in many years, I am thankful to the Open Door Sisterhood for helping us move into the next chapter of friendship. To be intentional in connecting, caring, and creating a space to cheer each other on.
Today, Ruth and I both have daughters in college or about to go to college. This Sisterhood is something we want to pass on to them. We both wish for them deep friendships that stand the test of time because they are rooted in Christ. To develop in each other character—to be brave enough not only to face a full auditorium and lip sync a song because it is enormously hilarious, but to touch the lives of sisters in need around the world.
We want our daughters to be compassionate enough to see the need for Christ in their circles of friends, in the families they may have one day, and in this world. We see the gift of having sisters to cheer and be cheered by, so that they may become all God has intended.
~ ~ ~
Ruth Bell Olsson is an activist at heart. After over a decade of HIV/AIDS advocacy, Ruth’s channels of activism now focus on the systemic issues that surround and compound the pandemic. Ruth earned her Bachelor of Arts in philosophy from Wheaton College and her Master of Arts in global leadership from Fuller Seminary. Ruth has traveled to some of the hardest places in the world and has witnessed God in every corner. She writes and speaks on a variety of subjects and loves to wrestle with the deep mysteries of living a life of faith in a complicated world. Ruth and her husband Jeff are founding members of Mars Hill Bible Church and they live in Grand Rapids with their three children. Connect with her online at www.faithfulactivism.com.
Angie Ryg is an author and speaker who encourages others to encounter an invisible God right where they are. She desires to inspire others to live out the glorious gospel in this amazing life God has given. She is wife to Mike and Mom to Leah, Joshua, Jonathan, and Jared. She is a lover of her family, His Word, and a Shih-poo named Maddie. Connect with her online at www.angieryg.com.