The Snells---A Testimony of our God Who Cares

I have known this couple for several years and wanted to share their testimony of how God has worked in their lives, as individuals and as a couple to show that He does, indeed, orchestrate the fine details of our lives.

Galen Snell was born January 11, 1934. When asked to describe his growing up years, he responded with a smile, “Wonderful.” LaVerne, California had 2,000 people and most of them knew Galen. LaVerne was his playground and garden. He claimed every tomato, carrot, and orange. When he got a bicycle, his world opened to the hills beyond Laverne.

His parents had few rules outside the home. One: Be home for lunch and supper. And Two: the young ones had to stay inside after supper.

While others were losing their houses and land during the Depression, his dad kept their family alive on their small dairy farm and orange grove, while supplementing with a part time job.
As Galen described his Dad, he teared up, “I know of no one who was more like Christ.”
His dad reached out to everyone. He gave $20 to a returned serviceman when he’d been drinking and had a family to feed, even though he, himself, was a pacifist.
“Dad saw evil and walked into the middle. It didn’t matter who or what situation. Then he worked to resolve it, making friends with those who were alienated.”
His dad had friends everywhere, even on the “other side of the tracks” where the Hispanic community lived. He’d walk down their streets. One would notice and greet him, “Hi, Ernie,” then the next house and next.
Working for the City of LaVerne, he was given customers that should have their power turned off. Instead, his dad would pay their bill and tell them, “Pay me when you can, if you can.”
When his dad died at 69, 800-900 people crammed into the church for the funeral. One-third were Hispanic, even though they didn’t belong any other time, “If it was for Ernie, they belonged.”

Galen described his mom as “having lots of energy,” maybe she had to with five boys.
As the fourth son, Galen didn’t worry about being clean until his mom made him.
Galen remembers one day his mom was upset when her husband didn’t return home until late. The next day, an elderly neighbor said, “I want to thank you for your husband mowing my lawn last night.”
Galen’s mom was busy with six men. She was always there, even when she worked. She was kind, a pacifist, that supported no fighting.
Curious to know how she dealt with disciplining boys, I asked, “How did she keep peace at home?”
Galen laughed, “Dale (his younger brother) and I were told to fight outside.”
His mom didn’t confront but corrected with a hug.
She stressed words and attitudes, and she lived it. She never allowed slang, “Be quiet,” never “Shut up.”
When Galen disobeyed, he remembers being corrected by both parents in the bedroom.
His dad, never one for extra words, never told him or his own wife he loved them, but when they hugged, Galen would be included in a three-way hug.

When asked about his salvation, Galen told this story:
“A six-year-old girl was given a new-born colt. Every day she had her arm around the colt, petting it, talking to it. After 15 months, she put a halter on it, then a bit. Because the little girl’s hands were always there and her voice always heard, the colt accepted when something heavy was put on its back. Even though its ears were back and it didn’t like it. When the colt heard the girl’s voice from above it, it was reassured, though its ears were still back.
When was the colt broken? Who’s to say?
Compared it to a wild horse who’s caught and drug by the rope, he knows when he’s broken.”
Galen likens his salvation the same way. He knew, “Jesus was always there.” Galen was baptized with the rest of the youth group at 9 or 10. He remembers the total surrender. “When you give your all, and your ego is mastered, you commit to obey.”

When he was in eighth grade, he went to stay with his dad’s first cousin while his dad and brothers fed cows on a cattle boat that the Brethren church took to Europe. Galen recalls his relative’s wife reading to him about Eli and Samuel. She told him, “Galen, when you hear the Voice, obey It.”
Those words would give him direction much later in his life.

High School
Galen was the football and basketball star, but didn’t achieve star status in grades.
His sophomore year, He tried out for the spring music operetta.
Ruth accompanied him.
When he got the main part, he said, “They were thrown together a lot” through music.
Ruth helped him learn the songs.
He wanted to ask her to the football banquet, but didn’t have money. He found a job “smudging,” which kept the fires in “smudge pots” scattered in orange groves throughout the night to keep the oranges from freezing. He made enough money to ask Ruth.
They were fifteen and sixteen years old.
That started their dating.
They made a line they wouldn’t go over.
But when she cut her hair, he wasn’t sure if he’d continued to date her.

They wanted to marry at 17 after high school graduation. By 18 years, after a two-and-a-half-year courtship, they asked her folks. There was no question from either of them about belonging together. But Galen knew, if he didn’t get permission, he’d have to leave the area until they could marry.
When Galen asked, Ruth’s dad said he was expecting the question weeks ago.
Galen lamented, “It would’ve saved me some sweat if I’d been told.”
Ruth’s mom sputtered and then agreed.
They attended one year of college and were married on June 8, 1952 with $750.
Before the wedding, Galen’s dad told him, “When you marry, you put your feet under your own table,” meaning don’t come home with your problems. Galen laughed, “except for Sunday dinner” which they shared with their parents for years.
Galen expressed their marriage this way: “Ruthie took hold of Jesus’s hand. I took hold of His other hand. And we took hold of each other’s hands. Our circle was complete. And then we discovered a miracle: somehow, in the Spirit, we could all walk straight!”
Galen said, “I could have done anything I wanted with her petite, 5’1 ½” 97-pound frame, but she demanded gentleness. And I would give it to her.”

I stopped Galen’s story to pick up Ruth’s background.
Ruth was born February 5, 1934. Her dad was a pastor of three Methodist churches in Iowa. They provided free service at the Methodist Hospital. She tells how she was “born free.” But that wasn’t without a cost, for in February, on the icy, back roads of Iowa, roads were icy, and treacherous. But they finally arrived at the “free” hospital for her birth.

She remembers her childhood with fondness. Friends and community made it good.
Since her family owned a milk cow, she had all the milk she wanted.
Ruth’s dad got along with everyone and was very expressive of his love. Ruth remembers her dad telling her, “If I was a young man, I’d ask you out.” That meant a lot to her.
Ruth’s mom was a “good woman,” busy with 12 pre-school children they fostered. She was attentive to the children but had “difficulty expressing love.”

With her dad’s preaching and camp meetings, she came to know Christ at 10. She made “Christ, my Lord.”
“But really,” she said, “I got saved in increments as I listened to my dad preach.” She added, “God has walked with me.”
In junior high, she remembers totally surrendering her life to God, “a very conscious decision.”

In the middle of her fifth grade, her dad went into the service.  He was a chaplain. They moved closer to relatives. Ruth spent time with her aunt who was nine years older than her. She became someone whom Ruth admired and respected. Her grandmother and her aunt created a haven for travelers on HWY 6. Ruth helped her aunt wash bedding. This was during the wringer washer days.

While her father served as chaplain, he was stationed in France near an orphanage. He visited it, bringing fruit, food and enjoyment to the children. Later he pursued that ministry. He went to University of Chicago for training in social work with children. He took all the classes, but couldn’t get a degree, because his former transcripts from his church school didn’t count.

During this time, Ruthie helped her parents with the twelve preschool children which were their responsibility at Lake Bluff Orphanage. This orphanage was their home for two and a half years. Every Saturday, she’d clean 13 pairs of shoes for Sunday. Every day she made 13 beds. The list went on, but she helped to put her father through school. Later, he would return the help by paying for her tuition at college.

After her father’s training, the Women’s Society of Christian Service at the Methodist church needed a director in three locations. Her father consulted with his family: her mother, two brothers, and herself. They knelt and prayed. When they finished, Ruth said, “I’m so glad God said we’re going to LaVerne.” No one else “heard” God’s voice. But to LaVerne, they went.

She arrived between her freshman and sophomore years in high school.
She was studious and involved with music. During the high school spring operetta audition, Ruthie heard Galen first sing. She remembers thinking, “Wow! This guy can sing.”
Their dating was slow to start. But once they started, they knew without a doubt they were meant for each other.
Their wedding only started their dreams.
Both of them went to one year of college, while working.
Galen wanted to be a forest ranger, preacher or teacher, or a farmer. Little did he know, he’d get to do three of the four before his days were over.
He finished college then went to seminary.
One Sunday, he stayed home from church sick from the spring storms.
He heard the Voice, his relative so many years before had told him to listen for. It said, “I want you in church today.”
Galen went to church, sat in the balcony, and wondered why he was there.
A special speaker told about the home-mission front with the Navajo.
Galen knew why he was there.
[He had wanted to go to Nigeria, but Ruth had said, “No.” She remembered her father describing the orphanage home in France and knew of missionary children living five hours away from home to be raised by someone else. She did not want that for their children; she wanted to raise them herself.]
But that morning in church, God spoke to her heart as well. They would go to the Navajos. They had two more years of seminary to complete; meanwhile, they spent one summer working with the Navajo.

When Galen went to language school, Ruth stayed behind with parents preparing to move from Iowa to the Indian mission. Linda, their one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, sorely missed being swung in circles by her daddy.
When reunited and moved to the mission, Linda was free to roam the missing grounds.
One day a traveler stopped at the mission with Linda. “Does this little girl belong to you?” She had walked down the quarter-mile lane and out the road. She was just a toddler.

Galen remembered one inciting incident. He was reading with his knee crossed over his leg, when Danny Hays, the three-year-old son of the mission’s nurse, came in the room.
Danny kicked him in the shin.
Galen’s knee-jerk reflexes kicked the boy across the room. No amount of apologizing and repentance could rectify him before the boy’s mom, who responded, “What kind of man are you who would kick a little boy?”
With that incident still unresolved, Ruth and Galen began their full-time ministry with the Indians.
Danny Hay’s mom hated them and attempted to turn the mission staff against them.
Galen went to her husband.
Mr. Hays shrugged, “That’s my wife.”
Galen could do nothing to make it right.
The stress affected Ruth. She couldn’t nurse their second child after three months.
Galen would read twenty chapters of the Bible a day, praying. They lived with this “cloud” over them for several years.
When Galen finally prayed, “Father, I can’t do it anymore. I give it to you.”
He heard the Voice again, “What took you so long, My son.”
It was a turning-point for the people to come to God. Things healed. The mission blossomed.

Child Training
When asked what troubles Ruth had raising their children, she related the “gum story.”
They had three children, ages 1, 3, and 5, two girls and one boy.
When Grandma visited, she always brought gum.
The children knew and asked for it, even though they weren’t allowed to have it by Mom’s rules.
But Grandma didn’t ask Mom. Even though Grandma knew it wasn’t allowed, she gave it to the children.
Ruth reminded her mom that her rules needed to be obeyed, even when Grandma was visiting.
That ended the issue.

When asked, “What was the hardest thing you did as a mom?”
Ruth paused, discipline was important. She wanted them to know the good life found in telling the truth. She made the consequences of disobedience hard, but she expected them to “mind me.”
One day, Ruth was frustrated that David (3 years) continued to stack a glass oil container onto a cup. It dropped, broke, and spilled everywhere. Ruth told Galen, “You take care of him. I can’t take care of him and the mess.”
At one time, her 5’1 ½” frame kicked her son out the kitchen door, while his sisters laughed with him.
Galen said, “She wouldn’t get angry often, but she did expect obedience.”

Marriage Struggles
When asked if they ever had a big fight, Galen was quick to say, “No. Not with each other. But over circumstances.” When Dale, his younger brother, died unexpectedly, Galen had just signed a contract at Laverne University. They bought a house in LaVerne that required remodeling. Ruth was already settled at Laverne and had signed as the organist at church.
After Dale’s funeral, Galen found it hard to leave Dale’s wife with all the farm work. He consented to stay in McFarland to farm.
He didn’t consult with Ruth.
That time of separation was hard on both of them.
Galen would travel weekends to be with Ruthie. He taught Sunday School college age, with discussions about the liberal doctrines that were taking over the college. Galen and Ruth found how liberal the college had become. The church split. Dealing with those who had arguments, Galen looked for those “who loved Jesus, then we’d have something to talk about.”

During this separation, Ruth suffered through pneumonia five times in two years. Without energy, she had to quit playing the organ. She was so weak, her daughter returned home to help her.
In the meantime, Dale’s wife remarried and Galen was able to leave farming.
When Ruth describes those years, she said, “God used those times to grow me up.”

When Galen became CEO of a failing church retirement community, he prayed. They were 1 ½ million dollars in debt. There were 600 people that would lose their homes.

In the middle of the night, God gave answers. With the help of the board and staff, a plan was suggested. All of us loaned and gifted the home over a quarter of a million dollars to pay the overdue payables. This money along with many other hard decisions brought us from “under the water back to air again.” Glencraft Retirement Community in Glendale, Arizona is today still a beautiful, vibrant Christian community for senior citizens.

Making Marriage Work
When asked how they made their marriage work, Galen said, “We didn’t struggle against each other, but with each other.”
When asked to explain, they replied, they didn’t fight to go in the same direction, they grew together as they went in the same direction as Christ led them.
With all Galen’s activity, he was careful not to “leave her in the dust”. After he had finished his doctorate, he asked if Ruthie wanted to go for hers. She chose to raise their children. She worked hard to do that.
When asked how she dealt with his many career changes, she smiled, “He would have died on the vine, if he didn’t keep moving, and have challenges and adventures.” She knew her man, and she worked with him.

He saw the big picture. She worked with the details.
When asked what made their marriage so strong?

They said, “Commitment to each other and to God.”

Galen described himself as “scatterbrain, and needing action.”
He relates when they were first married, he had left his shoes at the doorway. Later when he couldn’t find them, she said, “They’re in the closet, where they belong!

I asked Ruthie, knowing how musicians tend to like order and sameness, “How did you deal with his scatterbrain ideas?”
|She laughed. “I couldn’t do everything he did, but I didn’t have to. I lived my life, not at his pace, but my pace.”

He also said, “It could be difficult as a scatterbrain to live with someone so organized.” Because she likes order, he’d have to wait, as they were leaving their house for her to put a note away they found on their way out the door.

Her support for Galen’s adventures showed as she quietly listened to his stories, interjecting occasionally with a word of testimony to God’s faithfulness. “God took us into situations where we must be calm, demanding us to do things we didn’t know what to do.” She was his help. She could do this, while he could do that.

They are a couple who have learned to live with joy.
Ruthie described her life, “It’s been a great life.”
Galen’s comment, “It’s an exciting life.”
When asked, “What one word describes God?”
Galen said, “Wonderful.”
Ruthie said, “Gracious. God is one Who cares.”

Ruthie’s favorite verse is I John 1:9. It gives her security. No matter where we are in our walk with Christ, we can talk with Him and we’re settled.
She also likes Psalm 1. It covers life: God’s faithfulness, He’s dependable, and He loves us.
As a musician, she finds great comfort in Great is Thy Faithfulness.

Galen has claimed many verses as his favorite, depending upon what phase of life he was in.
Ephesians 2:10 gave him his calling. He was God’s workmanship. Colossians 1 reminds him of Who Jesus is. Now 1 Peter 1:3-9 shows him that living hope and eternal perspective. John 14 gives him that “peace” now and later. As it gets harder to do things he’d like to do, Galen finds Rev 2:17 comforting. He has a straight phone line to Jesus.

Galen speaks of slowing down and the effort it takes to accept that concept after such a life filled with energy and activity. But to watch this couple, even as they slow down, anyone can see the light of Jesus radiating through them. Not just as an individual, but as a couple who are still holding on to Jesus’s hand and their spouse’s hand and are still doing great things for God by reflecting their Savior’s love to a world who needs Him.

Displaying all 2 comments

When I attended my first year at a new community college of 140 students, Galen Snell was my psychology professor. It was a turbulent time back then but Galen Snell would help me and my friends by hiring us to work for him. I always noticed that he had this peace about him and I wanted that. Galen and Ruth got to know my family and helped us weather a crisis or two. At the end of myself because of some serious circumstances, I got on a bus one night and took it to McPherson, Kansas where Galen was now school dean. His family allowed me to stay with them as the healing began. Definitely a turning point in my life.

They really are a very special couple, thanks for introducing them to all of us. So enjoyed reading this article. I grew up in Pomona, very near LaVerne and one of my brothers went to LaVerne College. And while Steve and I were spending 5 1/2 years doing volunteer service with the Mennonite Church, one winter he worked on the electrical at Glencroft where his uncle was in charge of the project. We really enjoyed that winter and made lots of great friends at the church we attended. Small world!

I write about what you---
women, wives and moms---
about your family, faith and future.
I write about what's hard, what helps and what heals.
I show you how it's done. And not done.
I hold your hand as you find what matters to the Savior.
And let go of those things that mattered to you, but not to Him.
I write about what Him.
               Sonya Contreras

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