In memoriam: Missionary emeritus Alma Ruth Gladen, 93

Alma Ruth Gladen, 1928-2021
IMB Photo

Alma Ruth Gladen, an International Mission Board missionary emeritus who shared the gospel in Mexico, died April 6, 2021. She was 93.

Gladen was born Jan. 24, 1928, in Lepanto, Arkansas, to the late Cecil and Susie Franks. As the daughter of a Baptist minister, she lived in Arkansas, Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia. She received the Bachelor of Arts from Union University in Jackson, Tennessee, and attended Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. While in seminary she met Van Gladen, and they married in 1952.

Ruth wrote when seeking missionary appointment that at age 15, she had publicly dedicated her life to do whatever God wanted. Her new husband felt God’s plan for his life included missionary service, but Alma didn’t yet share that call. While Van completed seminary studies, the couple moved to town near the Mexican border, and began to feel a burden for the Latin American people.

Alma had served as young people’s director in her church and said she “worked closely with many of our fine girls as we studied missions together. Always this question about my own life was in my mind, ‘Are you sure God doesn’t want you to go?’” After prayer and hearing talks by missionary speakers and others who had visited mission fields in Latin America, Alma told Van she was ready to consider international missions.

The Foreign Mission Board (now International Mission Board) appointed the Gladens as missionaries to Mexico in 1956. They served for more than 36 years, attending language school in Costa Rica and living and working in Saltillo, Torreón, Monterrey, Mexico, and in El Paso, Texas. During those years, Ruth was active as a church musician, private piano teacher and member of the faculty of the Seminario Teológico Bautista Mexicano, where she taught music education and was active in the choral music program. In the latter years of their mission service, Ruth and Van worked with the Texas Baptist River Ministry, traveling extensively along the U.S./Mexico border.

After retirement, Ruth and Van moved to Waco, Texas, where they became active members of Columbus Avenue Baptist Church. Ruth was a member of the International Sunday School Class, served as a music teacher in the Neighbors Program and was a mentor in the Mom-to-Mom program.

Ruth was preceded in death by her husband of 63 years, Van Gladen, who died in 2015.

She is survived by her daughters, Kathy Johnson (Wes); Karen Johnson (Bruce); Linda Gill (Joe); and Nancy Gunvordahl (Scott). She is also survived by nine grandchildren and two great-grandsons.

A celebration of life was held June 26, 2021, at Columbus Avenue Baptist Church, Waco, Texas.

Donations in her memory may be made to the Lottie Moon Offering, IMB, 3806 Monument Avenue, Richmond, VA 23230, or online at Generosity Resource Center – IMB Generosity

Read an obituary here.