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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Prepared to Preach

By John W. Kennedy
Jan. 9, 2011

Now that Ruby Nell Davis-York has completed every available Berean School of the Bible course, she is on the lookout for a full-time preaching assignment to apply what she has learned. It’s not that Davis-York doesn’t have experience behind the pulpit. The 66-year-old Ada, Okla., pastor-evangelist began preaching in Assemblies of God churches 47 years ago.

While holding occasional revival services by invitation, Davis-York also has spent many Sundays behind the pulpit in the small Oklahoma towns of Jarvis, Macomb, Seminole and Sterling. Some of the congregations would have folded if she had not been willing to assume pastoral duties for minimal remuneration.

“There has never been a church too small, or a need too great but what Ruby Nell has been willing to fill in and offer her services,” says Oklahoma District Superintendent Frank Cargill. “Many times she has served as interim pastor and for all practical purposes has become the pastor until a church could find one. Every place she has served has been a hurting place.”

Davis-York is an energetic, passionate, full-gospel, old-time proclaimer of God’s Word. The rapidity and frequency in which she expels sentences makes it difficult to believe that she feared speaking while growing up. Yet she felt like an outcast as a child and youth.

An ear infection as a baby caused hearing difficulties and led the doctor who delivered her to predict she would have learning disabilities. By the time she began to talk, she had difficulty constructing words, and she says her relatives considered her a tongue-tied idiot. During her formative years in Arkansas, Colorado and Oklahoma, other pupils and teachers taunted her as a child incapable of relating to other humans. Even speech therapists figured she couldn’t learn.

Teachers didn’t spend time with her because they couldn’t understand her. Ruby Nell taught herself to read — via comic books. The Nazarene church in Shawnee, Okla., proved to be the only place Ruby Nell found acceptance. A church secretary enrolled the 14-year-old Ruby Nell in a series of Bible courses. By this time, she earned A’s and B’s in school.

At age 16, a boy from the neighborhood invited Ruby Nell to a revival at the local Assemblies of God church. She went to the altar and prayed to an all-powerful God to make her normal.

“I was baptized with the Holy Ghost, and God healed my speech at the same time,” she recalls. Davis-York says she felt called to preach at age 5, even before she could read. She received her certification to preach from the Assemblies of God in 1963 and ordination in 1967. Today, she is easy to understand, except perhaps for the twang of her native Arkansas.

“With all my physical problems, God brought me through it and never closed the doors on me,” Davis-York says.

Ruby Nell Davis didn’t marry until age 48, to William Owen York, a widower 24 years her senior. Owen retired from preaching and allowed his new wife to deliver sermons while he sang and played guitar at services. They had 13 years together before he died in 2006.

At the urging of an Arkansas pastor, Davis-York enrolled in her first Berean School of the Bible course in 1975. The programs are offered at the adult continuing education level. This June, Global University honored Davis-York for her commitment. Berean Dean Randy Hedlun says Davis-York completed 109 courses, representing five diploma programs: ministerial studies, specialized ministries, church ministries, Christian service, and Bible and doctrine.

“We recognized Ruby Nell for her lifelong dedication to learning, and for her faithful application of that learning to the glory of God,” Hedlun says.

“Berean is a long way from comic books,” Davis-York says. “God gave me the opportunity to learn, to talk and to minister.”

In August, Davis-York embarked on the path to a Bible and theology bachelor’s degree through Global University’s Undergraduate School of Theology.

“It has been a great joy watching her determination to continue to pursue learning something new with the challenges she has had,” says Cargill.

In October, Davis-York relinquished her job with Experience Works to focus on full-time preaching. Experience Works, a national organization that helps train older adults for employment, had been her primary source of income in recent years.

She has no doubt the call to preach full time will be answered.

“God has never let me down yet, and He’s not in the business of starting now,” Davis-York says.

JOHN W. KENNEDY is news editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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