By Leslie Moriarty
MONROE — To look at Ruth Anderson, a petite soft-spoken 42-year-old woman, no one would guess the hardships she has surmounted.
Her kind smile and simple ways aren’t representative of the fighter she is when called to be.
And whether it’s helping a fellow Hispanic understand how to fill out immigration papers or teaching an elderly woman from Mexico how to write the language she’s spoken all her life, or preaching a Sunday sermon in her native language of Spanish, she’s in it for the good of the community.
And for God.
"I asked the Lord to show me where he wanted me to be, and he said it was here," Anderson said of Monroe, where she has lived since 1997.
She came here to visit Wallace Anderson, a machinist whom she has since married. They met in Panama where she was working with street people, helping them find homes and God.
"I had the choice to go back to Mexico," she said. "I have a house there. But I believed that my role was to stay here and help the Hispanic people better themselves."
She started out slowly, becoming a part of the Monroe Faith Center, an affiliate of the Assemblies of God churches. Within the center the "Jehovah Jireh" church offers non-denomination Hispanic Christian teachings.
By the 2000 Census, 10 percent of Monroe’s population is Hispanic. Many of them settle in Monroe because landscaping, nursery jobs and farm field labor employment is close by.
She began free classes to help Hispanics learn English better and help those who don’t know how to write Spanish.
"As I started to know the community better, I realized that there are many people here who need help of all kinds," she said. "I decided that I would get my master’s degree in technology and help them with computer skills, and I would become ordained so that I can share the glory of the Lord with them, too."
With the help of Pastor Ron Simmons at the center, she studied and took tests. Last fall, she was ordained by an official who traveled from Mexico to preside at the ceremony.
"I am the first female Latino pastor in this area," she said. "This is quite an honor for me."
Although she teaches Spanish to junior high school students during the day, she continues to help the locals with their English skills weeknights at the church. She also preaches a sermon every Sunday at 2 p.m. in Spanish.
And she has other goals, too.
She wants to create a community help center for Hispanic residents.
"I have seen where many of them work in the fields and make less money than their American counterparts," she said.
She tells of going to those employers and fighting to get fair wages for Hispanic workers.
"Many don’t make minimum wage and can’t afford to feed their families.
"If we were able to begin a center, we could teach better work skills to them so they could better themselves. They want to learn, and they want to contribute to the community."
Likewise at the center, parenting skills and domestic abuse alternatives could be a focus.
"The children in these homes often don’t have a lot of guidance because the parents are busy working two and three jobs," she said. "And Hispanic woman aren’t aware of the choices they have because traditionally, in Mexico, they are to be quiet and let their husbands run the family.
"These are the kinds of things that we could find solutions to through education classes at the center."
She also has a missionary project where she is helping to establish an orphanage in Mexico to aid children who are abandoned. Many of the members of the Monroe church are helping in that.
Anderson has a sense of community. She has goals and projects. And she wants to find others who will help her complete those projects.
But her priority of serving her faith is never forgotten.
"Whenever I forget who brought me here, I take time and go out to the shopping centers or go up and down Main Street to just talk with people," she said. "I tell them about our church and the help that is there for them.
"And maybe, we just sing a song to show our hope for the future."
You can call Herald Writer Leslie Moriarty at 425-339-3436
or send e-mail to email@example.com.