Remembering Ruth Kempton

The wife of former ABWE president Wendell Kempton leaves behind an astonishing legacy of ministry faithfulness.

We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of Ruth Royer Kempton, beloved wife of the late Dr. Wendell W. Kempton, who served as President of the Association of Baptists for World Evangelism (ABWE) from 1971 to 2001.

Ruth peacefully passed away on July 2, 2023, in Rome, GA, at the age of 87, surrounded by her loving family.

Ruth Hobbs Royer Kempton was born on June 24, 1936, in Trenton, NJ, to Ruth and Bill Hobbs. She grew up as a beloved daughter, cherishing the close-knit bond of her family. Ruth attended McCaskey High School in Lancaster, PA, and later pursued her passion for education, graduating with a degree in Physical Education from West Chester College. It was during her time at West Chester College that she met her first husband, Lee “Rock” Royer.

Ruth’s journey in ministry began when she married Lee, a football coach and evangelist. They embarked on a life dedicated to guiding and mentoring young adults. Tragically, Lee passed away suddenly in an airplane accident, leaving Ruth to raise their family. With resilience and unwavering faith, Ruth embraced the challenges and trustingly looked to God to guide her path.

In 1983, Ruth married Dr. Wendell Kempton, expanding her family and embarking on a life of global ministry alongside him. Wendell had served as the President of ABWE for over 30 years, and Ruth became an integral part of his leadership and support network. Ruth’s deep love for missions and her unwavering commitment to the work of ABWE inspired and encouraged countless missionaries and nationals around the world.

Throughout their time together, Ruth and Wendell nurtured and guided ABWE during a period of remarkable growth and impact. Under Wendell’s visionary leadership, ABWE experienced significant expansion, with the number of missionaries growing from 350 to 1,000, serving in over 60 countries. Ruth stood faithfully by his side, providing invaluable support and contributing to ABWE’s achievements.

Ruth’s ministry extended beyond her role as a supportive wife. She actively engaged in various ministries, including neighborhood outreach Bible studies, where she reached out to the local community and introduced God’s word to her friends and neighbors. Ruth’s caring nature and compassionate heart endeared her to many, as she shared her resources to help those in need and spearheaded philanthropic projects, including sending hundreds of thousands of Bibles to Christians in Russia. She also served on advisory boards for several collegiate and community organizations, lending her wisdom and expertise.

Throughout her life, Ruth embraced all that life had to offer. She was an avid athlete and enjoyed participating in sports like tennis and biking. She was known to take on any challenge, from parasailing to riding an elephant, embodying a spirit of adventure and fearlessness. Ruth’s voracious appetite for knowledge led her to be a lifelong reader, and she even became a published author herself. Her love for her family was evident in the time she dedicated to her children and grandchildren, attending their athletic functions, celebrations, and all their big moments.

As we reflect on Ruth’s remarkable life, we acknowledge the immense impact she had on ABWE and the countless lives she touched throughout her journey. Her unwavering commitment to the mission of ABWE and her tireless efforts to support her husband’s leadership will always be remembered and celebrated. Ruth’s legacy of love, faith, and service will continue to inspire generations to come.

We extend our deepest sympathies and condolences to Ruth’s children, Jennifer and Bruce Vosburgh, Amy and Todd Lander, and Tim and Amy Royer, as well as her stepchildren, Mark and Andrea Kempton, Stan and Cynthia Kempton, and Mark and Wendy Flannery. We also offer our condolences to her brother, Bill Hobbs, his wife Karen, and their family, who mourn her loss.

Our sympathy and prayers are with her 22 grandchildren and the growing number of great-grandchildren spread across the globe. May they find solace in the memories they shared with Ruth and draw comfort from knowing that her legacy will live on.

During this time of loss, may the grace of God surround the Kempton family and all who mourn Ruth’s passing. We give thanks for her life and her remarkable service to ABWE and the cause of global missions.