It was a somewhat surprising scene at Brandon University Convocation last year in Brandon, Manitoba, Canada. During the same ceremony that former Canadian prime minister Paul Martin gave an address and received an honorary degree, Seventh-day Adventist Judy Ramsay walked across the stage to receive the Board of Governors’ Award for Excellence in Community Service. Derrick Stewart, Chair of the Board of Governors, had just read a biography describing her service for the Brandon Seventh-day Adventist Church and numerous mission trips with Maranatha Volunteers International.
How does a former church treasurer and avid Adventist mission trip goer receive an award from a public university for her Christian service?
First, Brandon University has employed Judy for over 30 years. Currently, she is the administrative assistant to the dean of the Faculty of Health Studies. Judy was nominated by two co-workers for the Excellence in Community Service award. One of its purposes is to give recognition to a Brandon University employee who through cumulative volunteer activities best contributes to the community service function of the university.
“I was a bit skeptical that the Board of Governors would be interested in church-related service,” said Ramsay. But despite her doubts, she submitted letters describing her service in detail, as well as letters of reference from the Manitoba-Saskatchewan Conference president Ron Nelson, and Lisa Emmanuel of Maranatha Volunteers International.
What did the Board of Governors read that merited such an award? Simply put, the life of a woman dedicated to serving God wherever she could.
A Life of Service
The bio read at her award ceremony noted that in 1995 she became the treasurer for the Brandon Seventh-day Adventist Church and held that post for 20 years. What they didn’t mention was that she’d held numerous other posts, including Sabbath school superintendent and secretary, personal ministries secretary, music coordinator, primary Sabbath school teacher and bulletin secretary.
“On reflection, it occurred to me that God was smiling at me for my faithfulness as I had questioned my decision many times.”
The bio also noted she had used her musical education received at Brandon University to bless many people at church, weddings, funerals, and even the Brandon 2014 Remembrance Day ceremonies with her piano playing.
What particularly stood out to the awards committee were Ramsay’s 12 mission trips through Maranatha Volunteers International. In 2003, a friend invited her to join a church-building project trip. “After that trip to the Dominican Republic, I was hooked,” said Ramsay. “From then on I tried to go on a Maranatha mission trip at least once per year.”
On her subsequent trips, Ramsay did everything, from laying block and re-bar on the construction sites; drilling metal sheets and painting; testing and distributing eye glasses; presenting topics at health fairs; raising money and assisting with food distribution; assisting with children’s ministries; kitchen duties; and follow-up presentations to encourage others to participate in the world of volunteerism.
From an orphanage in El Salvador, church building projects in Zimbabwe, Chile, Peru, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, and Panama, to building large education centres and classrooms in India, Ecuador, and Honduras, Ramsay described the experiences as rich. “I got to interact with the local people and assist in outreach ministries,” she said. “And these buildings will help change their lives for generations to come.”
The ceremony held an extra special significance for Ramsay. During her employment at Brandon University, she obtained a Bachelor of Arts double major in both Rural and Community Studies and Sociology, all the while working full-time. “But I did not attend my 2002 and 2004 graduations from Brandon University,” said Ramsay, “because they were held on the Sabbath.”
Ramsay explained that since she had received the Gold Medal in Arts in 2002, she felt somewhat disappointed that she had not been available to receive the medal in person.
A few years ago, Brandon University changed Convocation ceremonies to Friday. “Receiving the Board of Governors’ Excellence in Community Service award it was a real surprise,” said Ramsay. “On reflection, it occurred to me that God was smiling at me for my faithfulness as I had questioned my decision many times.”
The Bible teaches that God loves to exalt His humble servants wherever they serve. Ramsay’s award is one example of how He lets His people shine for Him wherever they are.