The first time Ruth Willett took part in a Freedom Challenge USA* prayer team, she ugly cried the whole week. Horrified by the information she pinned up in the prayer room and all the statistics about human trafficking, she told God He wasn’t asking the right person to do the job. The response she heard silenced the Scottish-born woman: “Would this not be the right level of sadness over an issue like this? I know how I’ve made you, and all I’m asking you to do is to worship.”
Digging deeper, Ruth discovered God’s promise in 2 Chronicles 20, where the Israelites were told the battle was not theirs but God’s. In faith, musicians went ahead of the ancient army, singing and praising God. Likewise, Ruth realized God was asking her to do the same in the face of another enemy: worship.
“God calls everyone to do things differently. There will be people fighting human trafficking through changing laws and knowing all of the stats and going to government levels. So I don’t presume to think this is the only way, but… one of the beautiful things that I’ve realized about fighting with worship is that I’m actually coming to a place where, instead of reacting to the enemy, I’m just responding to God, and the enemy is the one who’s exhausted himself by reacting and trying to take my gaze away,” she said. “I honestly believe that when our gaze is on God, that’s when things will truly change.”
Today, living in the US with her husband and two children, Ruth serves as the prayer coordinator for the Freedom Challenge, a ministry of OM that brings women together to complete physical challenges and raise funds for projects around the world that free women and children who are enslaved and oppressed. Over the past couple years, Ruth has built prayer teams for each of the events, connecting with participants before the challenges, waking up at 03:00 or 04:00 to see the hikers off each day and leading corporate times of worship and intercession. At the first event where she led prayer, in Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park in 2018, Ruth saw women experience both physical and emotional healing—during the hike and during the prayer time afterwards. “God seems to meet them a lot, and He’s met me in areas He wants to speak into and bring release and freedom,” she said.
“For me, I didn’t realize quite how much I didn’t like who I was,” she admitted. “That’s what He did for me in the mountains. …I began to see how much He loves me.”
From an early age, Ruth knew she’d serve God with her full life. “I think I’ve known all along there wasn’t anything else worth my time,” she said. Her husband, Cam (UK), had the same heart for serving God, so shortly after they married, they moved to Sweden to work with a non-profit focused on relief and development projects. Ruth filled various communications roles and then, after her children were born, became their primary care giver.
Fifteen years later, when they moved from Sweden to the US for Cam to take a new role with OM, Ruth received what she called a year of rest. Because of visa restrictions, she couldn’t work or volunteer for the first 12 months, so she had space to reconnect with God.
It was a needed time out. “I’ve served God full time for 20 years, but 10 years I felt like I was in a dark place,” she shared. “God revealed to me how little I knew His love.”
In 2017, Tracy Daugherty became the new director of the Freedom Challenge. Ruth and Tracy connected over dinner with another worker, and, later that year, when a Freedom Challenge prayer team member had a medical emergency, Tracy asked Ruth to fill in. “That’s when God started speaking to me about what freedom looks like, accepting who He’s made me and that carrying His sadness can be a good thing if I let Him show me how to do it,” Ruth said.
There, from a place of healing and rest, God “tailor made a role” for her, she said: “I can just worship and read the Bible and that’s my job.
“I feel like I’m doing what He made me for for the first time.”
Ruth joining the team was an answer to prayer for Tracy, who had been looking for someone to bring leadership and momentum to the movement when its original prayer coordinator, Sheila Slocum, retired.
“Ruth is creative and engages the entire woman (body, soul and spirit) into prayer. She is grounded in Scripture and is a great teacher and mentor on the power of prayer. She has helped make the power of prayer and worship prominent in the whole Freedom Challenge experience. Women are always greatly impacted by her unique, compassionate and faith-filled approach,” Tracy said.
While Ruth now shares her zeal for Christ as the hope of the world and her passion for prayer with women of all ages through the Freedom Challenge, she continues to draw strength from her personal time with the Lord.
“Tracy really challenges me to be constantly looking through God’s perspective …whether it’s in ministry or myself or my family or my circumstances,” Ruth said. “My freedom will come from letting Him be my guide, and I have to know His voice.
“If I know what God sounds like, I know how to walk in freedom and help others to do the same.”
For Ruth, prayer is less about performance and more about relationship. “I just can’t get through the day without talking to God,” she said.
“We don’t have to be good enough or powerful enough or strong enough or faithful enough,” she continued. “He knows our frailty; He knows our weakness, but we get to boldly come.”
In 2020, the location of Ruth’s ministry changed. Instead of flying to Freedom Challenge events around the world, she started leading live prayer times virtually from her living room. Though she may not understand the way God works through worship, she has received glimpses of what He has already done.
She shared about human trafficking headlines from the previous year: arrests in Atlanta following Super Bowl LIII, rescues in Colorado, a sting in Nepal—"there were five places, and Freedom Challenge had been in all of them,” Ruth said. “I felt like it was a kiss from God.”
“He’s the Name above all Names,” she affirmed. “Human trafficking might be a name, but He’s the name above it; slavery might be a name, but He’s the name above it. The impossible fight doesn’t seem so unwinnable because God’s above it.”
*The Freedom Challenge USA, a ministry of OM, is a movement of passionate women dedicated to freeing oppressed and enslaved women and children all around the world. Women participate in physical challenges that test their limits, while raising funds and awareness to combat dark, social injustices and set women and children on the pathway to freedom. For more information, visit www.thefreedomchallenge.com.