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Radical Generosity

Radical Generosity

  • Linda Piepenbrink
  • August 11, 2020

Jesse Ruzic and Olivia Ehrle deliberately sat in the front row to stay alert for Introduction to Philosophy, but it was Dr. Brian O’Neal’s side comments that caught their attention

“When you guys are long gone from Moody and making the big bucks in ministry,” the professor said with a grin, “just remember your days at Moody, and remember that you were here because someone gave to you and for you.”

“Start by giving $5 a month,” he suggested. “I think we can all afford $5 a month.”

The words resonated with Jesse and Olivia, who met at Moody and took Dr. O’Neal’s advice after they married, giving monthly.

“I feel that every dime that’s given to Moody is just so worth it,” says Jesse ’15, now a youth pastor in Michigan. “I use my education every day. I use it personally and pastorally. It was just so invaluable.”

He and Olivia ’15 still marvel at God’s providence in leading them to Moody. Jesse, who became a Christian at 18 years old, knew he couldn’t afford a four-year college. When his mentor told him that Moody Bible Institute was tuition-paid, Jesse could hardly believe it. “That opened a huge door of hope for me,” he says.

Olivia suffered from childhood sexual abuse and wasn’t following God, then trusted Christ at a summer camp. The next morning at breakfast, she told a camper’s dad that she wanted to help other women and children who’d been abused. “I want to do it in the name of Jesus, and I don’t know what to do.”

The camper’s dad happened to be Dr. Bruce Norquist, associate dean of Residence Life at Moody Bible Institute. “It’s tuition paid, and it’s in downtown Chicago, and you should come!” he told her.

Olivia transferred from a secular school to Moody in spring 2012, and so did Jesse. They met when Olivia tripped down some stairs, landing at Jesse’s feet. He helped pick up her books, and as they parted he tried to be funny, calling out, “I’m falling for you!”

The next day Jesse tripped on the same stairs, and looked up to see Olivia! They laughed and soon discovered they had four out of five classes together.

Olivia loved her Urban Ministry major, especially her practical Christian ministries in the city. For two years she and Jesse both mentored children at Inner City Impact, where Jeremy ’09 and Stephanie (Mann ’09) Lamour modeled “radical generosity,” says Olivia. “There were always students in their home; they were always looking for ways to bless and to give and to help.”

She and Jesse also served together at Urban Christian Academy in Chinatown. Jesse ran a youth group, which organically grew into a Friday night hangout with food and Bible study. That gave him confidence for his internship, which turned into a full-time position as a youth pastor at Brighton Christian Church in Brighton, Michigan. The couple married in 2014, and Olivia began to teach English to Muslim women in Dearborn and also volunteered at Hope House, a Detroit ministry.

“Moody is unique in that it sets kids up not to be trapped in debt,” says Olivia. “I’m a stay-at-home mom right now and I help my husband—we do ministry together—but I don’ t make any income.”

Still, when they heard about a Moody fund-raiser, they didn’t hesitate to sign up as auto-givers.

After having their first son, Jack, their second son was born on March 8, 2020, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. They named him Archer after the Moody Arch, a gothic-style archway that points to God. With breathing complications at birth, Archer was whisked away to the neonatal intensive care unit. After tests and delays, it was determined he needed aortic arch reconstruction surgery to repair a coronary artery. The doctor sketched the aortic arch, which oddly looked like a little Moody Arch, and the Ruzics realized that “God knew before he was even born that this was going to happen,” Olivia says. After a series of four surgeries, Archer needs continued prayers. Olivia has chronicled their precarious journey on Facebook, with prayers from Moody friends all over the world.

The biblical teaching they received at Moody has helped them navigate the hospitalizations and ongoing trials. “I don’t know how we would have dealt with it if we didn’t have a good theology of suffering,” Olivia says.

Jesse explains, “Professor Schmutzer taught us how to grieve biblically, how to link worship with sorrow. He taught us that God is not afraid of the outcry of our pain.”

They both hold their teachers in high regard. “They had this marvelous way of drawing out just the endless beauties of God’s Word,” Jesse says. “It was inspiring.”

That is what motivates the Ruzics to give back. “We want to do that honestly till the day we die,” Jesse says, “because we love Moody so much.”

About the Author

  • Linda Piepenbrink

Linda Piepenbrink is managing editor of Moody Alumni & Friends and senior editor for Moody’s Marketing Communications department.