Elizabeth Ridenour has been a fan of the WOW ministry from its very beginnings. Elizabeth’s incredible story of family, faith, losing her husband to a tragic accident, and finding the strength to carry on is a huge inspiration. We asked Elizabeth to answer a few questions and we are sharing her words here.
How and when did you first get acquainted with the Walking on Water ministry?
I saw my first Walking on Water movie, Changes, in 1999 at Virginia Beach during a premiere that I think was hosted by Christian Surfers VA Beach. The combination of the mesmerizing surfing footage and the solid testimonies created such an excitement for me! My husband, Amos, and I met in the lineup (surfing, not jail!) in 1999. We watched WOW movies constantly, eagerly awaiting new releases. We loved everything about them – the stories, the epic surf trips, the music, and the humor. Most of all, however, we appreciated how it confirmed our faith. It was encouraging to see pro surfers at the top of their game sharing Jesus regardless of what the world might think. In 2002, Amos and I got married and moved to Montana for the fly fishing and mountains. Despite being hundreds of miles from the nearest ocean, we watched WOW movies more than ever! It was a great way to stay stoked on surfing and dream of being warm again during those long, snowy winters. When we had our son, Ethan, in 2007 and our daughter, Grace, in 2012, they knew Friday movie nights meant watching WOW. From the earliest ages, both kids could sing the words to Braddigan Watchfires and the WOW soundtrack. I can describe it no better than to say that WOW simply permeated our lives, still does. I doubt a sin vgle week goes by without us watching one of the movies, listening to the music, repeating one of Matt Beacham’s funny lines to each other and laughing (Ethan’s favorite!), and definitely praying for the ministry, team, and impact.
Can you share a bit about your husband’s life, work and passing?
My husband, Amos, was a Deputy Sheriff and SWAT Team Leader. He tragically passed away September 2, 2013 in a rock climbing accident. We were married 11 years. Ethan was 6 years old and Grace was 16 months old at the time. My loss is unspeakable. I literally could not have dreamed of a better husband – his license plate was LVMYWFE, so that pretty much says it. I am not exaggerating when I say that we were blissfully happy, never wanting to be apart even for a minute. I have also never seen a more loving, attentive father on this earth. His children truly were his delight and they were constantly together. Most importantly, though, his legacy to us is his faith. He loved Jesus with all his heart. We were high school youth leaders together and he started a youth worship band. He had a passion writing worship music and leading people to the Throne in worship. He also had a heart for evangelism. We raised our children in an atmosphere where God was truly in and through all things.
His death had a huge impact on our community of Bozeman, MT. Hundreds came to his service and the streets were lined with Sheriff’s Office, Police, and Fire Department vehicles and members as the children and I drove to Amos’ service. He was such a charismatic man and was extremely bold with sharing his faith. One police officer who is a close friend of our family, Roland Moore, told me that only Amos’ death could have had such an impact because he was so fierce and dedicated as a SWAT Team Leader, yet he had such passionate faith. He was incredibly respected due to his excellence in service and that caused many to then pay attention to his faith. Searching for purpose: God very clearly wanted me to speak at Amos’ service. I shared about who Amos was and gave the Gospel message in no uncertain terms, as I knew he would have wanted. After sharing about Jesus, I included this: “Amos loved to rescue people. If he knew that through his death, even one life might be changed for eternity, then I know he would not change it. And so, we will walk this path.” I later found out that at least two people were saved as a result of his service!!!!! I pray there are others as well. PURPOSE
Though I had walked with God very closely since I was a child, I found myself asking, “Who are You?” and “Why?” It is, honestly, still a shock. I went into survival mode and my chief concern, which remains to this day, was Ethan and Grace. But in a rare moment when I was able to be alone in the month after Amos died, I hiked to the top of a mountain and sat down, looking out over the lanscape. God whispered to my heart, “This does not change Who I Am; it magnifies it.” He is Father, He is in control, He is faithful, He is Love and as much as it doesn’t seem like it, He cannot act outside of His character. We have to trust that He is in control, He has purpose in Amos’ life and purpose in Amos’ death. He loves Amos, Ethan, Grace, and me, and cannot act apart from that love, even though it certainly doesn’t seem that way. We simply have to trust. This has given my children and me an eternal perspective that will carry us through until we are a whole family again and see Jesus face to face! I have found the key to life: It’s not about this life! This world and its suffering is so temporary and God begs us throughout His Word to keep that in mind and to run the race before us to receive the prize of heaven. That is why He died – to bring us unto Himself for all eternity, not to give us the American dream here in our short existence on earth. We are clinging to Him daily, sometimes for every breath.
Suffering: God has a purpose in suffering. Look at Jesus’ life: we know the purpose of Christ’s suferrings and death – to take away our sin and give us eternal life with Him. Outside of knowing that purpose, God would seem awfully cruel to subject His own Son to such pain. So though we don’t now understand the purpose for the pain our family is suferring, we trust that our good and perfect God has purpose for it.
Not long after your husband’s death, you and your kids were a part of the WOW Surf camps! Please tell us about that!
Because we had been through so much, the summer after Amos passed away, I wanted the children to be able to have sheer fun. I always knew of the WOW surf camps and looked up the age range and sure enough, Ethan just squeaked by! He was so adventurous and athletic, plus he had it in his veins from Amos and I, so I had no doubt he would have a blast. Even at her young age, Grace was always up for anything, so I knew she would enjoy a trip as well. Some of our closest friends, the Galyen family, heard about our plans and wanted to get in on the fun. So we rented a house together in Del Mar and had an incredible trip. What amazed me was that this ministry I had followed for so long was exactly what I thought it was. When you finally get to see something up close that you’ve admired, you’re often disappointed. The opposite was true with WOW! These people were even better than I thought, truly walking the walk and living out the message they share. I was impressed that they held nothing back during devotional times on the beach – not just lightly glossing over God, but emphasizing our very real and desperate need for a Savior. We got to meet Damian Hobgood when he spoke one day. We had seen him in the movies dozens of times, so to actually shake his hand and see my kids recognize him as a Christian to look up to was priceless. Bryan even asked me to share our story with the campers. What a priviliege. It is my constant hope that God will use our pain to glorify Himself and draw others to Him, so I truly appreciated the opportunity to find purpose in my own life by encouraging the kids to build their house upon the Rock to survive any storm. The camp leaders were incredibly dedicated to the kids in the water. It was thrilling to see my precious son riding waves, triumphing a having fun despite his broken heart. My daughter also had such a good time playing on the beach during the camp. One of the greatest parts of the surf camp was seeing my son baptized in the ocean by Bryan. What a memorable experience for my family. Despite my years of faith, I had never been baptized, so I was so blessed to be baptized by Bryan that day, too! Meeting Bryan, honestly, was one of the highlights of my life. To follow a ministry for so long and to be blessed by Bryan’s efforts as a servant of Christ, and then to finally meet him and find a shining example of Jesus was life-giving. God is truly in this ministry and working powerfully to accomplish His will through the servant leaders of WOW!
Where are you living now?
About a year ago, we moved to Florida to be closer to family, so the surfing life and tradition in my little family has been reborn! Important, I think, given how it all started…
Do you have any Bible verses that represents your journey?
- Job 13:15 “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”
- Isaiah 43:2 “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”
Thank you, Elizabeth, for sharing your story! We are so thankful to be a part of your story of faith, and look forward to growing with your beautiful family in the years to come!