Heroes of the Faith-Ryan Woods


I have never met Ryan Woods, but he is one of my heroes. Ryan is the brother-in-law of Ben Ries, one of my closest friends. Ben told me a few years ago that Ryan and I would get along well if we ever met. Thus, I would periodically check his blog and get updates from Ben on what he is up to. Let me say this: he is definitely someone we can follow as he follows Christ.

Ryan, along with his wife and two kids, are starting a missional community in downtown Vancouver, WA. They call this movement Grassroots Conspiracy. They are being intentional about inviting their neighbors, people of every variety, into living out the radical and alternative way of Jesus. When I read about their ministry, I am reminded of Shane Claiborne’s idea in The Irresistible Revolution of “getting smaller and smaller until we take over the world.” Ryan and his family are not trying to be flashy or coercive in how they do ministry. They are not trying to attract people to church by being the biggest or coolest. They are simply trying to do the hardest work of all—loving the person next to them. He describes their work as one “that is marked by individuals who are experimenting in dying to self and living for others.” I like that.

I am so impressed with how they approach ministry. It is such an encouragement to me to know that people like Ryan are living missionally (in the truest sense of that word) and doing church planting in that vein. I would love to partner with a ministry like this.

While Ryan’s ministry is a huge inspiration to me, it is not the whole story about why is my hero. Last year Ryan was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer (though the tumor is technically around his spine). I still remember when I heard this news and the deep sympathy I felt for him, his family, Ben and Jen and others close to him. To the say the least, this past year has been quite a journey. I have watched from afar, and my respect and appreciation for Ryan has grown immensely. I cannot begin to describe to you the honesty, humility, vulnerability, courage and beauty with which he endures this struggle. While my heart breaks for him, I can also say that I have experienced the divine through his words of grace on his blog. I am blown away by the way he is walking through this with his wife and kids. (I strongly recommend reading this post.) I am encouraged by his steadfastness to calling people to the way of Jesus and how he continues to serve those in his neighborhood. And I am blessed to witness, in some small way, how he is walking with God with all the rawness and hopefulness that is necessary for a time like this. Without a doubt, I will follow Ryan as he follows Christ.

*As I was writing this over the past few days, Ryan received some very disappointing news. You can read about the latest update here. Please be praying for Ryan and his family.


One comment

  1. Derran – thanks for posting this. I’ve been reading Ryan’s blog through tears … receiving new perspective on my own life, grieving for this man and his family whom I don’t know. After reading for quite some time, I realized that he is Kevin Woods’ son. We knew Kevin in the past and I remember him talking about Ryan and his family. Anyway, thank you for passing this along. I am praying.

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