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A Legacy of Faithfulness, David and Flora Rittenhouse

By Malise Terrell
Africa, Asia, Global, Australia, Singapore, South Africa, Guam, N America
David and Flora Rittenhouse, their four children, spouses and grandchildren.
Since 1981, David and Flora Rittenhouse's journey with TWR has seen them build a legacy of faithfulness they now share with their four children and nine grandchildren. [ Image courtesy of Flora Rittenhouse ] 

In her book about TWR’s ministry in West Africa, Reaching Beyond Barriers, missionary Flora Rittenhouse wrote this tribute to David Rittenhouse:

“Faithful. That is the best word to describe my husband and cheerleader throughout this project. David, I acknowledge to all of my readers that you have prayed alongside me daily.”

Those words help set the theme today as we sit down to hear the Rittenhouses' story from Flora, who had to say farewell to David late last year after his short battle with cancer. These words also call to mind another passage from Flora’s book:

“See what God sees. Hear what God hears through the lives of people who helped write the story.”

Led by the Lord, Flora and David wrote this story, one that is a legacy of faithfulness and dedication to missions. The legacy continues into the next generation. As I turn on the digital recorder, Flora notes that today is her son’s 45th birthday. He’s doing mission work in Rwanda. His sisters also have a passion to follow Jesus in their lives.

The Early Years

David was from a Christian home in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He loved the missions conference held every year at his church. From a young age he knew that he was going to be a missionary. He sincerely felt God’s calling as far back as preschool. Today, that same church David attended as a preschooler has supported the couple for over 41 years, alongside other ministry partner churches.

Flora was born into a British Christian family that relocated from Glasgow, Scotland, to the Chicago area when she was small. She fondly recalls her father's storytelling, a skill that she, too, developed and one that has blessed TWR.

David and Flora Rittenhouse play piano together during their early years.In their early 20s, David and Flora met at the Grand Rapids School of the Bible and Music. They were both in music groups. David played the piano to accompany the Ambassador music group and Flora sang in the Good News trio.

Flora remembers thinking, “He is really good. I love his playing.” Unbeknownst to Flora, David enjoyed watching through the window of a tiny music room as she practiced piano. “Through music, God brought us together,” Flora shared.

They were alike in their interest in music and missions. When she was a little girl, the Lord used her love of missions, her desire to be married and her interest in fashion to confirm her calling. Years later, it was through TWR that she was called to the mission field. God used missionaries on Bonaire, she said, to show her that being a missionary was “cool.”

As David and Flora began dating, she knew God was working in her heart. Flora said, “David knew ‘everybody needs Christ,’ so he was not called to a specific people group. That brought in TWR.”

Since David’s missions calling was so secure, he made it clear to Flora before they were married that he would be serving on the mission field. They were married June 1, 1974. Out of their union has come four children and nine grandchildren.

His Witnesses to the Ends of the Earth

The Rittenhouses and three of their children on Guam in 1981.The Rittenhouses joined TWR in 1979 and began serving on Guam in 1981. For more than 30 years, they traveled the globe, serving in Singapore, Australia and Africa. David was a steady light guiding Flora during challenging times on the mission field, she said.

That steadiness revealed itself earlier in the marriage when he began to lose his hearing. Flora took it harder than he did; he simply saw it as part of God’s direction in his life. But a North Carolina auditory specialist was able to adjust David’s hearing aids so he could hear to play music again. That moment, when he realized he could hear the beautiful sounds he was playing, brought tears to the eyes of both the auditory specialist and Flora. Tears flowed again as she shared this story in the interview.

Steadfast faith is what kept them seeking God’s plan during a difficult season of unknowns. When God called them to Africa, their ministry flourished in several countries across the continent. During their years in Johannesburg, South Africa, Flora had the opportunity to explore her love of writing when she was asked to write about the struggles and challenges of West Africa. One year, the Lord led Flora to wrap up a cooked chicken and vegetables for David to hand-deliver to co-workers in another African country at Christmastime. The local staff were struggling, and they were overwhelmed with joy and gratitude for this simple meal. Flora was humbled that God used her in this way.

In 2013, they returned to the United States to serve from TWR’s North Carolina office. It was to be their last assignment as a couple. David had planned to retire in December 2021. However, in August 2021, he was diagnosed with a rare stage 4 lung cancer. After lung surgery and chemotherapy, the Lord brought him home on Dec. 17, just four months after his diagnosis.

Though his illness was abrupt and quick, by the end, Flora could say, “Thank you, God.” David was home and healed. “It took me a while to be able to say those words. It was so difficult to get past the pain.”

God’s Tender Mercy

Flora’s peace, joy and gratitude to the Lord shine through even ten months after David’s homegoing. She smiled as we spoke, sharing how gracious God was this past year. He granted her prayer, enabling her to record David playing his beloved piano even as the illness progressed. It was a treasure to use his own music at his memorial service.

"This pain is deeper than anything I have ever experienced," Flora said. Often using other people, God has been teaching her through the painful process, often using other people. She quotes holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom: “There is no place so deep that God won’t go deeper with his love.”

Through the grieving, Flora has held to the faithfulness that carried the couple through a career in missions. “There were intense tears, asking, ‘Why, God?’” she admitted. “Yet the journey for me is still [one that I am] learning.”

David Rittenhouse plays the piano at their home in 2013. She was deeply comforted by the outpouring of love expressed by co-workers during the Celebration of Life event for David. Zanele Nxumalo, a senior accountant with TWR Africa, whom David trained for her role, shared by video,

“I thank God for the opportunity of making my path cross with David. He was patient in everything he did. He empowered me to carry out my day-to-day activities with excellence. TWR and mostly I have lost a father, mentor and soldier in Christ. He worked tirelessly until the last day. David will forever be in our hearts.”

David McCreary, director of marketing and communications for TWR Americas, underscored David Rittenhouse’s faith: “David had a deep abiding faith,” McCreary said. “He was a meek and humble servant – stalwart of the faith.”

Bob Thorpe, a co-laborer in the Finance department, highlighted another of David’s characteristics. “David was big on relationships,” he said. “He always had time for people. He is missed for the work that he did but also for who he was. He has surely heard the words, ‘Well done, thou good and faithful servant.’”

Flora has continued to serve in the TWR Marketing and Communications department as a volunteer prayer coordinator. Just six months after David’s homegoing, the Lord blessed her with a heartwarming surprise while she prepared the TWR Americas prayer calendar. When she searched to see which staff member was to be featured for the next day of the calendar, her own name popped up in the rotation. The date was June 1 – the Rittenhouses’ wedding anniversary.

“God – he did that on our wedding anniversary,” Flora marveled.

Flora gives God the glory for the Rittenhouses’ marriage, their ministry and their family. She sees God even in this time of immense loss, she said.

“God’s unique shaping process is a lifetime work of art in a person.”

Images: (top banner) David and Flora Rittenhouse, their four children and spouses, along with their nine grandchildren, (top, left) David and Flora Rittenhouse play the piano together during their early years, (middle, right) The Rittenhouses and three of their four children on Guam in 1981, their first year serving on the island with TWR, (bottom, left) David Rittenhouse plays the piano in Africa. [ Images courtesy of Flora Rittenhouse ]   

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