While Sgt. Ron York was serving in the Marines, he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior by way of a Testament from The Gideons. God has opened doors for Ron to share his story all over the world. With the same passion he had while traveling to other countries, Ron continues impacting people for Christ who live right next door.
A Mining Town in north Idaho
Ron York’s journey began in the mining community of Kellogg, Idaho. His father worked at the local zinc plant that filled the city with massive smokestacks. Work at the mine was tough but steady, and it provided families with stability even during the Great Depression. During high school, Ron began working with his father making nine dollars a day. He purchased his first car with the money he earned.
In his senior year, Ron’s parents decided to divorce—it was news that filled their small town like the fumes from the mine. The event rocked Ron, as all he knew was now uncertain. He recalls, “The bottom dropped out of my secure, little life.”
Ron felt an overwhelming desire to get out of his small town. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the Marine Corps with two of his friends. It was 1950, the same year as the start of the Korean War. It wasn’t long until Ron and his friends found themselves serving on the ground in Korea. Sadly, he lost both of those friends in the war.
“The bottom dropped out of my secure, little life.”
A car wreck leads to salvation
Meanwhile, back home in Kellogg, Ron’s father began to drink heavily and was in a terrible car accident that left him hospitalized. The situation started to turn, however, when someone talked to him about a personal relationship with Jesus. The Holy Spirit began to work through this encounter, and Ron’s father came to realize he needed Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior. At age 48, he surrendered his life to Jesus Christ. Ron’s father then had the privilege of leading his daughter to Christ.
Thankfully, God had more planned for the York family, especially Ron. His father and sister began ministering to Ron and looking for ways to influence him with the Gospel while he was serving abroad. They would write letters to Ron that included Scripture passages. He read the notes and looked up the passages using a Military Testament he received from his chaplain, which was provided by The Gideons. After reading God’s Word, Ron came under the conviction of the Holy Spirit. In August 1951, he accepted Christ as his personal Lord and Savior and signed the back page of the Testament signifying his decision.
Spiritual maturity in Ron’s Life
In December of that same year, Ron came back to the United States after receiving the Silver Star and Purple Heart for his service in the Korean War. The Marines then sent him to Parris Island in South Carolina for recruiter training. This led to Ron’s first recruitment assignment across the country in Seattle, Washington.
When he arrived in Seattle, he found room and board at the local YMCA. Soon after, he began attending a Saturday evening Bible study, which was regularly attended by ten other men. Two of these men worked at the Army Corps of Engineers; and after getting to know Ron, they invited him to come to live with them. God used this friendship to change the direction of Ron’s life, and he began to grow spiritually by experiencing the way these men walked with the Lord.
Day after day, Ron saw his new friends spend dedicated time in the Word. He saw them memorize Scripture. He saw them pray together. He saw them grow in their faith. Ron realized that when it came to his relationship with the Lord, he didn’t want to go through the motions—he wanted something more.
Ministry in the United States and East Asia
After getting out of the Marines in 1954, Ron was invited to Colorado Springs, Colorado, to begin work with a ministry called The Navigators. In 1957, Ron moved to Spokane, Washington, to partner with local churches in ministry to servicemen. His ultimate aim was to be a great witness for Christ. While serving in this ministry, Ron met a young woman from one of the local churches whose name was Betty. They began dating, married in 1958, and had three children together.
Ron and Betty had the joy of ministering all over East Asia, winning people to Christ and equipping them to reach their family and friends with the Gospel. After years of serving together, Betty became ill with cancer and passed away.
A friend encouraged Ron to pursue marriage again. In God’s timing, he married Joyce in 1968. The couple celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on October 6, 2018.
SHARING JESUS WITH OTHERS
In 2018, Ron and Joyce attended a service at North Vancouver Community Church where they met Daniel, a Gideon from Vancouver, who spoke to the congregation about what God was doing through The Gideons International. Afterward, the pastor of the church shared a copy of Ron’s story with Daniel, and he was intrigued by what God had done in his life. This introduction sparked a friendship between Ron and Joyce and Daniel and his wife. In December of that same year, the York’s joined The Gideons International.
“And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” —Matthew 4:19 ESV
Ron and Joyce now live in an assisted living community in Vancouver, Washington. He carries the same Testament he received in the Korean War in his pocket and uses it at meal times when talking with those who sit next to him. People often ask the question, “What did you do before coming here?” Ron replies, “Have you ever heard of The Gideons?” Ron then turns to the back page of the Testament and uses it to share his story of how Jesus changed his life.
Ron lives by Matthew 4:19, which reads, “And he said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” He knows from personal experience that God can change a life through His Word. In return, that life can impact many others around world or right at home.