One of the influential women in scripture is a woman named Naomi. Usually we hear about her daughter-in-law, Ruth, whose story is told in the book bearing her name – a story of devotion, graceful character, and beauty. However, Naomi’s story is also woven in the book of Ruth, beginning with hardships befalling her, causing her to tell her daughter in law to return to her homeland. But Ruth pledges her devotion to Naomi, two women facing hardships together, encouraging one another in devotion and love.
The Woman of Influence I am honoring this month is a woman bearing the same beautiful name – Naomi. She was born Naomi Eash, a middle child of nine children in the Amish faith. At a young age, she encountered her first experience with hardships, with her mother passing away when she was 9. Like many youth of the Amish faith, she started living the English lifestyle at age 16, choosing to remain “English” as an adult. At age 17 she fell in love with a man also raised in the Amish faith, Ervin Raber. Like most young adults, they fell in love, talked about marriage and their future together.
On Sept. 14, 1983, at age 24, while Ervin was at work, he fell from a cement grain silo, paralyzing both of his legs, making him a paraplegic for life. At the time, he was living in Kansas, and Naomi was living in Indiana. At age 21, Naomi moved from Indiana to be with him, and by January of 1984, four months after the life altering accident, Naomi and Ervin married.
As a result of the accident, Ervin was told he would not be able to have children. However, after five years God blessed Ervin and Naomi with a son, Joseph, of whom now is married and studying to be a doctor. Four years later, Naomi was pregnant with twin boys of who died five months into the pregnancy. They were named Andrew and Austin. Within a year, she was pregnant with another set of twin boys, Nicholas and Nathan, of whom will turn 16 this year.
As a result of the accident, Ervin has undergone over fifteen surgeries, has been on dialysis, resulting in a kidney transplant in 2006. In addition, infections are common because of his physical condition resulting in many unexpected trips to specialists three hours away. In addition to all of this is their “normal” life of working full-time at a factory, raising three children, operating a small farm, with Naomi working as a bus driver for the local schools, and a custodian at a community church.
Just like Naomi of scripture, this Woman of Influence shares a story of hardship, with unexpected life circumstances dictating everyday choices of , “How will I respond to today’s situation?” Anyone facing unexpected pain routinely encounters reaction and attitude choices about situations that cannot be changed….choices of how to do life in midst of adversity.
Because of the choices Naomi and Ervin daily make, they have become people of influence to everyone who know them, though they deny this accolaid. They are two of the most humble and genuine people I know. In addition, they are not only influential in how they have responded to what life has handed them, but they continually reach out to others no matter the circumstances. Both have close extended families, some of whom have also gone through painful circumstances, and Ervin and Naomi have an open home, heart, and hands for those in need around them. While living a busy life with three boys in sports and church activities, the Rabers always have time for what is important in life – God, family, and others. They are dependable, hard working, and live a life of integrity, which is exemplary given the daily inconveniences their life offers them. Many people given their life circumstances could choose to stay within themselves and react negatively. Ervin and Naomi have done the opposite, making conscious choices of how to positively face whatever is thrown at them.
As caretaker of this family, I want to honor Naomi as a Woman of Influence. She recently shared her story with the junior high youth at our church, impacting the kids. I have the privilege of calling this woman friend, mentor and “sister” in Christ, seeing her in action in the best and worst of times, as she has me. She is a trustworthy person to whom you can share your deepest troubles, good, bad, and ugly, and she does not judge or give pat answers. She naturally does what universities teach counselors-in-training to do – how to “sit” with people and genuinely care, meeting people where they are. Naomi does this naturally. It is a gift the Lord has given her and she uses it with those needing a caring heart.
As a woman of influence, Naomi teaches by example that the most influential choices in life are not the big, glamorous ones, but the daily choices of how we respond to our circumstances, and how we respond to others. With more than just a positive attitude, Naomi is influential because she lives her choices…..in word and deed. She has been one of the most influential people in my life, and I am honored to share her story, hoping her character and choices will encourage others needing hope in the midst of adversity.