"We knew that Mama was dying. We knew that Mama was going to heaven. There was no doubt about that. But it was so hard to turn loose and let her go. When we are in trouble and don’t know how we ought to pray, the Spirit of the Lord prays for us. The Great Comforter, the sweet Holy Spirit, walked into that little hospital room in North Carolina and paid us a wonderful visit. I began to sing to my sweet Mama an old hymn that she taught me when I was five years old and that we sang together for many years. "Under His wings, under His wings, Who from His love can sever? Under His wings my soul shall abide, Safely abide forever." I sang two verses to my sweet Mama. Angels we had just sung about picked her up and carried her to heaven, where she is today."
Brenda Ruppe was blessed to be able to sing with her daughters as part of The Ruppes, but, at one time, Brenda was the daughter, singing with her own mother, beginning at the age of two. "She and I sang together for many, many years," Brenda told this writer, in an interview with The Christian View. "My mother was a talented lady. She paved the way for us. My mother was the greatest influence in my life."
"Under His Wings" was the signature song for The Ruppes, because of the significance of the story behind it, as Brenda sang the old hymn to her mother as she lay dying in 1988. "The Lord gave me the honor of singing that song as she was flying home to glory," said Brenda. The song "Angels in the Room", which the Ruppes recorded in 1998 and which was written by Brenda’s son-in-law, singer/songwriter Greg Day, is also a special favorite, because it was written about Brenda’s mother.
"I had a godly mother," said Brenda. "She lived for Him. She was faithful to Him. She led me to Christ at a very young age. I’m thankful for a godly mama who went to church and who taught me the wonderful things of the Lord. She always taught me that I was born to serve the Lord. She taught me that I could have a wonderful life, no matter if I was rich or poor, if I was sick or well, no matter what the trouble I have, if I would learn to trust Jesus with my whole heart, and to learn to pray without ceasing."
The daughter of Broadus and Lila Wilson was born and raised in Landrum, South Carolina. A few short years after moving to Atlanta in 1982, Brenda and her husband Leo and daughters returned to their native state.
The Ruppes began as a group in 1974 with Brenda, nine-year-old Kim, and eight-year-old Heather. They recorded their first album, The Way, the Truth, and the Life, the following year.
"The Lord started opening doors," said Brenda. "We started traveling in a little Volkswagen bus. At first, Georgia would be the farthest part of the South we would go. Then, we ventured on to Florida. Valerie grew up being familiar with the songs, because she had heard them for many years, and she started singing when she was 12 years old."
When the Ruppes were starting out, the Rambos were their favorite singers. "When the kids were growing up, in the 1970’s, we really loved the Rambos," said Brenda. "Every new album they came out with, we had to get quickly." ‘And we learned all of their songs and would sing just like them,’ added Heather. "Dottie Rambo was one of my favorite people," said Brenda.
Recalling the early days of the group, Brenda said that touring was hard on her daughters, especially when they were teenagers, because they were unable to participate in sports or other extracurricular activities. "It was hard on them, physically," she added, "traveling on weekends and being ready for school on Monday mornings."
"We didn’t miss much," said Heather. "We thought we did when we were that age, but, looking back now, we know we didn’t miss much."
"It kept us out of trouble," added Valerie.
"They made lots of sacrifices in the early years for the Lord," said Brenda. "But they don’t regret a mile. They don’t regret anything that they did for the Lord Jesus, using their talents for Him."
Several albums, hit songs, and award nominations later, Brenda noted that the most important aspect of her family's careers has been in pleasing God. That perspective is evident in the song "Born to Serve the Lord."
Over the years, the Ruppes were a combination of Brenda and two of her three daughters. Valerie joined The Ruppes in 1986 after Kim married and left the group. Four years later, Kim returned as Heather and her husband traveled together as The Days for a period of 10 years. In 2000, Heather returned to The Ruppes as Kim and her husband formed the group LordSong. Today, all three daughters sing together as the group Sisters.
After the passing of her husband, Leo Ruppe, Brenda married widower Steve Hurte, a pastor and songwriter.
"I thank God for the talent that the Lord gave my children," said Brenda. "It has been a wonderful blessing. It’s so amazing how the Lord Jesus can take a wonderful song and minister to a heart, whether that heart is hurting or troubled or a happy heart. A Gospel song can do something that no other song can. It’s the Word of God in a song. I’m still amazed how God uses Gospel music to touch hearts and lives.
"At five years of age, I was born again. God saved me. I never doubted my salvation. I still remember it as if it were yesterday. As a little five-year-old girl at an old-fashioned tent meeting, I got saved. I was singing a little bit in church, even before I got saved, but since I got saved, Gospel music has always burned in my heart and my life. That is what He called us to do. God calls preachers and teachers. He called us. We like to be called instruments of praise for Jesus. I thank the Lord for saving my children, for their being Christian and choosing Christian music. They could be in any kind of music that they choose, because they are so talented and have awesome voices. I’m so thankful that they have chosen Gospel music.
"I was brought up in a Christian home with wonderful Christian parents. I was brought up in Calvary Baptist Church in Landrum, and I was the pianist there for many years. It’s a small church, but I have precious memories. Every time the church doors were open, my mama and I were there.
"The most valuable thing that I’ve learned in my lifetime, which mother started teaching me as a child, is that God honors faithfulness. That still amazes me. A lot of things we might not be able to accomplish, but everyone can be faithful to the Lord. It is absolutely marvelous how God honors us when we are faithful.
"My mother always taught me to be faithful to the house of God, to be faithful to the Lord and to use my talents that God gave me. And I taught my children to always be faithful to the Lord and to use their talents for His honor and glory.
"My grandchildren are wonderful and talented, also," she added. Daughter Kim has a daughter, Kailey. Heather has a son, Zac. Valerie has two daughters, Madison and Chloe. "It’s really great, having your family close," said Brenda.
She advises any Gospel singer starting out today to get experience singing in their home church. "Select special songs that have wonderful meaning and will be a blessing to people," she added. "Put prayer into what you sing, and ask God to use your songs to make a difference in somebody’s life. It’s always important to make sure the songs line up with the Word of God.
"You have to have goals in life," she continued. "We’re devoted to what we do. You have to be, in order to succeed, in order to stick with it, because of the pressures of it, the sacrifices of it. There are a lot of sacrifices to singing. The biggest thing is the enemy. The devil doesn’t like Gospel music, especially when you’re singing about the blood of Jesus. He hates that, and he’ll come against singers like he does preachers. When you sing for the Lord Jesus, there is nothing like it. There is a special joy that comes with that.
"My very favorite verse of Scripture is I Corinthians 15:58. God gave me that scripture many, many years ago, when I had a discouraging time in my life. I had thrown in the towel. I had quit. I had lost my joy. But God gave me that verse: Be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord. What’s so awesome about the Word of God is that you can always depend on it. It’s always true, and you can be steadfast in the Word. When you can’t depend on people and things, you can be secure in the Word of God. I have lots of special verses, but that’s my life’s verse. I quote it daily. The Word of God says to encourage one another in the Lord, but it also says that, if you don’t have anyone around you who will encourage you, encourage yourself in the Lord. You encourage yourself by quoting Scripture and reading the Bible. I love having my devotional time every day. It’s so special. I get so much strength from the Lord from having my quiet time with Him.
"One of the most beautiful songs that has ever been written is called "The Love of God." We can’t comprehend the love of God. We don’t even know the depth of God’s love. He loved us even before the foundation of the world. That’s one of my favorite songs, "The Love of God." "
Remembering the love of her own mother, Brenda noted that anyone who has their mother or grandmother still with them is so blessed.
"If Mama could stand out on the balcony of heaven today, she would remind those who have never been saved that they need to call on the Lord," she said. "And whosoever will call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
"And she would remind Christians to keep living for Jesus.
"And she would remind us that Jesus is risen forever.
"The safest place on earth is under the wings of the Lord Jesus Christ."