victoria-falls

Growing up

“Then Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If any one would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me'” (Matthew 16:24, ESV).

When I was a little boy, my mom cooked meals on a wood stove, and an outhouse was commonplace for friends and neighbors. So am I an old timer recalling faded memories of days long gone?

No.

But the hiss of a pressure lamp did fill my evenings. Are these the musings of an octogenarian?

Not exactly.

I remember the pop pop of a fly wheel John Deer, however. I remember the sound and smell of a gas pump, hand cranked, filling to glass dial, then pouring into the tank of our vehicle.

Am I a long-standing member of the AARP? Well, no, I’m not. I’m elderly to some teens, I imagine, but not nearly old enough to remember the scenes I just described. So how is it possible that I grew up with them?

Well, I am a missionary kid. I grew up in a country several decades behind the United States. Tough life? Bitter memories of deprivations? Traumatic years of readjustment to the United States?

Not on your life! My experiences include standing on the verge of the Victoria Falls and seeing one of the great wonders of creation. I grew up hearing the African people sing hymns with matchless harmony. I grew up learning that the best – the absolute-without-comparison-mission method was to take to another culture – the word of God in all of its purity. When I listened to locals complain of having their religion filtered through a Roman, British or American point of view, I wondered at the beauty, the simplicity, of presenting Zimbabweans with a “thus sayeth the Lord” for every action, every doctrine.

I watched as the church of the New Testament unfolded in a far country. I observed the grace of an incomparable God transform communities. I saw men turn from the terror of serving demons and witch doctors to serve the “Living and true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9). I watched as they gladly surrendered family and position and served God completely.

My only culture shock upon returning to the States was to see so many brethren, encumbered with materialism and worldly sophistication abandon their responsibility to serve God with all of their hearts. I had never known great blocks of Christians to not sing in worship. I had never seen children of God dismiss Bible Study for other, much lesser pursuits. And I wonder, still, was it I who was so wrong?

My upbringing as a missionary kid was a privilege. I have just one question for you: if you were told that the way to save your child’s soul was to leave for another country, worship in an infant church, and draw water from a nearby well, would you save your child’s soul?

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Stan Mitchell

Stan has preached since 1976, in Zimbabwe, California, Texas and Tennessee. He serves as preacher for the Red Walnut Church of Christ in Bath Springs, TN. He is currently Professor of Bible at Freed-Hardeman University. He is married to the former Marjorie McCarthy, and has one daughter, Tracy Watts. He is the author of four books: The Wise Get Wiser, the Foolish More Foolish: The Book of Proverbs, Give the Winds a Mighty Voice: Our Worship in Song, and Equipping the Saints for Ministry. He has recently published another book, "Will Our Faith Have Children: Developing Leadership in the Church for the Next Generation.

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