Jason B. Ladd

Ask the Questions. Embrace the Answers. Make the Leap.

Mennonites, Rebirth, and Hymns in the Tetons

hymn

“Shh! . . . Do you hear that?” I froze under the moonlight and listened carefully.

Someone was singing.  Was it the radio?  No, it was too clear. A full embodied harmony drifted through the Wyoming air and glided into our campsite at the base of the Grand Tetons.

“Is that the radio?” I asked myself. “Shh!  Shh!”  I hissed and shoo’d my hands around, trying to calm the rambunctiousness of five children in the wilderness.

It was a hymn, but I could’t make out the words.  It was coming from the neighboring campsite, from inside a pitch black RV.  A deep bass voice led the a capella chorus in the darkness, leading the small choir from verse to verse.

It was hard to tell how many voices sang.  Seasoned altos and tenors rode upon the bass with innocent sopranos dancing on top. This was a regular ritual, evidenced by the grace and effortless movement from verse to verse.

The lyrics faded in and out:

 . . .Son not sparing . . .die . . .take it in . . .

I swayed slowly past the dark RV keeping step with the meter, inhaling each melody like badly needed oxygen.  

. . . my soul . . . Savior god . . . thee . . .

We could scarcely make out our camping neighbors in the daylight.  Thick trees provided a moderate amount of privacy.  But we did notice a few things:hymn

  • A large family
  • Modest clothing
  • A thickly bearded man
  • Women adorned with prayer coverings

And so, our imaginations began to run.  Were they Mormon?  Were they Mennonite?  What was their life like?  Were they happy?  Were they exhausted?  Were any of the girls trying to escape a polygamous nightmare?

I assumed one thing with certainty: they were a little bit different from us.

The next morning before they departed, a woman came over and introduced herself.  Before long, her husband and children were gathered around, meeting our five children.

They were extremely nice, and I felt comfortable asking what community they were from. The woman explained she was raised by Mennonite parents, but their family was no longer active in that community.

She mentioned the faith being somewhat overly “religious,” and didn’t elaborate further.  While they had left that faith, they still continued many of the customs and traditions, including a simple lifestyle and modest clothing.  I told them how much we enjoyed their prayerful singing the previous night.

“We’re born-again Christians,” she continued.

The conversation continued, but on the inside I was laughing at myself.  The meeting was another opportunity to show how foolish it is to make assumptions about people. 

The one thing I was certain about turned out to be dead wrong.

hymnI didn’t know my camping neighbors at all. Here is a list of how NOT to know someone:

  • You can’t know someone by assuming things about them.
  • You can’t know someone by what you’ve heard about them.
  • You can’t know someone by the picture society paints of them.
  • You can’t know someone by knowing only of someone.

You have to listen to them.  You have to stand with them and be in their presence.

You can’t know someone unless you’ve listened to what they have to say.  

(Click here to Tweet that!)

What are you absolutely certain about?  Could it be . . . that you are dead wrong? Jesus is speaking to us through His holy Word.  He waits for us to stand with him.

How great Thou art . . . How great Thou art.

Are you listening?

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Photo credit: John Sullivan

Photo credit: Michael Gäbler / CC-BY-3.0

About Jason B. Ladd

Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.

13 Replies

  1. Sue Nash

    I’ve been wrong about people on so many occasions. Thanks for the reminder, Jason.

  2. Rita Maciulis Sipaila

    One can even be wrong about their own parent. As children, we just don’t know all the trials, tribulations, thoughts and dreams our own parents have gone through or have disappointments in–many parents don’t want their children knowing.

    1. Rita, how right you are. Children can only understand their parents in light of what the parent chooses to reveal, and the parent must carefully discern what to share and what to keep private. A difficult task and a tough act to balance.

  3. Jillian

    I come from a Mennonite family, and I could hear the music as I read your words. Great post!

    1. Jillian, your comment means a lot. Thank you!

  4. Marcus McCord

    Thanks for the “like” and the “follow” on ~Just Thinking~ … I like this post very much… Glad to know there are others blogging and trying to change entrenched traditional religious mindsets… Keep on Keepin on, much work needed in our Christian communities… God Bless!
    MMcC

    1. Likewise! Thank you for the comment.

  5. Susan Irene Fox

    Oh, bless you for this post, Jason. It went straight to my heart. Exactly what I just blogged about this morning. Thank you for your heart for God.

  6. I love how you described the music. Lovely post.

  7. Kathe Skinner

    As a therapist working with couples I teach them to listen to their partners — not what they think is being said, not what they expect is being said, not even listening because they already know what’s being said — to reflect back what’s being heard to be sure it’s right. Really listening is the hardest job in the world. Thanks for reminding us in such a charming way.

    1. Kathe, That’s really great advice. It is very difficult to hear what the other person is saying when you’re busy formulating your own responses in your head. It takes discipline to stop thinking and listen, but it’s well worth it. Thanks for reading, and for adding to the discussion!