Mennonites, Rebirth, and Hymns in the Tetons
“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 . . .
- 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 The woman explained she was raised by Mennonite parents, but their family was no longer active in that community.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.
- 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.
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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- Just War Theory and Evangelism Part 1: Jus ad Bellum
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.