By Andy Berendt
Their arrival was unannounced, and quite unexpected, but there they were, standing on our front porch. The personable and outgoing young man introduced himself as Mitch Davis. His partner, who was much more reserved, was Chad Kloppe. They identified themselves as representatives of a well-known company, who were selling books for the summer, working toward their college expenses. Actually, when we look back on this event from our present perspective, the verse in Hebrews 13:2 comes to mind. You know the one; it says, “Forget not to show love unto strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” In reality though, Kathy, my wife, had been diligently praying for additional prospects in the gospel. She asked our Father, that if we weren’t able to locate them, that he might possibly send them to us? Kathy has a past history of receiving astounding and timely answers to her prayers, such as the time in 1977, when she spent weeks and months “night and day with tears, ” imploring the Lord to show us the truth, but that is another story!
Mitch is a native Hawaiian, who is studying special education at Kearny State University in Kearney, Nebraska, so he’s seen quite a bit of our vast country in his young lifetime. He and his companion were sent all the way to northern Ohio for the summer, and the first order of business was to locate a place for the two of them to live for ten weeks! I perceive that the company has determined that once the students, who are assigned to an area in which they don’t know a soul, are ambitious enough to locate living quarters, selling books will be sort of anticlimactic. Anyways, the late spring time sun was sinking fast, and the two young men were destined to spend this particular Saturday night in their car, if some generous and trusting soul failed to assist them. That’s where Kathy comes in . . . you see, I was gone for the day, engaged in some kind of “preacher” activities.
When I returned home later, Kathy informed me that two college students were trying to secure permission to stay with us for the summer. I immediately supposed that they were brethren, who had been sent here and urged to look up the church members for assistance. As we were discussing this strange visit, the young men returned. They hadn’t had any luck at all, so we invited them in for a discussion. We were informed that they weren’t brethren in Christ, but they had references for us to contact from their company. We told the hopeful salesmen that we’d be happy to allow them to spend the night with us, and that we’d have to consult the local elders on the following morning about the feasibility of their staying with us for the duration, since the house we live in belongs to the church.
As we were having a family Bible study, and I was preparing for my sermons, Mitch immediately became very interested in these activities of spiritual significance. Of course, we were more than glad to share our time around God’s word with our new friend. He seemed all ears, but this is only the tiny tip of the proverbial iceberg, as you shall see.
The work schedule for the summer was unbelievably grueling, but it just so happened that the company allowed them this particular Sunday morning off, so Mitch was eager and curious to attend the worship services with us, and Chad seemed simply curious, so he “came along for the ride.” I was really anxious to preach to an audience with at least two known visitors in attendance, and I gave it “my (very) best shot.” With the Lord’s assistance, I extended a direct and carefully-worded invitation, about being “in Christ. ” No apparent response was detected, as we stood and sang, but a short while later, I was informed that one of the visiting men was praying at the front of the meeting house. The pulpit is situated on a raised platform, and Mitch was kneeling down, with his head bowed, obviously highly serious about his fervent supplications. After he had finished, I approached and inquired as to whether we could be of help. Mitch replied with his patented, shining smile, that today was the day he wished for Jesus to save him. I tried to appear cool, but I was so taken aback, I could hardly believe my ears! I asked him if he had listened carefully to the gospel presentation, and he assured me that he’d heard every word. He told me that they had a meeting to attend on the other side of town, in less than two hours, so he could return and be baptized later that evening. I assured him it would only take a few minutes, and so, in the midst of a small group of disciples, on May 28, 1989, Mitch Davis made “the good confession, ” and was “baptized into Jesus Christ, ” “for the remission of (his) sins.” Our heads were spinning with exaltation, as we rejoiced with “the angels of God, ” but we remained cautiously and realistically optimistic. After all, Mitch’s work schedule would allow precious little time for worship, and this was the very first gospel sermon he’d ever heard! That evening Kathy, Mitch and I stayed up until an unthinkable hour, discussing this blessed transaction, and the new responsibilities Mitch would now have to bear as a child of God. What a magnificent day!
Following is a typical day we survived that summer: Mitch would arise prior to 6:00 a.m., and he and Chad would leave the house by 6:30. Mitch would literally run from house to house with a backpack full of heavy books. I doubt he ever put in less than ten miles of labor each day. We wouldn’t even see them until after 10:00 p.m., when their workday ended. They had to complie their statistics for the day, and phone them in, and then they would first be free to cat supper! Chad had a very rough time with this schedule, and Mitch seemed to take it in stride, as he is a champion college wrestler, and in incredibly good condition! Finally, as the time would be approaching midnight, Mitch would arrive at the dining room table, clutching his new Bible, and seriously ready to get down to the King’s business! I must tell you, that I now had a much deeper appreciation for what the Lord had in mind when he remarked, “Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness.- for they shall be filled. ” Kathy and I were delighted to have such a willing pupil, but even this superbly-conditioned athlete was not totally able to adhere to this rigorous schedule. Virtually every night, poor Mitch would remain attentive for as long as humanly possible, but at last he’d succumb to the inevitable, and upon reading a passage, I’d invariably raise my eyes to see him literally sleeping – his nose resting securely on the word of his “Rock”! I feared this would not prove to be the most productive method of study, but it was the best we could do under the circumstances. In short, our new brother’s “desire for the sincere milk of the word” was almost unbelievable, and a real inspiration to all of us who have known him. Mitch had precious little opportunity to assemble with the saints that summer, as work kept him really busy, 7 days every week. Even though we were able to study a great deal, this lack of attendance really bothered him. Whenever he could, he’d return early from meetings, so he could gather for worship and study.
As the summer drew to a close, we regrettably had to send Mitch westward – certainly hopeful, always prayerful but, realistically speaking, not totally optimistic. We’d witnessed too many cases where the devil had somehow unleashed a vicious attack upon the freshly converted, who “in time of temptation fall away, ” “and bring no fruit to perfection. ” It would be an uphill battle, as our young brother was beginning to “spread his wings.” Earlier in the summer, we had contacted the brethren in Nebraska, and discovered that in all the USA, this area remains particularly devoid of faithful congregations. It greatly concerned us, as we’d attempted to “ground” Mitch very soundly and carefully in “thefaith oncefor all delivered, ” but the nearest congregation which stands for the truth was going to be about 50 miles from his college residence! In addition to this, there is an institutional church in the college town of Kearney, which could’ve really complicated matters in the mind of our young charge.
Our fears proved to be absolutely unfounded, as Mitch drove to Grand Island the first Lord’s day after his arrival. Needless to say, the saints in Grand Island were thrilled to see Mitch, as the entire church consisted of two families. But what families they were! The incredible family of Joe Hurd, his fine wife Ann, and their wonderful children “adopted” our brother into their very household!
The brethren there in Nebraska reported that they found Mitch to be “well-grounded,” especially considering his young age “in the Lord.” I can assure you that this situation is positively not due to anything within us – but rather to Mitch’s intense desire to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” All this, coupled with his innate (God-given) abilities and intellect and primarily to the God of heaven, and “the word of his grace, ” with its mighty power to transform the hearts and lives of men and women.
As Mitch “joined himself” to a very small congregation, the opportunity for him to exercise and develop his talents and abilities was readily present. He was soon in demand to participate in the worship services, wait on the Lord’s table, and teach Bible classes. Just about eight months after his baptism, Mitch gave the invitation during the mid-week Bible class, and shortly following that, he prepared and delivered his first full-length sermon. My family and I visited the church there this past spring, and were greatly encouraged to be with the saints at Grand Island. We were reminded of our experiences the previous summer, as we all found ourselves studying around the Hurd’s dining room table until the wee hours of the night. Mitch was beginning his personal study of the Greek language, along with Joe and Ann’s experience and guidance. He surprised me Oust a bit), with numerous questions about the prophecies of Daniel and Ezekiel, and comparing these with the book of Revelation. It seems as though he’d been corresponding with a Baptist missionary in Costa Rica, as well as a local Baptist preacher, and thus he was desirous to know more of these difficult areas of God’s word! As you can well see, Mitch possesses the requisite zeal which has greatly contributed to his rapid advancement in the gospel. Mitch also is the president of a national student council organization this year, which also vies for his time and attention. Of particular note to me, was his willingness to excuse himself from some wrestling tournaments, which doubtlessly would have earned him considerable recognition, in favor of making the long journey to Grand Island, so he could spend the weekends “searching the Scriptures” with Joe and Ann Hurd, and their children. Also worthy of mention is the fact that Joe and Ann Hurd moved to Grand Island about 12 years ago, where there was no local congregation, and have been diligently working there ever since, in service to the Lord. Joe does virtually all of the preaching, while making a living as an anesthesiologist. If you’ve ever had a part in this type of arrangement, you know what a struggle it can be, and the level of dedication it requires. It is a privilege to know and associate with folks of this caliber.
Recent reports are that Mitch plans to relocate after college to the Kansas City area, where he desires to gain further experience in proclaiming the gospel, working with men of age and ability. God only knows what the future holds for him, but I do know that he has a burning desire to return to his homeland, to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named.” Hawaii also is a place starving for the truth. What a great opportunity for a fruitful labor in the Lord’s vineyard!
As you can plainly see, Mitch Davis is one unique individual, who has impressed himself deeply upon our hearts One final admonition for your consideration: please be very careful and specific in your prayers to “Our Father who art in heaven” you just might receive exactly what you pray for!
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 4, pp. 110-111
February 21, 1991