Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 31, 1952
NUMBER 38, PAGE 11,12c

Old Country Store Of The Ozarks

A. H. Porterfield, Poplar Bluff, Missouri

They say the old country store is out, or on its way out. Not if they are all like one we know. This one is nestled deep in the foothills of the Ozarks, feathered with a dense forest made vocal by the voice of the birds and animals thereof. The pure and ample water supply flows abundantly from the everlasting springs near by. The "cool, clear water" forming a sizeable stream not far away is alive with fish.

Dotted about here and there are small but fertile farms on which live some of as fine people as anyone ever met—healthy, thrifty, hard-working, honest, sincere people, surrounded by fine live stock, poultry, orchards;

in fact, just about everything necessary to their good health. About two years ago the first electric power came to the community. Now most everyone has, not only electric lights, but just about all essential electric appliances.

This old country store of the Ozarks is so much a part of the community wherein it stands that it is not about to be pushed out. After all, where else could the good people of the community meet to discuss their perplexing problems? No problem ever becomes too complex—whether it be political, financial, educational, military or spiritual—that does not come in for its share of serious debate in and around this old store of the Ozarks.

Yes, the store keeper sells his goods alright—lots of them—but that is not all he does. He is such a fixed servant of the community that no one would think of such a thing as letting him go. He would be too hard to replace. He stocks everything from sewing needles to farm machinery. Anything called for he gets if he does not already have it in stock. But he is not only a merchant; he is also a banker. He cashes checks, changes bills, receives and issues deposits, large or small, and he even loans money, believe it or not. He receives and markets their livestock and other farm products, such as hay, corn, fruit, vegetables, horses, mules, cattle, sheep, hogs, goats, poultry, eggs, cream, butter, coon skins and 'possum hides.

If the doctor must be had the storekeeper calls him and often insures the bill. If a baby is about to be born he sees to it that the expectant mother is either carried to the hospital or the doctor is brought to her. If serious sickness develops in the community the storekeeper is usually the first to be called and the first to serve. All this, and more too, at all hours of the day and night without thinking of such things as charging a red cent for his service. He even receives long distance telephone calls from the "city doods" asking for a guide on their fishing and hunting trips, and he must see after that.

The people of the community often come to their storekeeper seeking advice—legal, financial, political and spiritual—all because the merchant is their humble servant and has won their confidence, respect, affection and admiration. So far as anyone will admit he has never advised anyone wrong in anything.

This merchant and his good wife (we'll call them Pete and Kate, since that is what their admiring friends call them) were sitting by the fireside one night relaxing and resting their tired bodies when all at once, as if touched by a live wire, Pete jumped to his feet and exclaimed, "Kate, what sense is there in going twenty miles to worship God when we could just as well worship Him right here in our own community with our good friends?" "I don't understand what you mean," mumbled Kate. "I'll show you," answered Pete. "These people have souls that are just as dear to the Lord as yours and mine, but what are we doing to enlighten them? We must teach them or face it at the Judgment. Why not have a regular Bible study at the old school house and teach them the truth? Agreed, Kate?" Kate did agree and the Bible study was started and just about all attended.

When Pete and Kate decided the time was ripe and ready they invited us to come for a meeting. We have never conducted an easier one. The meeting was conducted in the old school house which was all lighted up with electric lights for a change. The house was full to overflowing every night, and we have never seen finer interest and attention.

Now and then one of the "old timers" would complain at something that was said in a sermon. But so soon as Pete or Kate would turn to the passage of scripture that would prove the point that was enough. In the crowded store one day uncle Bill said, "I ain't been able to see how baptism saves ya yet; I got mine right in here (patting himself on the pit of the stomach)." Then Pete put in to help him: "Uncle Bill, you felt right in there like your son, Tom, was killed in World War I, but was he?" Uncle Bill, hunting for words to express himself, said: "No, I reckon not Pete, but ain't this different?" Pete was ready: "No, uncle Bill, both should prove to you that your feelings can deceive you. You must always have evidence to establish a fact, and the only reliable evidence we have in this connection is the word of the Lord and the testimony of His apostles as recorded in the New Testament. The question is not: How do I feel? Or: What can I get? But it is: What must I do, Lord? Let the Lord give the answer in His own word." Then Pete read the answer from the New Testament. That was enough. Uncle Bill, along with several others, was baptized before we left.

But the point I am trying to get to is, Pete and Kate lived such lives before these people, served them so well, and were so straightforward with them in their dealings and did so much for them without complaining that the hard work was already done when we got there. They had done the best they could in teaching them the truth, and had tried to show them what that truth meant to them and to this troubled world by living it before them.

Strange as the foregoing story may seem we must admit that some important factors are involved: 1) Pete and Kate were not sending their money and influence away from home to people who never saw or heard of them, neither were they trying to sell the "bigness" of some "big" church to anybody by sending their money through such a church to anything; they were simply trying to impress their neighbors with the truth in word and in deed, trying to help them to see that Christianity is something real, essential, important to their happiness here and hereafter. It cost them a lot of hard work, time and money, but it paid off in every good sense of the word. 2) Pete and Kate realized that most people have been preached and theorized to death. So they did not spend their time in "fussing" and quarreling with their neighbors and friends about their religion; they taught them the truth and showed them what it meant by living it before them. They sold it to them just as they sold their goods from the store. The people liked it and wanted it and readily accepted it. 3) Pete and Kate helped these good people when they needed help, serving them day and night without complaining, as their Savior has taught, and as His true followers have always done, without making any noise about it. It paid off in large dividends.