Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

September 6, 2009


Mentors encourage us to develop and use our unique gifts  


          A mentor is a trusted tutor, coach, guide, counselor or teacher. The key word is “trusted.” Effective mentoring occurs when the student admires the mentor and embraces the counselor’s wise instruction.  

          All of us learn from our teachers. Most of us have been blessed by the mentoring of a few special people who were our role models. They gave us the precious gift of self-confidence. They inspired us to choose their approach to life as our own. They encouraged us not to mimic them but to develop and use our own unique gifts.

          From infancy I was exposed to the teaching of my parents.  From them I learned the basic lessons of life. They taught me to value family, farm life, good food, reading, honesty, worship, and hard work. My parents exposed me to good teachers in the public school and in church.   

          When I was 13 I met a preacher known as “Brother Si” Mathison. He made faith attractive to me. He was the first preacher who “connected” with me. His interest in me was a new experience. Within a short time I persuaded my entire family to join his church in Wetumpka. I was 13 at the time.

          I embraced Brother Si as a mentor because I admired him and his approach to life. But there was more. I began to trust him because he was approachable; he knew my name and I could talk to him. He seemed to really care about what was going on in my life. In time he became the most important influence in my life. He was the role model who sparked a desire in me to become a pastor. I never lost the desire to be like him.

           During his last years Brother Si spent some time living at Wesley Gardens Retirement Home in Montgomery. I visited him there several times. We talked and prayed together. I thanked him for his friendship and his prayers. He had prayed for me daily for half a century. His wife Mary and his sons John Ed and George had been like family to me since my early teens.

          When Brother Si died I was out of the state and unable to attend his funeral. My disappointment was tempered by the realization that Brother Si would not be there either. He was already in the company of the Father. His sons, like brothers to me, would merely celebrate his life and bury the body of the man who had been my spiritual father. For 50 years Brother Si had been to me what Saint Paul had been to Timothy, a wise and trusted counselor, teacher, friend – and mentor of the first order.       

          Brother Si taught me, as the Apostle Paul taught Timothy, to trust the counsel of the Bible. That was important since our culture, much like Timothy’s culture of the first century, is prone to question the authority of the Bible. A preacher who doubts that God inspired the scriptures is like a lost ball in high weeds. Brother Si motivated me to believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God. From that conviction I have never wavered.  

          E. Stanley Jones was another mentor to me. Though I was acquainted with him we were not close friends. But through his writing, preaching, and a few personal conversations, the famous missionary became a valued mentor. He taught me to trust “the living Christ” as the chief Mentor of my heart. Jones spoke often of “the Inner Voice.” This was his way of describing the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Brother Stanley taught me that I would never go wrong by following the mentoring guidance of the Spirit’s “Inner Voice.”

          The concept of mentoring can be expanded to include persons we know only through their writings. Elton Trueblood, the Quaker philosopher, was another beloved mentor of mine. He persuaded me to think of deceased persons like Martin Luther, John Wesley, Thomas a Kempis, Oswald Chambers, or others as mentors and friends. This idea opened for me a marvelous new window of mentoring. It freed me to speak of John Wesley, for example, as my friend.

          This being true I can embrace Saint Paul as not only Timothy’s mentor but also my own. As I read his wise counsel in the Bible, I allow him to teach me the faith even as he taught it to Timothy, his son in the faith. Thus Paul becomes another role model for living my faith.  

          Thankful we should be for our mentors and role models. And wise we are to resolve so to live that someone, following in our footsteps, may find us to be a worthy mentor and role model for living. + + +