By M.R. Conrad
Nelson Knode was supposed to be teaching me trumpet. He did that, and he did it well. But Nelson did so much more than teach me trumpet. He was my undercover mentor.
My Undercover Mentor
“I want to walk with Jesus,” Nelson told the ten-year-old me, his blue eyes a bit overly intense. I never knew the professional trumpeter without snow-white hair. In my mind, wrinkles had always creased his face. And his mantra never changed, “I want to walk with Jesus.”
My trumpet lesson was half trumpet technique and half discipleship. Since we met every Sunday after church in the church basement, I guess that made sense. I often could not tell where Nelson’s musical pedagogy ended and his sermon began. Some of the stories he told to prove his points would fit either option.
Nelson didn’t just talk: he modeled what he taught whether it be in trumpet performance or the Christian life. Now, years after my teacher went to be with the Lord, people hear me play the trumpet and say that it uniquely sounds like Nelson Knode. His wife says it to this day. I hope a clear tone in my trumpet playing is not all that rubbed off. Like Nelson, I want to walk with Jesus too.
God used Nelson Knode to mentor me. At the time, I didn’t see it that way. I was just making loud noises in the church basement. But it has got me thinking—who could I influence in the everyday tasks of life to walk closer with God? Could there be more substance—an eternal aspect—to the relationships in which God has placed me?
William Carey’s Undercover Mentor
John Warr made shoes. He was a few years older than his fellow apprentice, William Carey. Warr was also a born again Christian of the despised dissenters in the late 1700’s. Carey grew up in the Anglican church, prejudiced against all dissenters whether they be Baptist or Congregational.
As they hammered on shoe soles, Warr would talk with Carey about his soul. At first, Carey argued against his coworker. As time went on though, Carey began to feel “a growing uneasiness and stings of conscience gradually increasing.”1 Carey read the books Warr lent him. Not long afterward, Carey attended a dissenters’ prayer meeting with his coworker. Then, the young shoemaker left the dead religion of the Anglicans of his day and trusted Christ as His Savior.
History forgot John Warr. For over one hundred years, Carey’s biographers did not even know the name of the young man so key in Carey’s conversion. However, the fruit of Warr’s mentoring work with William Carey reached beyond their humble shoe-making shop in central England, leapt across the world to India, and stretched through the ages as countless missionaries have followed the example of the young man John Warr led to Christ.2
You, As an Undercover Mentor
Most of us—even pastors and missionaries—will never be William Careys. But we can all be John Warrs and Nelson Knodes. We can be undercover mentors to others. Our occupation, whether it be teaching music or making shoes or programming computers, should be vehicles for God to use to influence others.
I’m not suggesting we should be sneaky. There was nothing underhanded about Nelson Knode’s or John Warr’s witness. They spoke and lived the truth openly before all. However, they used their daily occupation as a tool to encourage those around them to know Jesus Christ and to live for Him.
Who could you influence in the everyday tasks of life to walk closer with God? Could there be more substance—an eternal aspect—to the relationships in which God has placed you?
“Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” (Colossians 4:5)
Reposted from Rooting Thinking.
1 Haykin, Michael A.G. The Missionary Fellowship of William Carey (Reformation Trust, 2018), 17.
2 Read more of William Carey’s early years in my book Daring Devotion: A 31-Day Journey with those who Lived God’s Promises.
Dr. Conrad serves in urban Asia. He, his wife, and their four children squeeze into a 700 square-foot apartment where he seizes rare moments of quiet to write amidst homeschooling, a cacophony of musical instruments, and the steady stream of visitors they so enjoy having in their home. He enjoys birding, board games, and basketball. He is the author of Daring Devotion: A 31-Day Journey with those who Lived God’s Promises.