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The Blessing of Mentors

James and Ella Zuch

What good things happen in January? National Mentoring Month, for one thing.

If you ever had a mentor, you know what a blessing they can be. One of my favorite persons in all the world was my college mentor, a special elderly lady named Ella Zuch.

Though only four feet eight inches tall, Ella was a giant. She and her husband had helped clear the ground for a campus in the first half of the 20th century, doing such menial work as cutting and pulling palmetto bushes and weeds from the sandy Florida soil. She was no stranger to hard work. And yet she had a college education.

She lived at the edge of a small campus a thousand miles from my home. Though eventually living to be 106 years old, Ella was nearly 80 when I arrived on campus as a nervous new student, having never been there before that time.

As a new Christian, I had much to learn—new thought patterns, new vocabulary, new lifestyle. Ella was instrumental in answering myriads of questions. For an elderly person, she knew how to think like those much younger.

She had a keen mind and had widely read the religious classics. She could discuss deep theological ideas and explain them with clarity when I brought up questions.

Each Saturday I would drive Ella in her little blue car, to a big city about 45 minutes away, to invite people to church. During those drives Ella would talk about the “old days” as a teacher in a one-room schoolhouse in the state of New York. To my amazement, she told of ladies in old-fashioned bathing suits covering neck to ankles, swimming in their farm pond while her father watched from a distance, muttering, “Nasty women.”

She had lived through an entire era, when even non-Christian people like her dad, possessed firm beliefs about what was appropriate. I was impressed by this walking history lesson, who knew how to explain complicated thoughts in everyday terms.

I have thanked God for the blessing of this elderly saint, who invested so much time in mentoring a fledgling young Christian. I know she prayed for me and that meant a lot. Without her patient input, I might have dropped out of the race.

Mentors—making the difference between success and failure in the lives of young people.

What about you? Do you owe anything to someone who served as a mentor? Join the conversation below.

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