When Ray Mitchell first attended a New Canaan Society meeting in 2009, he was surprised to find such a large number of men gathering together at 7:00 in the morning. But after engaging in conversation and experiencing the transparency of the personal stories they shared, he understood why they were willing to wake up early to attend. The group’s honest and open environment inspired him to become a member and continue coming back week after week to present day.
Ray desired to connect with other local Christian businessmen who shared a faith similar to his own. However, he found that most of the churches he attended attracted few men in his stage of life. “Most of the churches I attended had very few men in their middle years,” Ray told us. “Participants were mainly women, older men and young children.” At NCS, Ray was delighted to meet men of all ages and backgrounds with whom he could relate. This wide range of experience enabled him to connect on a deeper level both in business and in faith.
Ray grew up believing in God but had related to Him as a “lightning bolt God.” As a child, he feared what would happen if he misbehaved. As he matured in faith and in life, Ray recognized that he had known of Jesus but had not known Jesus personally. Connecting with other men in the New Canaan Society meetings helped Ray deepen his faith and learn to be more transparent about his own life.
“I’m not always a fully open book,” Ray admits. “But being a member of NCS and hearing the many transparent stories from other men has made me more willing to tell of my experiences. I am much different than who I was before.”
One of the greatest pieces of wisdom Ray has carried with him through the years comes from a man named Tom Washam. Ray recalls Tom as honest and noble. He was a good friend, known for two sayings he often repeated. He loved to say, "You can't talk yourself out of a problem that you behaved yourself into." Tom also frequently recited a quote he attributed to the Dalai Lama: "If you don't think that the little things are important, try to go to sleep with a mosquito in the room."
Many people over the years have helped Ray along his journey of faith. One person in particular, he recalls, is a former staff member who showed him his first encounter with agape love. Ray had moved to a new city and took a new job as a department leader. One of his first assignments required him to cut 40 percent of his staff who were low performers. This assignment was tough, as it required him to cut a woman’s job who had shown him much kindness as he adjusted to his new environment. She had been very friendly, and when she learned that he didn’t have a church, she invited him to attend hers.
On the Sunday after Ray let her go, the lady approached him at church and hugged him as if everything were okay. She said it was all part of God’s plan and this had helped her decide the next steps for her life. Ray burst into tears. “I disrupted her life, and yet she comforted me.” This experience of unflinching love left a deep impression on him. “After eighteen years, I remember it like it was yesterday. We still keep in touch, and she calls to let me know that she and her prayer-partners still pray for my family.”
Experiences like this helped transform Ray’s earlier view of God as the “lightning bolt God” into the knowledge of Jesus as Savior and Friend. “He has become the elder brother-protector that I never had.” Ray said. “I don't have a brother in life, but I do have my NCS Brothers and my big brother Jesus.”