Contact Info Subscribe Links

October-November 2013


November 2013

Journey of a Lifetime


Online Edition

Download PDF

iPad and eReader





History Resources



Home Missions Kid


Lessons gleaned from the lives of John and Leah Postlewaite


The (Not So) Normal Life of a Free Will Baptist Missionary Kid

by Sam Postlewaite


At age six, on a Sunday afternoon, I was playing with my Tonka™ dump truck when a station wagon full of people pulled into the driveway behind the church. The driver rolled down his window and asked if I knew where the pastor lived. Proudly, I told him that my daddy was the pastor and pointed to the parsonage. That day, Raymond Reed met Johnny Postlewaite for the first time.

The Reed family soon became dear friends and faithful members of our church in Vancouver, Washington. The Reeds lived in Portland, Oregon, and drove several miles every Sunday across the Columbia River to attend church in a different state. A couple years later, sensing both human need and God’s leading, Dad moved our family across the river to start the last of his works in the Great Northwest. The Reed family became charter members of First Free Will Baptist Church in Portland.

The story is typical of my life as a missionary kid back in the 1950s and 60s. My parents met new people constantly, invited strangers into our home, saw folks saved and join the church, and then moved to another place to start all over again.
By age 13, I had lived in five cities, belonged to four churches, attended six schools, and called ten houses “home.” Since relocating was the norm for our family, I just figured that’s the way everyone lived. I have since learned that constant moves are only normal for MKs, PKs, and military brats! I’ve come up with a list of five things my parents modeled so well that they left me thinking, “Every Christian must live this way.” I wish it were so!


Norm #1: Christians love God and serve Him—willing to do whatever and go wherever God directs.

John and Leah Postlewaite left their friends and family in Missouri, and after a short stay in Oklahoma, followed God’s leading to the states of Washington and Oregon, over 2,000 miles away. Dad helped to establish several Free Will Baptist churches and became the first pastor of the churches in Milton-Freewater, Oregon; Wenatchee, Washington; Vancouver, Washington; and Portland, Oregon.

Mom and Dad didn’t complain about the moves or, at least if they did, I never heard it. It would have been easy to talk about how much better life was back in Missouri, but they embraced the Northwest as their home, and they loved it. They made serving the Lord with gladness, whatever and wherever, seem normal!


Norm #2: Mom and Dad love each other with commitment and selflessness over convenience and selfishness.

My parents often talked of their love for each other. With a boyish grin and a girlish gleam, they loved to tell how they started courting. Dad held to the story that he never kissed Mom until they were married, but Mom seemed to remember differently. Of course, everyone knew Mom’s story was much more reliable.

Dad’s grin went beyond words to say, “I love you!” And, to this day, Mom can’t talk about Johnny Postlewaite without a girlish gleam in her eye. Remember the Reed family? Dad performed the weddings of their four oldest children. They, along with countless others, saw true love and commitment modeled in the everyday life of their pastor and his wife.

I have never experienced a moment in my life when I wondered if my parents truly loved each other. Oh, that every kid could experience the security of that kind of parental love and commitment to each other.


Norm #3: Parents love and provide for their children spiritually, mentally, socially, and physically.

“These people must be rich.” That’s what Shirley, the youngest child in the Reed family whispered to her parents when they first entered our modest parsonage. Needless to say, we were not rich in material things. After all, Dad was on a Free Will Baptist missionary salary. But, I’ve thought about Shirley’s words many times since that day, and she was right.


The Postlewaites

My parents saw to it that we were truly rich in things that mattered most. Spiritually, they led each one of their children to know Christ as Savior. Mentally, they provided a great atmosphere for both practical and academic training. Socially, we were constantly around people at church, home, work, and play. Physically, we had everything we needed—though not always what we wanted—and we never went lacking. There was no question that John and Leah loved their children, wanting nothing but God’s best for us. This world would be a far better place if that were the norm in homes today.


Norm #4: Christians reach out to others and meet new people, show hospitality, win others to Christ, and disciple them.

One major benefit of moving so often was that meeting new people became a way of life. Times were different then, and our parents never taught us, “Don’t talk to strangers!” Come to think of it, I don’t think Dad ever really met a stranger. If he did, they weren’t strangers for long.

The day the Reed family pulled into our driveway, I actually talked to them and directed them to my Dad. They were one of many families welcomed into our home for food and fellowship on a regular basis. God used Dad’s winsome personality and Mom’s selfless hospitality to reach people, disciple them, and build churches wherever God led them. I’m thankful for the Christian love and discipleship modeled in our home.


Norm #5: Christian children grow up and serve the Lord, living out the lessons taught in norms 1-4.

As an adult, I understand what a tremendous sacrifice my parents made to pull up stakes and move far from home. But, as a child, I thought being a missionary kid was the greatest thing in the world! Washington is my home state, and to this day, I have fond memories of my childhood there.

Some memories are of the beauty and grandeur of the landscape itself, but my most precious memories are of serving the Lord alongside my parents. It was routine for us kids to clean the church, straighten hymn books, set up chairs, sing a special number, fold church bulletins, help in Bible school, teach a lesson, give a testimony, invite people to church, and help with whatever else needed to be done.

Again, all of that was simply normal. I thought everyone did those things, or at least, every Christian. God used those times and places and people to put a willingness in my heart, and the hearts of my siblings, to serve the LORD wherever He might lead us in the days and years ahead.

We all remember Dad making the following statement both publicly and privately: “I would much rather have my children serve the Lord halfway around the world than to have them live right next door to me out of the will of God.” It saddened me when I learned that not all Christian parents are willing to pray that for their own children.

Lord, help us to live in such a way that future generations will think it normal to seek God’s will and live it as the norm in their lives, too.


About the Writer: Sam Postlewaite was born in Wenatchee, Washington, in 1957. He is one of four missionary kids born to John and Leah Postlewaite. He serves as administrator of Gateway Christian Academy, Virginia Beach, VA. Learn more about Free Will Baptist Home Missions at





©2013 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists