(Town Crier photo/Revis Blaylock)
Ron and Jan Langston are settling in their new home at Lake City. Mr. Langston is the new pastor at Lake City First Baptist Church. The couple said they feel like they are coming home as they are natives of Mississippi County. They grew up near Etowah and have been gone almost 20 years serving as missionaries in Africa. Brother Ron, as he is known, has been in the ministry since 1976.
The two grew up together attending elementary school at Missco but never imagined they would marry and travel the world together.
"I grew up on the farm," Mrs. Langston said. "I was a country girl. It still amazes me God has taken us around the world."
The two went to college at Arkansas State University for three years. They married and in 1976 they went to New Orleans where Brother Ron attended seminary.
They pastored for three years at Bowman. They were serving at Bowman when they were called into mission work and lived in Africa for almost 20 years. They pastored at Nettleton for two and a half years and worked at the Home Office in the International Mission Board in Richmond, Va.
They served in Zimbabwe, Botswana and Kenya. They spent their last three years in in Kenya and traveled to Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Southern Sudan. The worked as a pastor to missionaries.
The Langstons have two sons, Neil and James. Neil and his wife, Kendra, live in Jonesboro and are teachers. Their younger son, James, his wife, Marcie, and their three children live at Wynne. Marcie's parents are also missionaries.
Neil was nine years old when the family went to Africa. He graduated high school from South Africa Immanuel Christian School.
James only attended public school in the United States for three months. They were back in the States during his third grade year.
The entire family loved Africa and working with the people.
"We made wonderful friends," Mrs. Langston said. "We lived near the bush country and there were a lot of safari ranches. We would be driving down the road and see antelopes, cheetah, or giraffes."
During the summer months, college students would spend time at the Langston's home in Africa working in the mission fields.
"We loved having the young people and it was good for the boys," Mrs. Langston said.
During their work in Zimbabwe, they helped start 25 churches and saw hundreds of people saved.
"We had people come to Africa from Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, Texas, Alabama and other places to help in the ministry," Brother Ron said.
They both agree one of the most rewarding ministries was a food relief project. They helped feed 30,000 people in 17 villages for a year.
Southern Baptist Churches would purchase the food and the Langstons made arrangements to get the food in by railroad cars. African pastors would help distribute the food to the villages.
It was not always easy and things were not always convenient as it is in the States. Mrs. Langston recalls once they had no running water for nine days. They had to take containers, drive five miles to hand pump and haul water.
"We learned how to take a bath with a two liter bottle of water," she said.
At times it was a struggle because they were so far away from their families.
"God was faithful in taking care of us," Brother Ron said. "We never had a serious accident. We drove on some really bad roads. We never had malaria even though we lived in an area where the disease was bad."
Mrs. Langston recalled once when her husband had kidney stones she had to drive six hours to get him help.
"God took care of us and we made it," Mrs. Langston said.
Brother Ron said the hardest thing about living in Africa was not the heat, the snakes or the scorpions; it was when the boys had to leave the country to go to college. Both returned to the States to attend school.
"Then we did not have e-mail or cell phones," Mrs. Langston said. "We would sometimes go for weeks without hearing from them."
Brother Ron said God led them back home to help with with their parents. Mrs. Langston got to spend time with her mother before she passed away in August. Her father lives in Lepanto and Brother Ron's mother lives in Walnut Ridge.
Throughout their ministry, they have always tried to follow the Lord's will and both feel God wants them in Lake City. They are looking forward to working and serving at the First Baptist Church there.
They plan to return to Africa once a year or so and take teams to work with the people there. They are looking forward to introducing their new friends to their old friends they made during their years on the foreign mission field.