By Carrie Anne Mitchell – as printed in the Branson Tri-Lakes News – April 13, 2019
Many people have asked me why I’ve come back to the Ozarks after 25 years. The answers have been many. Reconnecting with my family roots and heritage, with the people and scenery here, the love of the small town feel, yet big city metropolis atmosphere here.
There is one answer though, one which I’ve not spoke of until now.
It is my number one reason for returning here, after a very long absence. I have found out over these last five years that I am not the only one with this number one reason, for returning here to Ozarks.
I feel God’s presence here. Everywhere you look here in the Ozarks, in its nature, in the people you see and meet, in the music you hear and listen to. God is here.
I felt God visiting here as a child, then later, as a young 20-year old resident, aspiring gospel vocalist and single parent. It is that strong and loving presence of God I felt here then, which has brought me back to stay for good. Never have I experienced it more so, than right here in the beauty of the Ozark Mountains, it’s lakes, people, hospitality, kindness and music.
God is here, in the small surrounding towns, cities, and rural communities. If you look around, take the time to stop, watch, listen, you will see that God is here. He is here in the place I call home.
I’ve heard his voice through the warmth, kindness and hospitality of the people here, from new and old residents, from community members, citizens of Branson, and the surrounding Ozark area towns, from long time, local area neighbors, from chance meetings with visitors of all ages, both young and old.
I’ve felt his presence when sitting alone on one of the old pews inside Silver Dollar City’s Wilderness Church, when watching the sunsets at beautiful Table Rock Lake.
I’ve seen the hand of God in the blooming of the wildflowers, and flowering trees here, in the turning of Fall color across the mountains, and in a rainbow after an early Spring rain across the lakes.
I’ve seen God’s helping hand when neighbors have helped neighbors after floods, severe wind storms, and, after terrible tragedies have occurred.
I’ve felt the mighty power and presence of God here, while seeing many of the music shows here, during small and large Church gatherings, while singing southern gospel and hymn favorites, through the sounds of many voices all together, in a community choir during Christmas community event gatherings.
I’ve seen hearts touched by God here, when they look at the Image of the Cross, that stands along the highway, just outside of Branson, when pastors, nurses, doctors, police, fire fighters, first responders, city officials, business owners and entertainers, have given of themselves, willingly and freely for their love of Ozarks people, community and for God.
I’ve seen what the hands and feet of God can do here in action, when local area ministries, many community organizations, and churches continue helping the low income, homeless, and less fortunate here.
I’ve seen God’s smile when veterans are honored, remembered, respected, and thanked whether in hugs or handshakes, for their service, when a well known and much respected member of the community, has died, and many come together to remember a life well lived, to the paying of their respects to a kind soul, whose good works were lovingly and unselfishly, done solely for their city, community, or town.
My heart is full here. My reason for loving the Ozarks are many. But, it is because of God, why I came back to stay and live here. I’d say that is the best reason to have, for coming back here. Wouldn’t you?
Carrie Ann Mitchell lives in Hollister.