Wednesday, 9 December 2009

John Harper and the Titanic

Most people would have seen the film The Titanic by now and moved by the stories of heroism of many of those involved. However not all stories are told as the film would have become too long. And not all stories would have sat comfortably with the atheists and secularists. One such story involved a man called John Harper. He was born to a pair of devout Christian parents on May 29th, 1872. When when he was 13 years old he gave his life to Christ and began to preach about four years later at the ripe old age of 17 years old by going down to the streets of his village and pouring out his soul for people to be reconciled to God.

As John Harper's life unfolded, one thing was apparent: he was consumed by the word of God. When asked by various ministers what his doctrine consisted of, all he would reply was , "The Word of God!" Soon, John Harper started his own church in September of 1896. (Now known as the Harper Memorial Church.) This church started with just 25 members, but had grown to over 500 members when he left 13 years later.

Ironically, John Harper almost drowned several times during his life. When he was two and a half years of age, he almost drowned when he fell into a well but was resuscitated by his mother. At the age of 26, he was swept out to sea by a reverse current and barely survived, and at thirty-two he faced death on a leaking ship in the Mediterranean. Perhaps God used these experiences to prepare this servant for what he faced next....

It was the night of April 14, 1912. The RMS Titanic sailed swiftly on the bitterly cold ocean waters heading unknowingly into the pages of history. On board this luxurious ocean liner were many rich and famous people. At the time of the ship's launch, it was the world's largest man-made moveable object. At 11:40 p.m. on that fateful night, an iceberg scraped the ship's starboard side, showering the decks with ice and ripping open six watertight compartments. The sea poured in. On board the ship was John Harper and his much-beloved six-year-old daughter, Nana. According to documented reports, as soon as it was apparent that the ship was going to sink, Harper immediately took his daughter to a lifeboat but instead of climbing in with his daughter he bent down, kissed her and told her that she would see him again someday. He then turned and went back to the people on the ship yelling,

"Women, children and unsaved into the lifeboats!"

It was only minutes later that the Titanic began to rumble deep within. Most people thought it was an explosion; actually the ship was literally breaking in half. At this point, many people jumped off the decks and into the icy, dark waters below. John Harper was one of these people.

That night 1528 people went into the freezing waters. John Harper was seen swimming frantically to people in the water leading them to Jesus before the hypothermia became fatal. Mr. Harper swam up to one young man who had climbed up on a piece of debris. Harper asked him between breaths, "Are you saved?" The young man replied that he was not. Harper then tried to lead him to Christ only to have the young man who was near shock, reply no. John Harper then took off his life jacket and threw it to the man and said "Here then, you need this more than I do..." and swam away to other people. A few minutes later Harper swam back to the young man and succeeded in leading him to salvation. Of the 1528 people that went into the water that night, six were rescued by the lifeboats. One of them was this young man on the debris.

Four years later, at a survivors meeting, this young man stood up and in tears recounted how that after John Harper had led him to Christ, Harper had tried to swim back to help other people, yet because of the intense cold, had grown too weak to swim. His last words before going under in the frigid waters were, "Believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved."

Hollywood does not remember this man but it doesn't really matter. What matters is that this servant of God did what he had to do. While other people were trying to buy their way onto the lifeboats and selfishly trying to save their own lives, John Harper gave up his life so that others could be saved.

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