John Harper – Hero of the Titanic

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Almost everyone has heard of the sinking of the Titanic, but few know the name of the man who would become known as the hero of the Titanic, John Harper. His last words before he drown in the ocean that fateful night were, “Believe on the Name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”

The sinking of the Titanic was not the first incident where Harper risked death by drowning. When he was two and a half, he fell into a well and almost drown, but his mother saved him in time. At age twenty-six, he was swept downstream by a reverse current and almost drown. At thirty-two, he was stuck on a ship in the Mediterranean that sprang a leak. But the Titanic would be the last danger of drowning he would face.

Harper was born to Christian parents in Scotland in 1872. He was saved at thirteen and began preaching to his village by the age of seventeen. In early adulthood, he worked at a mill to support himself while he continued to preach. At one point, E.A. Carter of the London Baptist Pioneer Mission heard Parker and took him to London to mentor him. In 1896, Harper started his own church with 25 members. Within thirteen years, it had grown to 500 members. It is now called the Harper Memorial Baptist Church in his honor. During this time, Harper married, but his wife died of complications after giving birth to their daughter Annie known as Nana.

In 1912, John Harper was invited to speak at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and boarded the Titanic with his daughter Nina and his niece Jessie W. Leitch who was brought along to care for Nana while he was ministering. He put six-year-old Nana to bed that evening not knowing the danger that lie ahead.

At 11:40 pm, the Titanic hit an iceberg. Harper went to see what happened and found out the ship was in trouble. He wrapped Nina in a blanket and directed her and Jessie to lifeboat #11. Although he could have joined them in the lifeboat since he was Nina’s only living parent, there was no indication he even considered it. He kissed Nina goodbye, and according to documentation, flares went off revealing the tears on his face. A well known photograph of the second class promenade, in which a young girl is seen holding her father’s hand, is believed by many to show young Nina Harper and her father.

What happened next is well documented by a few of the survivors. As the ship lurched, he ran through the deck shouting, “Women, children, and unsaved into the lifeboats!” The ship broke apart, and Harper along with many others jumped into the ocean. At this point, he had a lifevest on. In the frigid water, he swam frantically to people dying of hypothermia and led them to Christ. At one point, he swam to a young man and asked him if he would accept Jesus as his Savior. The young man said, “No”. Harper gave the man his life vest telling him that he needed it more.

Later Harper swam back to the young man and led him to Christ. The man then saw Harper succumb to the waters.  The reason we know this story is because the young man was one of the few survivor snatched from the icy waters that night.

Harper’s orphan daughter was raised by her uncle and aunt and lived until 1985. She married a preacher and had two children. She didn’t remember much about that night, and her family discouraged anyone talking about the Titanic with her, but Jessie Leitch says they were about a mile away when they saw the ship sink.

Although the story is not told by Hollywood, John Harper was a true hero who gave his life so that others might be saved both that night and for eternity.

The Modern Missionary Movement Started in Colonial Times

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

America is well known for the modern missionary movement. The missionary movement is credited with starting in the mid 1800s during the Second Great Awakening, but it really began with a 100 year prayer movement in colonial times. The people who started this movement were called the Moravians.

In 1727, a group of Moravians in Saxony started a round the clock prayer meeting that lasted 110 years. By 1737, Moravians had settled in Savannah, Georgia to share the Gospel. At this time, they met John Wesley, from the first Great Awakening and had a profound impact on his ministry.

In 1741, the Moravians moved to an estate owned by John Whitfield, another preacher from the Great Awakening, and started ministering to the Delaware Indians in the region. They established the towns of Bethlehem and Nazareth in Pennsylvania and moved throughout the colonies sharing the Gospel wherever they went.

Schoenbrunn Village

By 1772, the Delaware were being pushed into Ohio, and the Moravians followed them. They set up two villages there, one in Schoenbrunn and one in Gnadenhutten. They risked great dangers, not only from the other tribes, but from the British forces once the Revolutionary War began. The British accused the Moravians of informing the colonialist about troop movements, a charge that was mostly true.

The Moravians finally abandoned their villages to move on to avoid clashes with the British. That fall, a group of converted Delaware returned to Gnadenhutten to harvest their crops. They were massacred by American soldiers who mistakenly thought they were raiders.

There aren’t that many Moravian in the United States today although there are clusters of congregations in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia. There are also some areas in Canada with large Moravian populations. Moravians in America moved on to evangelize other parts of the world. The largest groups of Moravians now live in East Africa and the Caribbean. They left their mark on America though through their missionary endeavors and paved the way for other missionaries.

Frances Willard – An American Heroine

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

At one time, Frances Willard was the most famous woman in America. When she died in 1898, flags flew at half-mass. In Chicago, 30,000 people lined up to view her casket in one day.

Willard was the president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and championed the cause of Prohibition. She died a twenty years before the 18th Amendment was passed, but she is the person most responsible for organizing the movement for Prohibition. She also fought for women’s rights in America including the right to vote.

Nineteenth century feminism was, in the words of Emma Willard, Frances’ cousin, an exercise in “pure practical Christianity.” It was based on Christian principals. It was only in the mid-twentieth century that feminism lost it’s Christian roots.

Although not all nineteenth century feminists shared Willard’s Christian faith, most did. Willard taught women displayed God’s image through reason and intellect. A woman was morally responsible to her Creator to develop her intellect and to use it in God’s service. Willard also believed women were not the only ones responsible for morality. She insisted both sexes were called to righteousness.

Willard rejected marriage and children, but she wasn’t against women who chose to be wives and mothers. Instead she defended them. Her strongest crusades politically were under the title of “home protection.” She fought for laws to protect women who were wives and mothers, but she also fought for women’s rights to choose to have a career if they desired.

She said, “Men have been preaching well nigh two thousand years, and the large majority of the converts have been women. Suppose now that women should share the preaching power, might it not be reasonably expected that a majority of the converts under their administration would be men? Indeed, how else are the latter to have a fair chance at the Gospel? . . . Why, then should the pulpit be shorn of half its power?”

Willard’s mother studied at Oberlin College, one of the first co-ed colleges in the nation. The family was dedicated to the education and advancement of their children. Frances was given the best education that could be offered a young woman at the time. She read abolitionist materials at a young age. Years later she wrote, “That earliest book of all my reading, stamped upon me the purpose to help humanity, the sense of brotherhood of all nations as really one, and of God as the equal Father of all races.”

She was the founding president of Northwestern Ladies’ College and is credited with introducing an innovative approach to women’s education. By Willard’s plan, women could either remain entirely within the structure of the Ladies College or branch out into traditional male fields through classes at Northwestern University. They might even earn a degree from Northwestern; but the women at all times belonged to, and were under the authority of the Ladies College. This affiliate plan, which she set up, was later adopted at Radcliff and Barnard Colleges.

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union was founded in 1874 in response to widespread concern about the abuse of alcohol. There were no legal limits on the alcoholic content of whisky, and it was often lethal. Also many men drank away their paycheck at the tavern every night before going home. Then the drunk men would go home and beat their wives. There were no spousal abuse laws nor was there public welfare to support starving women and children.

Carrie Nation and others started a moral campaign appealing to the conscience of tavern owners, but to no avail. As soon as one tavern closed another opened. It was decided only through legislation would any social change take place. A new image and a more educated form of leadership for the WCTU was sought, and Frances Willard proved to be the logical choice. She became president of the WCTU.

The issue was one close to Willard’s heart. Her brother and nephews were alcoholics. After her brother died, she assumed responsibility for her nephews. One of them overcome his addiction, but the other couldn’t. Willard’s brother’s losing battle with alcoholism convinced her eliminating alcohol from society seemed the only reasonable step to take.

The temperance movement was not the only social issue Willard worked for. She campaigned for change in prostitution laws. Prostitution in some lumber camps amounted to child slavery. The age of consent in twenty states was ten years of age, and in one it was seven. Willard believed the men who patronized a prostitute should be equally guilty under the law as the prostitute who served him.

She also fought for stronger laws against rape. She wrote, “When we reflect that in Massachusetts and Vermont it is a greater crime to steal a cow than to abduct and a girl, and that in Illinois is not considered a crime, it is a marvel not to be explained that we go the even tenor of our way, too delicate, too refined, too prudish to make any allusion to these awful facts, much less take up arms against these awful crimes. We have been the victims of conventional cowardice too long.”

Under Willard, the WCTU worked for the development of Traveler Aid to assist women in their attempt to remain pure while searching for work. They also established homes for the reclamation of prostitutes.

One of Willard’s most outstanding achievements was her global arousal of public opinion with regard to the international traffic in narcotics. The WCTU circulated a petition asking governments to stop the sale of opium and other narcotics.

 

The WCTU did not just push for Prohibition, but instituted small reforms that would enable people to remain sober. Town squares, one by one, became equipped with fresh fountains of healthy drinking water so that thirsty farmers did not have to enter a saloon when they came to town. It worked among immigrant families teaching them English, American cookery, shopping, and to abandon European styles of drinking. It was at WCTU insistence milk was put on sale at Ellis Island. Previously only beer had been available.

Willard was active in prison work. She sought to have men and women quartered separately. She urged that a woman officer be established for every jail or prison where women were housed. By 1894, the police matron was a matter of course in the United States. Willard then proposed a woman police officer patrol the streets.

She fought against corsets deforming women and encouraged sporting and bicycling among women to promote health. She also fought for woman to receive equal pay for equal work.

Willard was outspoken about Christianity. In 1886, she wrote an article for Homiletic Review defending the right of women to preach. In 1888, she published a book, Woman in the Pulpit, which contained an expanded version of the article. In this book, Willard stated the case for women preachers. She used Scripture to prove her case.

Willard combined woman’s rights and Christianity as one of our history’s greatest Christian feminists. She fought injustice wherever she found it and became a true American heroine.

100 Steps to Freedom

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Before the Civil War, Ohio had the largest Underground Railroad of any state in the Union. It is believed that every county in Ohio had a route. Many slaves would escape over the Ohio River and through Ohio on their way to Canada. This was a dangerous undertaking because, even though Ohio was a free state, the Fugitive Slave Law made it so anyone helping escaped slaves could be fined and jailed.

John Parker’s Foundry

One small town, Ripley, Ohio, is believed to have helped more slaves escape than any town in Ohio. Ripley is located on the banks of the Ohio River across from Mason County, Kentucky.

One man who helped slaves escape was a freed black man named John Parker. Parker was educated by his master in Virginia and eventually bought his freedom. He traveled to Ohio and opened a foundry on Front Street facing the Ohio River. He was the first black man to earn a patent for one of the inventions he used in his foundry. At night, he would search the Ohio River looking for escaped slaves and helping them find their way to an Underground Railroad Station.

John Rankin’s House in Ripley, Ohio

Rev. John Rankin, a Presbyterian minister, owned a house on top of a hill in Ripley. He built one hundred steps to the house that could be seen on the other side of the river. At night, he would light a lantern and hang it from the porch to signal slaves that it was safe to cross. It is estimated that over 2,000 slaves escaped through the Rankin House. None of them were ever recaptured.

Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote her famous novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, about the escape of the slave, Eliza, after hearing the story from Rev. Rankin.

How Camp Meetings Ushered in the Second Great Awakening

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

The year was 1800. Within the last 30 years, the United States had become a nation, adopted a Constitution.  Within the last year, it had elected its second president, John Adams. An unusual church service in Red River, Kentucky near the border of Tennessee ushered in a move of God called the Second Great Awakening that would sweep the nation for years to come.

A series of meetings was organized in June by Presbyterian minister James
McGready, and many Presbyterian and Methodists ministers took part. Because
many other congregations located along Muddy River and Gasper River planned to
attend, it was decided the meeting would be held outside near the Red River
Meeting House. This was the first “camp meeting” reportedly held in the United
States.

The services were well attending and were like many revival meetings of the time. On the last day of services, as William Hodge was preaching, a woman stood and started shouting praises to God. Soon others joined her. The service ended, but nobody was willing to leave. Mr. Hodge, according to an account by Methodist minister, John McGee, “felt such a power come on him that he quit his seat and sat down in the floor of the pulpit.” At that point McGee began to tremble, and the congregation started weeping. Revival broke out as people started shouting, and the floor was covered with those who had been slain in the Spirit (an occurrence where people are overwhelmed by God and can no longer stand).

A letter from McGready described the service.

“In June, the sacrament was administered at Red River. This was the greatest time we had ever seen before. On Monday multitudes were struck down under awful conviction; the cries of the distressed filled the whole house. There you might see profane swearers, and sabbath breakers pricked to the heart, and crying out, ‘what shall we do to be saved?’ There frolicers, and dancers crying for mercy. There you might see little children of ten, eleven and twelve years of age, praying and crying for redemption, in the blood of Jesus, in agonies of distress. During this sacrament, and until the Tuesday following, ten persons we believe, were savingly brought home to Christ.”

After the Red River Camp Meeting, other meetings were held where people would travel long distances and camp at the site. Camp Meetings spread throughout Kentucky, Tennessee, and Southern Ohio in what became known as the Revival of 1800. McGready travelled well into October where even bad weather didn’t keep people away.

Rankin House

John Rankin also started camp meetings into Tennessee and North Carolina with many of the same results. Later he settled in Ripley, Ohio where he conducted an underground railroad station from his house. He claimed over 1,000 escaped slaves that made their way to freedom went through his home.

In 1801, Methodist preacher Barton Stone attended one of the camp meetings near Red River. He decided to organize his own camp meeting in Cane Ridge, Kentucky in 1801. 20,000 people attended, and again, revival broke out. Over the next year, more than 10,000 people visited Cane Ridge services where unusual moves of God were reported.

One feature of these camp meeting revivals was the presence and conversion of blacks, many of whom were slaves. Women, children, and blacks were also allowed to participate as exhorters, lay people who preached impromptu sermons encouraging others.

Abolitionists in Colonial America

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Most people think abolitionism didn’t really come to be until the early 1800, but abolitionist views in America started almost as early as slavery in America.

The first Africans that came to America, according to some historians, were sold to Jamestown colonists in 1619 as indentured servants although some say there were already Africans there. The twenty men had been stolen from a Portuguese slave ship and were allowed land and freedom when there period of service was done, but by the 1630s, some colonists were keeping African servants for life. John Punch, in 1640, was the first documented indentured for life servant. In 1662, the law recognized slavery and instituted statutes that any children born would follow the status of their mother making it so children could be born slaves.

The first dispute against this practice was that Christians could not own their brothers in Christ. If a slave was baptized in the faith, he had to be freed. In 1667, the General Assembly outlawed freedom by baptism. By 1705, an array of slave codes were enacted, and half of the labor force in Virginia. In the 1620s, the Dutch West India Company introduced slavery to New England, and be 1700, slavery was established as an institution there as well.

Even though slavery was being established in the colonies, there was a movement growing to end the practice. Throughout the 17th century, many evangelicals and Quakers came out against slavery.  As early as 1688, four Quakers in Germantown signed a protest against the practice of slavery and made their case that the practice was not Christian and against Biblical precepts. In the 1730s and 1740s, during the Great Awakening, preachers decried owning slaves as sin.

During the American Revolution, Moravian and Quaker preachers convinced over a thousand slave owners to free their slaves. The newly formed states debated whether to allow slavery to continue. It was finally decided to outlaw the slave trade within twenty years and allow each state to decide for itself. The economy in the South was also encouraging freedom for slaves. Planters were shifting from labor-intensive tobacco to mixed-crop cultivation and needed fewer workers.

After the American Revolution, northern states gradually outlawed slavery. In 1808, the United States criminalized the slave trade and outlawed any new slaves being brought to America. If it hadn’t been for Eli Whitney’s cotton gin patent in 1794, slavery may have only been a footnote in history. The cotton gin overnight made the practice of slavery profitable. We’ll never know if the invention had been delayed twenty years, if that would have ended slavery. Either way, it didn’t end abolitionism. The abolitionist movement that started in Colonial times would continue to grow until a war forced the end of slavery in the United States.

First US Woman Evangelist Phoebe Palmer

by Tamera Lynn Kraft

Phoebe Warroll Palmer was one of the first prominent woman evangelist in the church in the United States before women were recognized or licensed as preachers. She was born in New York City on December 18, 1807. Her parents were devout Methodists that held family worship services twice a week.

Phoebe married Dr. Walter Palmer, a homeopathic physician and devout Methodist, when she was nineteen years old. They had four children, but three died in early childhood. Phoebe was distraught and thought God was punishing her. She sought God’s guidance, and with the help of her sister, Sarah Lankford, came to a new understanding of sanctification and holiness.

Phoebe’s sister encouraged her to take a more active role in the church. In 1835, Phoebe and her sister began having church meetings for women in her home. Attendance grew to several hundred, and soon Dr. Palmer built extra space in the crowded home.

In 1839, Phoebe opened the meetings up to men as well as women. Her popularity grew, and soon, pastors, bishops, and people from other denominations attended. Phoebe and her husband began having protracted meetings (revivals) made popular by Charles Finney, and preached at camp meetings and Holiness revivals. In 1850, they toured across the United States and Canada preaching.

In 1850, Phoebe established a mission to help people in New York City because she felt sanctification required works of service for others. She spoke out against slavery and alcohol and promoted more freedom for women in the church and in society.

Phoebe also wrote many books and became the editor to Guide To Holiness in 1862 when her husband bought the publication.

She developed the concept of “altar theology,” which explained the idea of the “second blessing,” or immediate sanctification. As a basis for this concept, she drew on the Apostle Paul, who had advanced the idea of placing ourselves as “living sacrifices” on the altar of God to represent complete consecration. This “altar theology” simplified sanctification into a three-step process that included consecration, faith, and testimony. This concept, as well as her central theme of holiness of heart and life, gained popularity although some criticized it as simplistic.

After the Civil War, Phoebe served as a leader of the National Camp Meeting Association for the Promotion of Holiness. In 1867, she and her husband established the National Association for the Promotion of Holiness, which encompassed much of her evangelical work. She also continued holding her Tuesday meetings right up until she died in New York City on November 2, 1874.

Phoebe Palmer showed what a life devoted to God can do even when the culture and some leaders in the church came against her because of her stand on sanctification and because she was a woman.