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*I Wish They'd Met My Grandpa*  5/19/03


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I Wish They'd Met My Grandpa

by Karen Harper DeLoach

My husband Bill played his favorite game, "Surf the Channels," for about fifteen minutes until I sweetly suggested, LAND ALREADY!"

He wasn't really finished having fun yet, but he must have heard that special something in my voice (or maybe he noticed the tic at the corner of my eye), because he promptly selected a channel.

The program was a news magazine showing a rerun of an expose on preachers, less-than-ethical preachers.  O.K. -- lying, cheating, stealing preachers.  I groaned.  "Do we have to watch this again?"  Apparently, wehadn't seen it before (must have been just me).  Bill was interested in the program, so surfing was over -- for the next hour, at least.

As the program progressed, I thought of several other exposes that had been aired on preachers in previous months.  If I had never set foot in church before and the only information I had on ministers of the Gospel was gleaned from television journalists, I would probably deduce that all preachers are hypocritical con men with bundles of cold, hard cash in place of warm beating hearts.

I wish those journalists had met my Grandpa.

Reverend Ira T. Harper would have laughed at the notion that all preachers are "in it for the money."  He probably would have conceded that the hot-out-of-the-oven apple pies or the fresh-out-of-the-garden bushels of peas that were dropped on his doorstep as love offerings from church members were welcome gifts.  They helped to feed his family.  But money?  He saw very little because his congregations just didn't have it to give.  But that was O.K.  Being a minister of the Gospel was not a career choice to Grandpa Harper.  It was a divine calling.

Grandpa was a farmer back in the 1930s when he was saved at a brush arbor meeting.  In case you're not familiar with that term: when a traveling preacher came to town to hold a revival in those days, the folks would construct a temporary meeting place consisting of poles covered with a brush roof and laid with sawdust floors -- a brush arbor.  They sat on hard wooden benches while they took in the fire-and-brimstone sermons and grabbed hold of promises about everlasting life and streets of gold.

Grandpa's decision to serve the Lord was life changing in more ways than one.  As he spent time with God in prayer each day, a divine call tugged at his heart.  As Grandma Harper related, "One day, Ira came into the house and said, 'Start packin', we're going a-preachin'."

Now Grandma was saved in that same brush arbor revival meeting, but she hadn't heard anything from the Lord about preaching!  She wasn't about to just pack up her four young-uns and leave her home and the crop in the field.  Grandma was much better at intimidating than being intimidated.  She dug in her heels and stood her ground!

Grandpa was a man of quiet strength and patience.  He waited her out.  Finally Grandma said, "Okay, I'll go a-preachin' with you, on one condition.  Somebody has got to buy our crop, right where it sits in the field."  Grandpa agreed.

I'm sure Grandma Harper thought she had won the day.  Grandpa knew better.  He knew he had heard "the call."

The very next day a stranger showed up at the door.  He offered to buy their crop in the field -- and paid cash on the spot!  Grandma thought he must have been an angel.

She and Grandpa packed up and went preaching for the next thirty-plus years.

Grandpa Harper was a country preacher who could preach 'fire and brimstone' with the best of them.  Yet he had such a loving spirit that he specialized in ministering to hurting churches and bringing healing to their people.

As a child I didn't always understand every sermon he preached, but I loved to watch him.  As he moved back and forth behind the pulpit with his long, leaning forward stride, he gestured enthusiastically and wiped the sweat from his brow with a freshly ironed handkerchief.

Grandpa Harper was a poor country preacher.  He and Grandma moved from one humble little parsonage to the next.  Most of their congregations were poor and unable to pay their pastor much.  They bolstered his paltry salary with fresh meat and produce.

One time when I was very small, we were visiting Grandpa Harper when a lady from his church brought a bushel basket of black-eyed peas and a freshly baked pie to the front door.  Someone else showed up with a fresh plucked chicken.  I asked Mom, "Why are those people bringing food to Grandma and Grandpa?"  She explained that the church members didn't have much money to put in the offering plate, so they shared what they had.  It was not unusual for folks to stop by the parsonage with fresh vegetables from their gardens or hams or chickens or pies made with apples from their backyard trees.

Grandpa had a huge heart.  He didn't have to con people to gain affection and loyalty.  People responded to his sincere love.  His mission was to serve God and take care of God's people.  The rewards he anticipated were more tangible than big houses and cars and expensive suits.  He looked beyond the temporal and saw eternal rewards.

Grandpa Harper didn't have riches to leave to his family, but he bequeathed us something far more precious -- a love of God and a witness of living a faithful life, even through the hard times.

Do you suppose television journalists would have been interested in interviewing my Grandpa Harper?  It's too late.  He's already walking those streets of gold.  But there are many faithful ministers like Grandpa who love God and serve His people.  Wouldn't it be nice if one evening when Bill is playing "Surf the Channels," he landed on a news magazine that was showcasing an upright preacher of the Gospel?  All right!  Shades of Grandpa Harper!

Karen Harper DeLoach

Write Karen and let her know your thoughts on her story!

Karen is the author of the book ?Thirty-one Years and a Stumble,? a story of restoration and hope in the healing of her marriage.  Her stories have been published in God Allows U-Turns: American Moments, Women Alive! Magazine, and several church publications and e-zines, including HeartTouchers (A Dose of Good Medicine).  She is the mother of three sons and helps her husband at their business in Statesboro, Georgia.  To read an excerpt from her book, please visit her web site Breezes from Heaven at

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Thought For The Day:

"Wisdom is the quality that keeps you from getting into situations where you need it." --Doug Larsen

Verse for the Day:

"I would have you learn this great fact: that a life of doing right is the wisest life there is. If you live that kind of life, you'll not limp or stumble as you run." --Proverbs 4:11,12

Kid's Thought for the day:

"One thing you can't pretend to be is funny."

Parent's Thought For The Day

"A parent is someone who carries pictures where his/her money used to be."

Coach's Thought For The Day

"Your altitude is determined by your attitude."

Writer's Thought for the Day:

"I only wish I could write with both hands, so as not to forget one thing
while I am saying another." --St. Teresa of Avila

Deep Thought For The Day:

"There are two sides to every arguement, but I don't have time to listen to yours."



"I have been crucified with Christ and I no
longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I
live in the body I live by faith in the Son of
God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
Galatians 2:20

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