Harper was born to solid Christian parents on May 29th, 1872. It was on the last
Sunday of March 1886, when he was thirteen years old that he confessed The Lord
Jesus Christ as the Savior of his life. He never knew what it was to "sow his
wild oats." He 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
in earnest entreaty for men to be reconciled to God.
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, he
was known to reply "The Word of God!" After five or six years of toiling on street
corners preaching the gospel and working in the mill during the day, Harper was
taken in by Rev. E. A. Carter of Baptist Pioneer Mission in London, England. This
set Harper free to devote his whole time of energy to the work so dear to his
heart. Soon, John Harper started his own church in September of 1896. (Now known
as the Harper Memorial Church.) This church which John Harper had started with
just 25 members, had grown to over 500 members when he left 13 years later. During
this time he had gotten married, but was shortly thereafter widowed. However brief
the marriage, God did bless John Harper with a beautiful little girl named Nana.
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 twenty-six, 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...
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 that night 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, John Harper immediately took his daughter to a lifeboat. It is
reasonable to assume that this widowed preacher could have easily gotten on board
this boat to safety; however, it never seems to have crossed his mind. He bent
down and kissed his precious little girl; looking into her eyes he told her that
she would see him again someday. The flares going off in the dark sky above reflected
the tears on his face as he turned and headed towards the crowd of desperate humanity
on the sinking ocean liner.
As the rear
of the huge ship began to lurch upwards, it was reported that Harper was seen
making his way up the deck 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 gargantuan 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.
night 1528 people went into the frigid 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. Rev.
Harper asked him between breaths, "Are you saved?" The young man replied that
he was not.
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. Mr. 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." Does Hollywood remember this man? No.
Oh well, no matter. 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.
"Greater love hath no man
than this, that he lay down his life for his friends..." John Harper was truly
the hero of the Titanic!
Unknown. Sources for this article: "The Titanic's Last Hero" by Moody Press 1997,"
John Climie, George Harper, & Bill Guthrie from "Jesus Our Jubilee Ministries"
in Dallas, Oregon