Influence – People who have influenced me
Each of us are living out our own individual life stories; stories shaped by our decisions; but more than that, stories shaped by God’s sovereignty. We did not choose our parents nor our genes, nor our personalities with our strengths and weaknesses. We did not choose the place of our birth, nor the circumstances under which we grew up.
Though we all bear the responsibility for the choices we make, including the friends we choose and the spouse we choose; ultimately it is God who brings people and circumstances into our lives and directs the timing of each detail. I can say with the Psalmist, “My times are in Thy hand.” Psalm 31:15 As I look back on seventy-four years of God’s loving kindness and provision and upon some very difficult years in life, I can say with a rejoicing heart, “The Lord is the portion of my inheritance and of my cup: Thou maintainest my lot. The lines are fallen unto me in pleasant places; yea, I have a goodly heritage.” Psalm 16:5-6
The following are some of the people who have most influenced me. I list them somewhat in the order they came into my life. Many more, both young and old, could be added to the list. But here is the short list of those for whom I shall forever be grateful.
Clifford Bicker, my father, was a missionary to Peru, S.A. for five short years. Though I cannot remember my father for I was only four years old when he died in a car accident in Peru while traveling to a mountain village to preach the Gospel; yet hearing and reading of his Christ-like life has greatly influenced me.
Ruth, my mother, struggled as a young widow to give my younger brother, David, and me a normal home. Her parents, brothers and sisters often helped her care for us. One memory I have of her is standing at the front door with us and praying for David and me before we left for school each morning. With her limited income she did what she could to make life fun and she instilled in our hearts a desire to know God. She faithfully served the Lord as a missionary in Peru. She with my father and one year old brother, David, were preparing to return from Peru on our first furlough, when my father was suddenly taken in a car accident..
Nine years later she met and married her second missionary husband, Ken Harold. They served together in Haiti and Jamaica. There God gave them two children, Carolyn and Douglas. In her retirement years in Florida, she continued to serve the Lord teaching and participating in Bible classes until her death in 2005 at the age of 95.
My Grandfather Bicker The only thing I can remember about this old preacher is that he prayed with me in his home in Pasadena, California when I was five years old. I can’t remember what he prayed, but the memory of that time on my knees with him still wields an influence in my life. I also remember receiving letters from him just before he died. He often wrote about being homesick for Heaven.
My Grandfather and Grandmother Smith took care of me often growing up in Toronto, Canada while my mother traveled through USA and Canada speaking about missions. I remember their kindness to me.
Oswald J. Smith, my uncle, founded and pastored The People’s Church in Toronto, Canada. Though he traveled throughout the world during the 30’s, 40’s 50’s and 60’s evangelizing, promoting foreign missions, and writing many books, hymns and Gospel songs; the thing I most remember about him was his simple Gospel preaching that I could understand. It was there that I was saved at the age of nine and gave my heart to Christ to serve Him.
Perhaps the greatest thrill I experienced as a boy was was in People’s Church at the old downtown Bloor Street location. It was the vibrant, rejoicing, congregational singing of the great hymns and Gospel songs of the church. I used to sit in the side gallery right above the organ and was entranced by Frank Trenchard, the organist, as his music and the voices of over 2,000 people shook the church every Sunday morning and every Sunday evening. I wept for joy as people came down the aisle every week to receive Christ as Saviour.
Mrs. Josephine Hope Westervelt was a retired missionary who operated a home for missionary children in Batesburg, S.C. during the years of World War II when many missionaries did not take their children with them to foreign countries There were about 100 of us and it was quite an experience. I was there from age eleven to sixteen. I thank God for the character training I received. I remember my Mother leaving my younger brother, David, and me there. As a young widow, it was heart-wrenching to do it, but in retrospect, I know she did the right thing. I remember her reading to me from II Timothy before she left me. “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.”
Miss Vera Ethel Deardurff was my sixth through eighth grade teacher in a one room school house at Westervelt. This very big woman had a commanding presence as she sat behind her desk all day watching us with eagle eyes. Behind all her teacherly austereness, was a heart for us as big as she was. I knew she loved me. I have often said, I think I learned everything I know from her. It seemed to me then that much of high school and college was just a review of what I learned during those three years. The things I most appreciated from her was a foundation in English grammar and American history and a strong politically conservative outlook on life which she passed on to me.
Miss Violet Bohy was my piano teacher during my Westervelt years. Though I had started piano lessons in Toronto earlier, she taught me the piano skills which I have enjoyed and used for the Lord all my life. I thank God for these single women at Westervelt who sacrificed their lives for missionary children like myself. I doubt they received much money. But any reward I receive for serving the Lord, will be shared by them when we meet Christ.
Lloyd Powlison,one of the older young men at Westervelt, was like a big brother to us younger boys. He used to take us swimming in the creek and hiking in the woods. We had an old Model T without an engine that we used to take turns steering while the rest pushed.
Mark Goodger was a bicycle evangelist. Single at the time; Mark, about 30 years of age, traveled America constantly on his bicycle, eating and sleeping wherever he could find a place, and leading people to Christ wherever he went. Whenever he was in South Carolina, he always stopped to speak to us at Westervelt, sharing his adventures and challenging us to be soul winners. He was our hero and all of us admired his bicycle. Later on he was married and he and his wife continued together in evangelism. We were disappointed though when he traded his bicycle in for an ordinary car and traded his life of adventure for that of an ordinary married man.
Charles E. Fuller was theGospel radio preacher of the Old Fashioned Revival Hour who preached simple Gospel messages that were broadcast coast to coast during World War II from an auditorium in Long Beach, California. He was one of my boyhood preacher heroes. Later on in high school in Los Angeles, I had the opportunity to sit in one of the services In Long Beach and watch young sailors come forward to receive Christ when the invitation was given. http://www.biblebelievers.com/OFRH/mp3_archive.html
Rudy Atwood, the incomparable pianist of the Old Fashioned Revival Hour was my piano hero. What a thrill is was to watch and hear him play “Heavenly Sunshine” in his unforgetable style! Though my fingers were never as nimble as his, and though I am not the skilled pianist he was, I learned from listening to him a little of his piano style. Here’s a sampling of his music. http://heritagemedia.org/catalog1.htm
Robert McQuilken founder and first president of Columbia Bible College (now Columbia International University) in Columbia S.C., was a godly influence in my life. Growing up at Westervelt, we missionary kids often rode, standing in a truck the 30 miles to CBC to hear him or missionaries and other Bible teachers, such as H.A. Ironside. LIttle did I know then that one day my future wife would be a C.B.C. student.
Kenneth Harold, a bachelor missionary, married my widowed mother. Together they served the Lord as missionaries in Haiti and Jamaica. I appreciated especially as a 16 year old, my summer with them in Haiti. He went all out to be a father to my brother and me, taking us fishing, hunting, horse back riding and teaching me to drive. How well I remember going to Convention with him out in the villages of the southern peninsula of Haiti and seeing hundreds of Haitians sitting on bamboo poles for hours and hours in large palm leaf covered “auditoriums” without walls, singing joyfully in Creole while I played the portable pump organ and listened to Ken and Haitian preachers preach the Gospel. It was an experience I will never forget.
Elmer V. Thompson, founder of the West Indies Mission ( now World Team) was one of the most godly men I ever met. He directed the mission under which my parent’s served. It was an awesome experience to just be in the presence of this man who so loved Christ and His Word. He taught that the most effective missionary effort was that of training nationals to establish their own indigenous, self-supporting, self-propagating churches. Several Bible Institutes were established by WIM. to train the future pastors. Today, over sixty years later, the Haitian evangelical church in the southern peninsula is strong and thriving under the leadership of Haitian pastors.
Recently I noted on the internet that the name West Indies Mission has been taken over by the Mormons.
L.E. Maxwell was the founder and president of Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alberta, Canada. I spent my sophomore year of high school in the Academy associated with the Institute. L.E. Maxwell unfolded the truth of Romans 6-8 to us, the truth of how to live the crucified life. See my article on VICTORY in my Comments on this web site.
Miss Pamela Reeves was my Bible teacher at Culter Academy, one of the first Christian high schools in Los Angeles, California. Interestingly, Miss Reeves taught in her Bible teaching the truth of the crucified life which I had first understood at Prairie. Our graduating high school class of ’52 sang as our class song, “Not I, But Christ” taken from Galatians 2:20.
Bob Jones Sr., founder of Bob Jones University, was the primary chapel speaker when I was a student there. This gentle giant of a man had a soft-spoken heavy Alabama drawl that took me awhile to fully understand. For four years I sat under his daily conversational style of preaching which centered on loving Christ and His Word and character building. It was bound to make a lasting impact on my character and on my own style of preaching. One of the truths he taught us was ” If one knows how to live, he can make a living.”
Evangelist John R. Rice I first heard him at Bible Conferences at Bob Jones University and was touched by his earnest, sound, logical preaching. I devoured his weekly paper Sword of the Lord, and a number of his books. Recently, I found his biography on this web site http://www.earnestlycontending.com/KT/bios/johnrrice.html
Since he went Home to Heaven, I have been dissapointed that the Sword of the Lord has taken a KJV Only position, a position he rejected in his book, Our God Breathed Book-The Bible.
Theodore Epp In the early years of our marriage, my wife and I often enjoyed hearing the daily Back to the Bible radio broadcast as Brother Epp taught God’s Word and as the radio choir sang of the old, old story of Jesus and His love.
I think of a deacon, Al, in the Baptist Church where Pat and I were married in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania. He was a mechanic who worked on my car. He had the nerve to tell me, a young preacher who was going to set the world on fire, that I was like a young colt that needed to be broken. He told me that when I was broken God would use me. Wow! Thanks Al, for telling me what I needed to hear.
Patricia Gumm my sweet heart and wife of over fifty-seven years, has been a quiet steadying influence in my life. I thank God for this Godly woman who has loved me and been such a wonderful mother to our three children. What patience it must take for her to sit under the preaching of the same preacher for over 55 years, knowing all his faults; and, perhaps even more difficult, to live with one whose temperament is so opposite hers. I too am learning patience and selflessness as I have learned to help ease her life of back pain that has continued now for over forty years. From our courtship days, through the years we have shared a love for Christ and a basic philosophy of life, as well as a deepening love and understanding for one another.
In the years I have been in the ministry, books have been my constant companion. Though many have taught me; the authors who have influenced me most are: Oswald J. Smith, John R. Rice, L.E. Maxwell, H.A. Ironside, Donald Grey Barnhouse, G. Campbell Morgan, Alan Redpath, Martyn Lloyd Jones, J. Vernon McGee and John MacArthur. One thing in common about all of these influential people in my life is that Christ was the main focus of their lives.
To those of you who pity us and think life has been boring for us, let me assure you that life has been anything but boring. Life has been a continuous adventure and romance with God and with each other. I pity the poor soul whose life is so boring that he has to live in a fantasy world to make life bearable.
Walking with Jesus is an adventure, but this is only the preface. Life in Heaven is going to be an eternal adventure. If you are living a boring existence, admit that you have been living for yourself and sin has ruined your life. Receive Christ as your Saviour and surrender yourself to His Lordship. Get into the Word. Get involved in a church where Christ is loved and where Bible preaching is central. An adventure awaits you now in this life and in eternity.
Recently, I was thinking back to one of the most influential moments of my life.
For most of the six years I lived in Westervelt Home for Missionary Children in Batesburg, S.C. from 1944 through 1949 each morning we recited in prayer together at the breakfast tables Psalm 19:14.
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.”
Each evening at supper we recited Psalm 139:23-24
“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me and know my thoughts; and see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.