Growing up as a preacher’s kid in a small country church that was surrounded on all sides by dairy farms, I suppose it was rather unusual to have vivid memories of a radio broadcast, “Echoes of Faith,” being recorded from our Sunday evening services (choir, special music and all), but that was exactly what took place. My Dad delivered an evangelistic message every week. We even had a small orchestra, led by my Mom. During the week, she would faithfully listen at home while preparing school lunches and rounding us up for breakfast. The messages have long since receded into my long term memory bank, although I suspect they are living out their truths in my life. However, I can still hear the choir’s opening hymn:
Encamped along the hills of light, ye Christian soldiers, rise!
And press the battle ere the night shall veil the glowing skies.
Against the foe in vales below shall all our strength be hurled;
Faith is the victory, we know, that overcomes the world!
– John H. Yates, Faith is the Victory
I have to tell you – we had some pretty good musicians in that little congregation! They loved the Lord and you could hear it in their singing, which my Dad often explained was the spiritual thermometer of the church. But even more remarkable to me was that humble, unassuming servant of God, whose main objectives in life were to bring as many souls to heaven with him as he could, and to train and equip the next generation to go out and do the same. And I can still hear him signing off each week with,
“This is Pastor George Whitman speaking. Until next time, you’ll be – listening?”
He was never famous, although his children can hardly go anywhere in the world without running into someone who knew him or sat under his ministry that extended well past his 53 years of pastoring churches. His early childhood and upbringing were very simple and ordinary: raised on a farm in the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, a mischievous lad who walked with his sisters to a one-room schoolhouse. His family was so poor he had to sell homegrown popcorn to buy his first bicycle. He even brought a cow along with him to his first week of Bible camp – you know, to pay his way by providing milk for the campers that week! Wouldn’t our health inspectors have a cow over that?
What was it that compelled such an ordinary young man to go out and accomplish such extraordinary things? What was it that inspired a young farm boy to set his sights on eternity, planting seeds throughout his life that would bear fruit in the Kingdom of God? It was the soft prompting of the Holy Spirit calling him out and leading him on to do great things — things that most likely seemed ordinary and mundane to him as they played out in his daily life.
“There’s no sense in going further — it’s the edge of cultivation,”
So they said, and I believed it — broke my land and sowed my crop –
Built my barns and strung my fences in the little border station
Tucked away below the foothills where the trails run out and stop:
Till a voice, as bad as Conscience, rang interminable changes
On one everlasting Whisper day and night repeated so:
“Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges –
“Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!
. . . Anybody might have found it, but his whisper came to me!”
– Rudyard Kipling, The Explorer (1898)
We are continually retreating behind our limitations and saying, “Thus far and no farther can I go.” God is ever laying His hand upon us and thrusting us out into the open, saying, “You can be more than you are; you must be more than you are.” – Lettie B. Cowman, Springs in the Valley