This is a true story of the Titanic disaster that is almost never recounted, but it is a source of great inspiration to me. It was recorded in “Christianity Today” in 2008. It was recounted by a fellow survivor just four years after the disaster and a printed copy is on display in the Titanic Museum, but it didn’t make it into a major Christian publication until the 21st Century. It is the story of John Harper, a pastor and evangelist who had within him the flame to convert as many unsaved as he was able. The story as printed as follows:
In 1912 Harper, the newly called pastor of Moody Church in Chicago, was traveling on the Titanic with his 6-year-old daughter. After the ship struck an iceberg and began to sink, he got Nana into a lifeboat but apparently made no effort to follow her. Instead, he ran through the ship yelling, "Women, children, and unsaved into the lifeboats!" Survivors report that he then began witnessing to anyone who would listen. He continued preaching even after he had jumped into the water and was clinging to a piece of wreckage (he'd already given his lifejacket to another man). Harper's final moments were recounted four years later at a meeting in Hamilton, Ontario, by a man who said: "I am a survivor of the Titanic. When I was drifting alone on a spar that awful night, the tide brought Mr. Harper, of Glasgow, also on a piece of wreck, near me. 'Man,' he said, 'are you saved?' 'No,' I said, 'I am not.' He replied, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.' "The waves bore him away, but, strange to say, brought him back a little later, and he said, 'Are you saved now?' 'No,' I said, 'I cannot honestly say that I am.' He said again, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved,' and shortly after he went down; and there, alone in the night, and with two miles of water under me, I believed. I am John Harper's last convert." He was also one of only six people picked out the water by the lifeboats; the other 1,522, including Harper, were left to die.
There is at least one soul in heaven that wouldn't have been there but for John Harper. This was a man whose name ought to be a household word, but I guess he was too evangelical to be talked about in polite society. He reminds me of John Wesley, who said, “Give me one hundred men and women who fear nothing but sin and desire nothing but God, and I care not whether they be clergy or lay, they alone will shake the gates of Hell and set up the kingdom of Heaven upon the earth.’’ Oh, how I pray to be among those hundred. Oh, how I pray that there are men and women living now among that hundred.