It was in the summer of 1897 that I heard of one of these outdoor meetings and decided to attend for two or three days. I was driving a horse hitched to a two-wheeled cart. Arriving late in the evening and tying the horse to a sapling, I entered the preacher’s stand just as the announcement of services was being made.
In the course of his remarks, the speaker said that there had been instances of stealing from the vehicles on the grounds and that other mischief had been done by hoodlums. It was stated that if such activities continued officers would be called to police the ground and catch the offenders.
Hearing this, and knowing that my few belongings were in a suitcase in my cart, I slipped out and hid under a thick bush where I could see my vehicle by the reflection of the light and also hear the preaching at the same time. I was only a few minutes in that place of concealment when I began to detect that some persons were bent on mischief. Soon I saw some young men searching in a wagon. Next they came to my rig and began to search it. In a loud gruff voice, I asked them what they were after. They peeped around to see where the voice came from, but could not see me for the thick underbrush. They turned back to the cart.
Again I asked them what they wanted in that rig. They replied they were after water. I asked them if such a place looked like it had any water, and then ordered them to make themselves scarce or they would find something they were not looking for.
All the while, I kept in the dark so that no one might see how young or small I was. They quickly left to other parts of the ground. Several gangs of hoodlums were around that night, and it was well that I took it upon myself to police my vehicle.
In two or three days after I came the meeting closed with a number of conversions, some sixty in all. On the closing night there was a testimony service. It was suggested by one of the preachers that only the converts in that meeting were to testify, and each was to tell whom God had used in bringing him to Christ.
Among the Christians present was a little, sweet-faced girl about fifteen years of age, who was very timid. Yet of the sixty that testified that night this little girl was given credit for more than half of the number, the balance being divided among other Christian workers.
The preachers, some six or eight, had about a dozen to their credit. Thus, we see that when the heavenly record is opened at the rendering of rewards, many who credit themselves with so many converts will be crestfallen as they hear the judgment of justice at the great tribunal of God and find that they have gained only a small increase for the amount that the Lord has invested in them. Ministers should be very careful about stringing the fish that others have caught.
—excerpt from TEARS AND TRIUMPHS, The Life Story of a Pastor-Evangelist, by John William Harris, Louisville KY, Pentecostal Pub, 1948
John William Harris (1870-1960) was a widely traveled evangelist. His ministry began in 1896 and it flourished at the turn of the century. He held meetings primarily in Ohio and surrounding states, including Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. He also ministered extensively in Kansas and Texas. He settled his family in Hinton WV.