While Mr. Herb Harris lay in a hospital bed in Prince Edward Island, recovering from a blood clot in his leg, he looked intently at a map of Newfoundland. World War II was still raging in Europe and Asia and had reached right to the island of Newfoundland where ships were being sunk around its shores. Mr. Douglas Howard and Mr. David Adams, two young preachers, were just starting out in their response to the call of God to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel,” and were having a series of gospel meetings on Prince Edward Island. These men came to visit Mr. Harris in the hospital and were confronted with the map at which he was looking. Mr. Harris was 49 years old at the time and had been preaching the gospel for 20 years or more in many assemblies across North America. He was a real soul winner. He liked to quote Charles Spurgeon’s comment on Paul’s statement, “This one thing I do.” He impressed this on those of us who knew him well. “Notice,” he said, “This one thing I do, not these many things I dabble in.” He prayed for souls, read books about soul winning and talked soul winning to anyone who would listen to him. I can recall him getting out of bed one very cold winter night in a room without heat. He donned a heavy coat, wrapped himself in a blanket, and lay prostrate on the floor, praying earnestly, with tears, for souls to be saved.
When he was on that hospital bed, map in hand, he did a lot of soul-searching regarding his past labors in the gospel and about his future service for the Lord. He spoke earnestly to the two young preachers about the island that was Britain’s oldest colony off the east coast of Canada. He learned that two Irish preachers who labored in Nova Scotia had gone to Newfoundland for a couple of years and had preached in St. John’s, Carbonear, and Corner Brook. He also learned that Mrs. Jessie Snow, who was living near Carbonear, occasionally contacted those men. When giving her testimony in the area she gave out tracts and, in quite a blunt way, gave warnings about the consequences of sin. Mr. Harris asked those preachers if they would go with him to Newfoundland after he got better. Mr. Howard agreed to go. Mr. Adams went to another island, Cuba, to preach the gospel there with his brother Mr. Arnold Adams.
Mr. Harris and Mr. Howard had some difficult times because of the war. They were accused of being spies and were made to leave the island for a time until they could get permission from the British government in Ottawa to return to Newfoundland. During the time they were away, Mr. Russell Harris went to Newfoundland to help out until they were able to return. Mrs. Jessie Snow, who had remained steadfast in testimony for those past years, was able to see an assembly testimony established near her home before the Lord took her to heaven.
A map to look at, a place to pray, and a Bible opened to the Gospels to learn how the Lord did gospel work when He was here, is a good place for vision to begin. It helps to make earthly things dim and God’s things real to us. “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” is an important principle for any believer to consider. Vision doesn’t drop on us like an unexpected event. Vision starts with a person who wants to know God in an intimate way in on-going fellowship. Vision then leads us to start to look at people as God sees them – of more value than the whole material world. Vision, in regards to people, makes us begin to think like God thinks. Vision makes us want to know God’s will and be willing to do it. “I have spoken it. I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it” (Isa 46:11). In an orderly way right from before the foundation of the earth, God worked out the development of that plan. He worked out event after event that revealed the truth of God to people of faith right until “When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Gal 4:4, 5).
Visionary people think, and pray, and plan – and move ahead. Like the Almighty God Who created the universe with the words of His power – and included us in His plan of redeeming people (we are to be spokespersons), you and I need to include others as we seek to carry out that great vision He has of making a “kingdom of priests” to be a Bride for His unique Son. He wanted Israel to be a kingdom of priests on earth after they left Egypt, but they didn’t “pan out” at that time. He hasn’t abandoned them because someday they will be priests. He brought His plan forward to make a heavenly “kingdom of priests” out of people from all over the world. This kingdom is a greater kingdom than Israel ever had been. For nearly 2000 years the multiplication principle has been at work, and uncounted millions of people are able to rightly call the Eternal, Supreme God, Abba Father!
God’s vision is to be our vision. We are very limited compared to Him, of course, but we can see how God has been working in the past. We can only see vaguely as we look ahead. But we can read a map. We can look at a globe. We can learn another language. We can learn to sing hymns and spiritual songs, not just listen to them on CDs, or from a choir. We can read and learn the doctrines of God’s Word. We can pray the Lord of the harvest to send forth laborers into the harvest. We can say to the Lord Himself like Isaiah when he got a vision of the Holy God He served, “Here am I; send me.” We can communicate with spiritual believers and pray together with them. We can humble ourselves before the Lord and present ourselves – body, soul, and spirit – to Him. Then our vision becomes a reality. Then we can go ahead in faith knowing God is working in us to will and to do His good pleasure. Mr. Herb Harris used to say to us, “God wants people of vision, vitality, and venture.” Care, courage, confidence, and commitment are provided by God when we act on the vision He gives us.