Melvin Harter is singing with his sister Sandra at the Church of God where temporary services were held on the second floor of an old city building located on Main Street in Circleville, Ohio. Rev. R. J. Varnell was the pastor. The year is 1963 and Melvin is 13 years old in this picture.
MELVIN E. HARTER
Melvin Harter was born to Melvin E. Harter and Audrey G. (Buckler) Harter on June 25, 1950 at the old White Cross Hospital (currently today known as Riverside Hospital) in Columbus, Ohio.
The Harters lived on El Paso Drive (West side of Columbus) and later to Hilock Road (South end of Columbus) where Melvin's father built the family a home. Melvin attended the Scioto Trails school located on S. High Street in Columbus, Ohio.
Melvin began attending the Church of God as a little child when it was located on Rich Street in Columbus, Ohio. Several years later, the Church of God relocated to a converted theatre on W. Main Street. Then the Church of God purchased a church building on Belvidere Avenue. After being there a number of years, the Church of God relocated to El Paso Drive where new church facilities were constructed. Today, the Church of God is known as the Potter's House on the west side of Columbus where it can be seen from Interstate 70.
In 1955, the Harters lived with their maternal grandparents, Rev. Milford Buckler & Eithel Inez (Smith) Buckler. "Gramps" was a tent evangelist and preached everywhere he could. In addition, Gramps and Grandma Bucker were righteous and godly people and they had nine children; namely, Norma Alene, Woodrow, Kathleen, Audra Garnet, Gladys Leona, Nola Colene, Kenneth Elwood, Modie Jane, Naomi Ruth, and Judith Ann.
Gramps was a tremendous man of prayer, often praying for hours at a time. The entire family, with the exception of Gramps who enjoyed trying to play the steel guitar, had the ability to sing and play all types of music. It appeared that everyone was Christians and at special family gatherings, there was praise unto the Lord, as well as singing, gospel music, praying, and discussion about the Holy Scriptures.
The first song Melvin ever learned as a child was not some little child's song, rather it was a hymn of the church. "Heavenly Sunlight" was the first song that Melvin learned to sing.
In 1957, Melvin's family moved to Clime Road in Columbus and began attending the Clime Road Church of God. In 1958, Melvin (age 8) began ordering tracts and Faith Digest magazines from Evangelist T. L. Osborn because Rev. Osborn would send him 100 tracts free. Melvin wrote his address on the tracts and gave them to everyone on his street.
Later in 1957, Melvin's parents divorced and a year later, the Harters moved to Mt. Sterling, Ohio. In the summer of 1959, the Harters moved to a 30-acre farm outside of Mt. Stearling. These were happy days for the Harter children. In the fall of 1959, Melvin's mother married Fred Ray.
Fred was a devote Christian and a faithful member of the Church of God. A large garden was planted and the Harter children attended Monroe School in Five Points, Ohio.
During this time, the Harters began traveling 35 miles one way to church. They attended the Circleville Church of God in Circleville, Ohio where Rev. R. J. Varnell served as pastor.
Fred purchased a new black 1959 Ford station wagon. The car was used to take people to church. Many Sundays, the 1959 Ford station wagon would have as many as 21 people in it on their way to church. The old car wore out so in 1965, Fred purchased a new black Ford station wagon. Again, it was used to take people to church.
We didn't know much about the bus ministry then. Had Fred known, I am sure that he would have obtained his own bus in order to take other people to church. We attended church twice every Sunday and every Wednesday night for Prayer Meetings and Bible Studies. In addition, whenever the church was having revivals, we attended every night, often arriving home late in the night.
I remember that we had picked up some kids down the old road from our house. They even attended on Sunday evening with us. One particular Sunday evening, one of the boys by the name of George went to the altar and accepted Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour. The next day, he and his brothers were playing with their rifles. One brother was acting out like the television show at that time called "Rifleman." He thought the rifle was not loaded, so he pointed it toward George and pulled the trigger. The sad thing was, there remained a bullet in the gun and it went off. The bullet hit George in his neck, killing him instantly. It was so sad as we went to visit with George's family. However, everyone was so thankful that George had just accepted Christ as his Savior the night before. Thank God, he just got in.
Melvin's father died on October 22, 1961 due to an automobile accident just outside Celina, Ohio. Just a few days before his death, Melvin's dad began to sing unto the Lord in a miraculous way. All the children were called to his bedside and he spoke to each one, encouraging them to serve God and be obedient to their mother. Melvin knows that he will see his father in heaven again some day. During this time, Melvin's pastor, Rev. R. J. Varnell had driven to Celina and had spoken to Melvin's dad.
During the month of October 1962, the Circleville Church of God was conducting revival services with Evangelist James Landrum. Melvin's older brother Ronald went forward to accept Jesus Christ as his personal Savior. Melvin followed his brother to the altar and there he officially gave his heart to Christ. Tears began to flow down Melvin's face and he was soon borned again, redeemed by the blood of Jesus Christ. The date was October 22, 1962. Exactly one year after the death of his father.
At age 14, Melvin experienced sanctification in his life. The tremendous desire for sinful things was gone and Melvin's desire now was to serve Jesus Christ with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength.
At age 15, Melvin was baptized in the Holy Ghost. The story goes like this - the Church of God was in revival. Nearly every night Melvin would be in the altar seeking for the baptism of the Holy Ghost. It seemed that everyone else was receiving the Holy Ghost baptism and he was not. One night, after being unsuccessful at the altar, Melvin thought about giving up and no longer seeking this experience of the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. He shared this fact with his brother Ron. Ronnie got all his friends together and the next day they prayed and fasted and did not eat any meals. That night in the revival, the Holy Ghost fell upon the people. Melvin went to the altar and was soon baptized in the Holy Ghost. Melvin says that it felt like he was in a large balloon and bouncing everywhere. He had received the baptism of the Holy Ghost and was speaking in other tongues as the Spirit of God gave utterance.
One thing Melvin always says about his attending the Church of God. "There was never a dull moment in our services. The Holy Ghost would come down and, my, how the people would shout and praise God. Sometimes people could not seem to stop speaking in tongues. Several ran on tops of the church pews when the Holy Ghost came upon them. Others would run around the church, or dance in the Holy Ghost. There were healings and miracles. Sinners knelt in prayer, repented of their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. God's power was always there." Now grant it, the Church of God was a Pentecostal Church. It was not like many other formal, cold, ritualistic churches. So unless you have been involved in a Pentecostal Church, a person has no ideal of the kind of services Melvin Harter attended.
Since a child, Melvin often dreamed about being an evangelist and preaching the gospel everywhere. At age 14, Melvin purchased an enclosed trailer with two large doors on the rear. He painted the trailer green and the doors white. On those white doors, he painted these letters - CHRIST is the ANSWER. Many times Melvin would be found inside the trailer and day-dreaming about pulling that trailer all over the country taking his Bible and guitar, singing and preaching, praying and believing for God to touch the people. Oh, those were truly happy days!
Melvin and his family began singing special songs in church. Known as the Harter Family, Melvin and his brother Ronnie played the guitar and his younger sister, Sandra, played the piano and together with their mother, later another younger sister, Debbie, would sing together. The Harter family began singing in various other churches as well, especially during times of songfests and Church Reunions.
One special incident that Melvin says is so very important in his life. He often shares this experience whenever he has the opportunity to share Christ with young people. Shortly after Melvin was saved in 1962, his parents requested that he go to the back of the farm's 30 acres and bring Bossy, Babe and Charlie into the barn. Of course, Bossy, Babe and Charlie were their cows. This was strange as well. When the Harters moved to the farm, God gave them a cow. "There was a cow on our farm. My stepfather, Fred, went everywhere throughout the community inquiry as to the ownership of the cow. No one, including the previous owners, had any idea of this cow. So we just kept putting her out to pasture and most every evening the cow would walk down into our barn. Now, several years had passed and instead of one cow, we had three. Bossy gave birth to Babe, and then later to Charlie."
Now, back to Melvin's story. Being rather late in the evening, Melvin took Browning (his mixed-breed dog) with him. They went to the back of the farm and were being the cows home. That night, at the age of 12 years old, Melvin stopped in the woods on the side of the hill and looked up into the sky. There he saw the moon and the stars. In looking up, he said these words,
"God, I know You are up there. I make a vow to You this night that I will serve You all the days of my life. I ask You to keep Your hand upon me. Lead me and guide me throughout my life. I do not know if I will ever marry, but if I do, I ask that You give me the right girl to marry. I don't know if I will ever have any children, but if I do, I promise You that I will do my best to raise them in ways of the Lord."
To Melvin, this was one of the most important aspects of his life. He encourages young people everywhere to get along by themselves and make a covenant with the Lord. Many good things that occured throughout Melvin's life, he attributes it to that special night when he stood on that hill back of the farm, talking to God.
Melvin was called by God to be a preacher at age 16. He had a desire to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Since no pastor or church pastor would even consider giving a 16-year old a revival, Melvin was persistent and refused to quit.
At age 16, Melvin preached in people's backyards. A few chairs would be set up in the backyard, Melvin played his guitar and sing, and then later began to preach to his congregation of just a handful of people. But it did not matter to Melvin. That handful looked like thousands to him when he was preaching Jesus Christ. Shortly after this, Melvin preached on street corners in Circleville, Ohio.
One time a local farmer needed some boys in the area to help him bale his hay. Melvin was given the task of grabbing the bales of hay as they came out of the baler and, with his hay hook, would stack the bales of hay on the hay wagon as it was bouncing along the hay field. Along with Melvin was another young man by the name of Peter. Melvin began sharing Jesus Christ with Peter. Peter wanted to get saved so Melvin told him that "as soon as we get back to the barn to unload the hay wagon, I will pray with you and you can ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins and be saved as well." However, Peter did not want to wait until they reached the barn. He wanted to get saved right there on the hay wagon. So Melvin and Peter put their hay hooks into a bale of hay and got down on their knees and began to pray. Jesus gloriously saved Peter on the hay wagon in the middle of the hay field. Of course, there was no one grabbing the bales of hay that was coming up from the hay baler. When Melvin and Peter finished praying, there were bales of hay everywhere. The farmer had to stop his tractor so the boys could get the hay stacked properly on the hay wagon. Melvin always says, "I don't know what that farmer thought about when he saw two teenage boys wiping tears from their eyes, yet so full of the joy of the Lord."
Years later, Melvin was walking down the street in Circleville, Ohio and a young man approached him. Immediately, the young man greeted Melvin, however, Melvin did not seem to recognize the man. Why the man exclaimed, "Don't you remember the hay wagon? I am Peter and you led me to the Lord while on the hay wagon." Melvin remembered this incident and was so happy to see Peter again. Peter went on to inform Melvin that he was now a Pentecostal preacher and winning others to Jesus Christ as well.
Another time Melvin and another young man were traveling on State Route 22 from Circleville to Lancaster, Ohio. Melvin began to tell this young man about Jesus. The young man wanted to get saved so Melvin told him how he could simply bow his head and ask Jesus to forgive him of his sins. However, the young man felt he should get down on his knees when he prayed. So Melvin pulled his car over to the side of the highway. He and the young man got out of the car and knelt down in the ditch alongside the highway. There they began to pray and the young man gave his heart to Christ. He was saved in the ditch alongside the highway. Praise God!