The year was June 1975.

1447 Jackson Avenue in Reynoldsburg, Ohio was our second pastorate.

Rev. Billy Bennett was the State Overseer of the Churches of God in Northern Ohio with State Offices in Akron, Ohio.

Melvin Harter was serving as a State Evangelist for the State. The Harters were conducting successful revival meetings. It was his meeting at Rev. T L Copeland's church in Elyria, Ohio when State Overseer Billy Bennett telephoned him and asked him to do two promises.

Melvin stated that he would have to know what the two promises are before he could promise anything.

The two promises consisted of - (1) Would Melvin go look at a church; and (2) would Melvin pray about taking the church and becoming its pastor?

This did not seem so difficult, so Melvin agreed that he would do so immediately following his revival meeting.

The Harters drove to the east side of Columbus, Ohio and arrived at 1447 Jackson Avenue in Reynoldsburg, Ohio.

It was an old white frame church that was originally built in 1854. It had been used as a school house, a blacksmith and then the Church of Christ had it for many years.

When you stepped into the church, you first stepped into an old bell tower with a small room at the top of the narrow stairway.

Next you entered through the two swinging wood doors to get into the sanctuary.

Someone had remodeled the sanctuary by lowering the ceiling and installing accoustical ceiling tile. There was white paneling all around the walls and the pulpit.

The sanctuary had wood pews about half-way in the church and the in latter half section there were theater seats that someone had covered with white vynal.

A register board was on either side of the front and the number revealed they had 21 recently in Sunday school.

The Harters had turned down many churches that had offered so much more than the Jackson Avenue Church of God located in Reynoldsburg. Why would they even consider such a church now?

Melvin said to Roberta, "This is a joke, let's get out of here." Roberta responded by saying, "We promised that we would pray about it." "Okay," replied Melvin. "Let's kneel down right here and pray."

Melvin was not interested in becoming the pastor of this church. If anything, he felt the Church of God denomination should remove their name from the building because the building in his estimation was not even fit to be a church.

So he did not even go down and pray in the altars. He simply pulled one of the theater seats down and beside it prayed something like this, "Dear Lord Jesus, blessed this little old church and give them a good pastor because I am out of here."

But at that exact moment, Melvin heard that voice again. He recognized it as God's voice. It was the second time in his entire life that he had heard it. The voice stated, "I have called you here to build a church for My glory."

When he stood to his feet, he knew that Roberta was not going to go along with this so he told her what he had heard God say. Roberta responded, "If that is what God said, we had better obey it."

Many friends of the Harters were actually shocked to learn that the Harters had taken this church. Others thought for sure that the Harters would leave after a short while there.


The Harters were excited about pastoring the church because they knew this was the divine will of God for their lives.

Melvin went to preach to the prisoners in the Franklin County jail every Sunday morning. One Sunday returning from his service at the jail, he was riding in the car with one of the young men of the church. The young man informed Melvin that there was trouble brewing in the church and that during Melvin's sermon that morning, several in the congregation planned to stand to their feet in opposition to Melvin. The Harters had never had such an incident to occur in their ministry; however, Melvin thanked the young man for giving him this information.

Melvin was let out of the car directly in front of the church. As soon as Melvin stepped out, the doors of the church swung open and four or five large men walked out onto the sideway. The men walked up to Melvin and stated, "Preacher, when we are done with you, you will no doubt call the police and have us arrested. But we are going to beat you up."

What was Melvin to do? He simply began praying to himself that God would give him protection. And in a moment's time, the church doors opened again, and several other men walked out. It looked like to Melvin that reinforcement may be coming. However, the second group of men said to the first group, "You have ran off other preachers, but this is one preacher boy that you are not going to touch."

Melvin's faith began to soar and he received tremendous faith. So Melvin walked right between the midst of them and simply stated, "In the name of Jesus, you can't touch me."

It was not long before the church's membership appeared to sink to the bottom. The register board was changed from 21 to 9. One day Melvin was praying in his bedroom and asking the Lord, "Lord, I don't understand. Instead of gaining members, I am going down. I need Your help." When all of a sudden, the Lord spoke to Melvin, only this time in a very different way. And here is what He said, "Before a man ever builds a building, he must go in the opposite direction first. Melvin Harter, I have given you a solid foundation upon which to build."

From those nine people, the church began to grow. Soon 154 people began attending church services every Sunday morning. A masonic lodge located behind the old church offered a key to their building so Sunday school classes could be held there for small children. Various neighbors in the immediate area offered their front porches for Sunday school classes. Tow buses were purchased and both of them held Sunday school classes as well. It was a great time of excitement as God began blessing the Harter's efforts in their church work.


The finances of the church were very small. The payment on the church itself was $250 and the church was fortunate to have the means to pay it. There was very little for the Harters to live on, so Melvin took a substitute teachers job with the school system. This allowed him to gain enough monies to maintain the Harter family and time for his pastoral work.

One day, Melvin told Roberta that he believed God wanted him to get two Sunday school buses so they could reach the little children on the east side of Columbus where several of his members lived. There was one main problem, the church had no funds to purchase buses. But Melvin still had faith, and he knew that somehow would give him his buses. He looked everywhere at buses and finally found two very nice buses in Lexington, Ohio. A bus company had many nice looking school buses. There were two buses: a GMC and a Ford that they wanted a total of $4,700. A price of $2,200 for the GMC and $2,500 for the Ford. When Melvin returned to speak with the man about the buses again, he seen where the man had went ahead on his own and had two buses lettered up on each side with the name and address of the church. Melvin was excited, believing that God was some how going to give him these buses. Only one problem remained, there was no funds. So prayer was continually offered before the Lord for these buses.

Late one night, Melvin received a telephone call. A woman was on the other end. She asked Melvin, "Is this the pastor who wants two Sunday school buses for his church?" "Yes mamam," replied Melvin. Well, I want you to come to my house right now. Melvin dressed and went to the woman's house. There were two elderly couples in the living room. Melvin was escorted into the house and told to sit down on the sofa. He was told that he must hear a story first of all. A woman began to speak, "You do not know me, and I do not know you. However, we had heard of your church and that you wanted to purchase two Sunday school buses. We were laughing and saying that your church needs Sunday school buses just like we need two new cadillacs. We were actually making fun of you and your church. However, I step through the back door of my house onto the porch and I heard a voice speak to me. The voice said, "Give that preacher one thousand dollars on those buses." I thought that was strange and simply ignored the voice. However, I went the second time through that door onto my porch again, and I heard a voice the second time. It said, "Because you did not obey me, you are to double the amount and give that preacher two thousand dollars toward those buses." She said, "That is why we called you. I was afraid that the voice would tell me to increase the amount again. Here is your two thousand dollars. Now take it and leave."

Melvin took the money and shouted the victory by thanking and praising God on his way home.

Melvin went to his local bank with forms that members of his congregation had completed, hoping to obtain a loan for the needed $2,700 required to purchase the buses. However, when the banker reviewed the forms, he actually ran Melvin out of the bank and informed him that the people on the forms had bad credit and seemed to owed everyone. Melvin tried to explain that that may be true, but that was when they were sinners. Now they are saved and are Christians. Today they are honest people paying their debts. The banker had no understanding of old-time salvation and how it can make a honest person out of a crook.

The woman who had donated the $2,000 called Melvin and asked about the buses. He had to inform her that he would have to give back her donation because the bank turned the church down on their loan. She asked what bank was it? He told her and she informed him that that was her bank. She said that Melvin was to return to the banker again, only this time she agreed to co-sign for the loan. The bank papers were signed, and the loan was granted. Praise God! The Church of God got its beautiful buses.

Many of the children that came on the buses did not have breakfast. The masonic temple would leave food in their kitchen that they said we could have to feed children. Sometimes, the donate store would sell day old donates very cheap to the church for the children. God was moving in a marvelous way, and even sinner people helped us.

One Sunday morning, Dearl Burton, one of our bus drivers who was not a Christian at the time, decided that he would take the children to MacDonald's. He only had a little money, but he had heart of gold for the kids. On that occasion when those two buses went through MacDonalds, loaded down with children, MacDonalds said, "No charge." Glory to God! God had given those kids food from MacDonalds.

God was doing something. He found an old sinner man who was willing to sacrifice his own personal money to purchase food from MacDonalds and the sinner man saw how God took care of the situation.

One of the greatest sights anyone ever beheld occurred that morning. No, it did not occur at MacDonalds with their donation of free food. It occurred that very Sunday morning. Melvin preached his sermon and the service was coming to an end. The altar call was given and many children came down to kneel in the altar to pray. However, God moved upon one little girl who road one of the Sunday School buses. She walked over to Dearl Burton that morning and asked him if he would like to pray with her and accept Jesus as his personal Savior? Melvin watched this incident. Many members in the church, including Janice Burton, Dearl's wife who was a faithful member of the church, had been praying for Dearl's salvation.

Dearl Burton broke. My how he broke. Tears began pouring down his face. He took that little girl's hand by putting his big rough hand around that little bus girl's hand and she led him to the altar where he fell on his knees and began to cry out to God to save his poor lost soul. The entire church congregation began to shout and praise God that morning. O what a Sunday morning!


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