From the monthly archives:

September 2000


by Original Author on September 26, 2000

Originally posted by Chris Taylor
I arrived at the Harter home in Covington at 7:00 in the morning to help load suitcases for the trip to the Atlanta airport. A rainy cold front had come through the night before, and the dawn was red-clouded and crisp. The air was refreshingly cool after a long, dry summer. I walked up toward the big house on the knoll, overlooking acres of grassy meadows, fenced horses and a creek bubbling happily with recent rain. I thought then as at many other times in the last few months that God had indeed put a burden on Gus Harter, a burden heavy enough to make his spirit unrestful even in a setting of such natural bliss.

Men from Bethany Church had arrived earlier with large, empty vehicles to provide the cargo space for 30 suitcases. While we started loading, Elder Harter worked with Beatriz, Samantha, Hope and Laura to fit last-minute items into the final suitcase. Each of the 15 travelers was allowed two suitcases weighing up to 70 pounds, as well as a single carry-on bag. Betty Jo Harter and her girls had made use of every pound, and we soon warmed up despite the chill outside.

Around 9:15, the Harters left their former home in Covington and started a long journey toward a distant country. The words of Christ would surely resonate in their hearts at this moment: “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.”

The caravan arrived at the airport around 10:00. Several more church members and friends arrived as a baggage handler wheeled cart after cart of suitcases past the excited Harter children to the ticket counter. The entire Harter family wore matching shirts with “Philippines” written on the front and “The Harter Family” on the back. Each of the children also wore a lanyard securing a laminated card showing the child’s name and itinerary: Atlanta, Detroit, Tokyo, Manila.

The people of Northwest Airlines were all kind and helpful. Sooner than I expected, our group passed through the airport security screen and boarded the shuttle train for a brief ride to the departure gate. We arrived at the gate around 11:00.

Once we could see the plane through the window, the reality of imminent parting set in. The mood was quiet among the adults, but the younger children were a bit giddy. They took frequent trips to the restroom, some with queasy stomachs. Some unpacked toys from their carry-on bags. Others watched planes and bustling ground traffic through the terminal windows. Most had never been in an airport before this day. There would be many firsts for them before this trip ended.

Flight 520 to Detroit was scheduled to depart at 12:10 PM. At 11:30, Elder Harter called everyone together. We huddled at gate D15, and Elder Harter said, “Marty, lead us in a word of prayer.” Elder Marty Smith prayed earnestly for safety and providence during the trip, and for the outpouring of the Spirit on the work abroad. Elder Harter then prayed, thanking God for friends, family and the church. As he said “Amen,” his daughters began to sing, “Blessed Be the Tie That Binds.” Through tears and swollen throats, we sang one verse.

At 11:40, the gate agents opened the jetway for preboarding. Elder Harter called for the children and stood at the entrance of the jetway. One by one, 13 children filed by. Each took a boarding pass and disappeared down the jetway. After a tearful farewell to their immediate family, Brother Gus and Sister Betty Jo turned away. Without looking back, they walked through the gate, turned a corner and disappeared from sight.

When he announced his planned departure for the Philippines, Elder Harter used Acts 20:17-35 as his text. Paul was giving up a church to go to a place where hardships were certain. On this day, we finished the chapter. “And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down, and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul’s neck, and kissed him, sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. And they accompanied him unto the ship.” – – Acts 20:36-38

We pray that we will once again see the faces of these dear ones, and that God will strengthen them to fulfill His purpose in calling them to of the trip