Occasionally, the Lord brings people into your life that he intends to be a lasting presence. They are the ones who He uses to help conform you to the image of His Son. I cannot count, or name all of the men and women that the Lord has used to chisel me thus far, into whatever it is He is making of me. The fact is that I do not know them all, because I could never discern them all. However there are some I know, and some I name, and one of those men is worthy of remembrance and say so. I had the high honor of getting to work side by side with Alan Wayne Harper for a very short 4 and a half years. I knew him before we worked together, grew to love him more when we worked together, and have grown to understand and cherish him more since we worked together. Above all things, Wayne Harper was a man of God who loved the Lord Jesus Christ. He would be the first to say he was flawed, but the longer I go and the more I remember, I would be the first to say he was faithful.
“I feel like I could whip a wildcat in a phone booth”
I learned from Wayne what it meant to get a bulldog grip on the will of God and let no man turn you to the right or the left. I wish and pray often for the discernment that he seemed to have. When Wayne was convinced from the Lord, the best 20 men in the world couldn’t convince him otherwise. He was not a man that shunned counsel, he sought it, heard it, and prayed for it, but once he and the Lord were settled, Congress couldn’t move him. One of his most desirable gifts was his ability to find certainty in the will of the Lord. I will never forget the spiritual wrestling matches that he let me be privy to. I got to see how a spiritual minded man handled the anxieties, and victories, of being a pastor and preacher. I watched him in high times and low times, and learned (and still learning) how to keep your focus on the Lord in the valley of the shadow, and on the mountain of sunshine. I saw how he loved his family second to Christ, and most of all. Lorinda was not just his wife, she was his girlfriend, his girls and grandkids were the best on earth. He even praised his son-in-laws.
I learned how to love missionaries, and to disciple the newly saved. I had never met a man before, or since that could personally disciple people like Wayne Harper. There are countless people walking this planet right now that were “brought along” on their spiritual walk through the personal ministry of Wayne.
He certainly knew how to handle a young preacher wetter behind the ears than he cared to admit. He was better than good to me, he was gracious to me. I gave him plenty of opportunities and reasons to rebuke me, or correct me, and in grace he never did or did it in such a way that I was better for it. I often wish I had taken better notes from him. One of the most difficult times of my life internally and emotionally found Wayne sitting there with a hug, wisdom, grace and place, that without any doubt or debate, was one sure tool the Lord used to strengthen a weak hearted shell of a man. (The other was another man of God named Ron Simpson.)
Of course I had never met a man before or since, that could fall asleep in mid-sentence, only to wake up an hour later, and finish his thought, then argue with you about the fact. I’ve not yet seen a preacher rip his pants in the pulpit, wipe his nose on a baptismal hanky, or dry ground a borrowed boat in the middle of a river, like Wayne Harper. No food was safe, no song unsung, and no boat was without incident. It is a joy just knowing that I know Wayne Harper.
“Never let a full stomach get in the way of your appetite”
Friday afternoon, April 17th 2009 I had just finished lunch, when I picked up the phone and called my friend and brother to confirm the details of his coming speaking engagement at our church. Wayne was scheduled to spend the weekend with us in a couple of weeks for our Spring Bible Conference. We spoke about the arrangements, details of the conference, and then spent a few moments just catching up on the happenings in Mountain View. After a few minutes of fellowship, he said to me “Lord willing I’ll see you in a couple of weeks, tell Paula and the kids hi, I love ya brother, and I’ll see you later.” I said, “I love you too bro, and we’ll see you then.” Just a few short hours later, walking across his yard with his mower in hand, the Lord whispered his name, and “Harper Went Up and Glory thrilled his soul.”
I won’t forget what another friend named Ed Brown told me at Waynes Celebration. He said, “It must be getting close to the end of the game . . . the coach is taking out His best players.” Wayne Harper is not just a man worth remembering, he is a man worth looking forward to seeing again.