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Gus Harter


I was born in Orlando, Florida, January 24, 1939, and reared in Winter Garden, a small town dominated by citrus farming. I was the last child born in my immediate family. My father, Bernard Paul Harter, was a physician in Orange County for over 35 years. He was of conservative German stock. My mother, Ruby Condon Harter, was of Scotch-Irish heritage and possessed a gentle and loving spirit. God in His kind providence gave me parents who loved and cared for their children. My parents were members of the Episcopal Church. Both my brother Fritz and I were christened into this denomination at an early age. Our parents modeled a strong work ethic, good morals and a love of education. However, I was not privileged to be reared in the faith of the Primitive Baptists, or shown in my early years a view of our exalted, sovereign Savior.

For those not blessed to be trained in Zion it is often a long, hard road from Babylon to Jerusalem. At the age of 13, in the summer of 1952, I had my first memorable experience of grace. As I walked home from a local preaching service, the words of the sermon weighed on my heart. I felt myself to be a great sinner, deserving only the wrath of a holy God. Then, the wonderful thought came to my mind that Christ loved and died for sinners like me. Tears of joy filled my eyes and I was given the blessed experience of sins forgiven. I did not understand the theology of this experience, but I knew that I was a great sinner and my Lord was a great Savior. My Christian witness was weak through my high school years. I graduated high school and began attending the University of Florida, where I planned to study as an engineer. After my first year of college our Lord by His providence brought into my life a beautiful Christian lady, Betty Jo Moch. We were married June 21, 1958.

After much consideration, we decided to change the direction of our lives. In order to establish a proper foundation for both my life and my marriage, I enrolled in Southeastern Bible College in Birmingham, Alabama. During the last two years of college, I served a small Methodist Church in the country, about an hour's drive from campus. Each Sunday morning while in transit I would listen to the Baptist Bible Hour from Cincinnati, Ohio—the radio ministry of Elder Lasserre Bradley, Jr. In the fall of 1962, as my time at Asbury drew to an end, my wife and I visited Lexington Primitive Baptist Church on a Sunday evening, where Elder Bradley served as pastor. That evening Elder Bradley chose as his text 2 Timothy 1:9: "Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began." Brother Bradley preached the sovereign grace of God in salvation with delightful clarity and without apology. It was like stepping back in time. The a cappella music was melodious. I particularly loved the minor hymns. The preaching was powerful, apostolic and biblical; the membership was warm and inviting.
In December of 1965, I moved with my family back to Florida, hoping that we could serve the Primitive Baptists in our native state. We quickly grew to love all the Primitive Baptists throughout the region. Then, to my sorrow, much division and difficulty arose among the churches. In spite of these troubles, it was my joy to serve New Hope Church in my hometown of Winter Garden; El Bethel Church in Tampa; Providence Church in Cocoa; and Little Union Church in Lithia. My Lord gave me during these turbulent years a liberty in preaching above any that I have experienced before or since. Our congregations were filled with young couples and many children; baptisms were almost weekly events; I rejoiced to see my four oldest children unite with the church. The Lord also blessed us with the birth of our fifth child, Stephanie, in 1968. My memories of this time in my life are filled with warm, united, growing churches. Added to these blessings from God were a supportive wife and loving children; ours was a close family.

Again, I pleaded with the Lord to give me a direction for my life, and a place where I could serve. After visiting Bethany Church in Atlanta, Georgia, I felt confident that this would be my area of labor. Elder Elzie D. Speir, Sr. shared with me his vision for Atlanta. I can both see and hear this wise and kind servant of God as he transferred to me his burden for the cause in the Atlanta area. He said, "Many of our most able ministers have died and the best of our young gifts have moved away. We Primitive Baptists are at a crossroads, and we are bleeding from every pore. If the Lord is leading you in our area, please come. We need zealous gifts among us." In November of 1971 I moved to the Atlanta area, and that same month Bethany Church called me as pastor.

From the moment I understood the message of grace, it has been a burning fire shut up in my bones. I love to tell the story of the finished work of Jesus Christ. When the Lord opens new doors, I long to press through them and plow new ground.

Over the years I have attempted to plant churches in various cities in different states. Most of these efforts did not last. One excellent work was in Taccoa, Georgia, where Elder R. E. Cagle and I began working with a faithful few. Many others aided in the effort. Together we planted a wonderful and flourishing congregation, Faith Primitive Baptist Church. Another work began in 1993, when one of our ministers received a letter from a Baptist minister in the Philippines. Through the study of the Word of God, this man and several other Baptist ministers had embraced our doctrine and requested some of our men to come and examine them. They desired to be baptized, if they were found to be sound in the doctrine. Elders Jeff Harris and Norvel Mann immediately responded and found a fertile field of labor halfway around the world. Six months later, in July 1994, Elder Harris and I returned. Since that time, many of our men have traveled among our churches in the Philippines.

At this time, all of our children were married and our nest was empty. We were blessed with 21 grandchildren, but we missed the laughter and the love of little children in our home. We seriously considered adoption. From 1994 to 1998, we adopted nine children from four different families. The effort of molding these children into our family was monumental. The credit for this belongs to my wife, who gave a constant balance of love and discipline. The delight of becoming parents again has brought new fulfillment and joy to our lives. These nine have all joined the church and love the message of grace. As of this writing, their ages range from four to seventeen. From oldest to youngest, their names are Beatriz, Samantha, Hope, Laura, Crystal, Jeremy, David, Helena and Joanna.

larry heldman  

Elder James Compton (1905 - 2007)
Elder James Compton was the original founder of the 'Gospel of Grace Tape Supply.' His collection of tapes began as he traveled to Church meetings and Associations recording sermons on Reel to Reel. He has maintained this library of sermons faithfully over the years and are now the foundation of PB Sermons. org. This web site is dedicated to Elder James Compton (1905 - 2007)