Harper took hold of the debris I clung to. His face was pale, his lips blue from imminent hyperthermia, above the sound of the turmoil around me though his voice was weakening I heard him ask, “Are you saved?” I replied, “No.” Harper shouted the words, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved.” Even in my desperation, something in me wanted to reject his offer. Waves drifted us apart, but a few minutes later the current brought us together. In one final attempt to persuade me to accept the remedy for my lost soul, again Harper shouted, “Are you saved?” He asked me to believe in Jesus. Then he slipped under the waves for the last time, never to be seen in this world again.
Like me, you may never have heard of John Harper. It was a surprise for me to discover that he played a pivotal role in helping many people caught up in an event that has captured the imaginations of countless millions. It was the sinking of the Titanic.
With his “six-year-old daughter [Annie], and his sister, he boarded the Titanic… for the privilege of preaching at one of the greatest churches in America, Moody Church in Chicago, named for its famous founder Dwight L. Moody.”
This disaster occurred during the ship’s maiden voyage across the Northern Atlantic Ocean from Southampton, England to the USA on the night of 14 April 1912. As it steamed at a top speed of 22 mph through calm Atlantic waters, it sideswiped a large iceberg that loomed out of the darkness at about 11.40 p.m.
The collision resulted in catastrophic damage to the starboard side. The ship dubbed the ‘unsinkable’ eventually sank to the bottom of the ocean in under three hours, with the loss of over 1,500 of its 2,224 passengers! The rest were taken on board the limited number of the ship’s lifeboats.
Recently, I discovered a part of this story totally unknown to me. As I recount what happened, I hope you’ll allow me to use some sanctified imagination. We begin “four years after the tragedy at a Titanic survivors’ meeting in Ontario, Canada, where one survivor recounted his interaction with Harper in the middle of the icy waters of the Atlantic.”
My name is Steve Crain. Like many of you here, I am one of the survivors of the sinking of RMS Titanic. Today I want to honour one man whose heroic actions changed the future of my life.