CONVERSION OF A BAPTIST FAMILY
A few weeks ago I received an interesting email from my friend and fellow gospel preacher Raymond Elliott of Prattville, Alabama. Raymond told the story of the conversion of Andrew Jackson and Lonia B. Harden and their family from denominationalism to the purity and simplicity of New Testament Christianity. I was so impressed with the story that I asked Raymond for permission to use it as a “Hugh’s News & Views.” He gladly granted permission. The fascinating story follows in Raymond’s words.
A. J. Harden was a farmer. He and his family lived in a rural area in the lower part of Dale County, Alabama, south of the small town of Newton. Mr. Harden had the habit of stopping his plowing or whatever kind of farm work he was doing each morning at a certain time so he could go to the house and listen to a radio program conducted by brother Rex A. Turner, Sr. from Montgomery. Mr. Harden was not a highly educated man, but he could read and read he did, especially his Bible. He studied the Word of God very diligently and could understand the teaching of our Lord and His apostles as found in the New Testament. The more he listened to the preaching of brother Turner, the more he studied his Bible. Mr. Harden was so impressed with the teaching of brother Turner that he had a great desire to meet him in person. Perhaps it was in the providence of God that he would soon have that opportunity.
It was about the year of 1939 that the Bethel Baptist Church where Mr. Harden served as a deacon, decided to conduct a special meeting on a Saturday night. Because Mr. Harden had been actively engaged in providing transportation for their regular preacher, the men asked him to obtain the service a preacher for the occasion. He quickly agreed to their request because he knew exactly who he wanted to come to the church and preach.
Mr. Harden wrote to brother Turner and explained his desire for him to come and preach at his congregation on a particular Saturday night. Brother Turner replied in a positive manner and informed Mr. Harden that he would bring a song leader with him. The song leader was brother Fitzhugh Ellington, a gospel preacher of renown in South Alabama. Mr. Harden did not inform his congregation that brother Turner was a member of the church of Christ.
The church building was filled with members and visitors. Brother Turner requested that they not use the instrument while singing and the permission was given to sing a cappella style. Those in attendance remarked how beautiful the singing was as brother Ellington led the congregation in the selected songs.
In his opening remarks, brother Turner informed the congregation that he would only be preaching from the Bible and nothing more or less. When the sermon was finished and the invitation song was sung, twenty-six people responded. Later that night they were immersed in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of their sins in a creek some two miles from the church building. Among that number were Andrew Jackson and Lonia Harden and three adult sons by brother Harden’s first wife who had died. They were Floyd, Grady and Johnny. The twenty-six new members of the body of Christ began attending the Christian Home church of Christ near the community of Wicksburg, Alabama.
A.J. and Lonia Harden later had two sons, Clifford and Freddy. Floyd, the oldest son, would eventually serve as an elder at the Park Avenue church in Dothan, Alabama. The youngest son, Freddy, is presently serving as an elder at the Christian Home congregation. The decision made by A. J and Lonia Harden influenced their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren to obey the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The gospel of Christ is the power to save (Romans 1:16). Jesus Christ commissioned men to proclaim the good news that Jesus Christ died on Calvary so we could be saved by his atoning blood (Matthew 28:19, 20; Ephesians 1:7). Brother Rex A. Turner must have preached a powerful sermon that Saturday night to move those twenty-six people to respond to heavens invitation. It is interesting to note that brother Turner was born in 1913 so he was only twenty-six years old when he preached in the Bethel Baptist Church building in 1939! The Harden family has often expressed their love for brother Turner over the years because he came and preached the gospel on that Saturday night many years ago which changed their lives forever.
Raymond then added this personal note: “I am thankful to my dear friends, Freddy and Sonja Harden, for relating to me the facts of this historic event that occurred some seventy-five years ago.”
Hugh Fulford June 23, 2015