How Much is Too Much?
Only one life; twill soon be past;
Only whats done for Christ will last.
I often said that I wished I had a dozen
lives to live, so I could do all the things I wanted to
do in life. Architect, builder, inventor, mechanic,
welder, farmer, boat builder, journalist, musician and
artist these were only a few of my interests.
Following my conversion, I took the above mentioned ditty
to heart and wasted no time enrolling in a Bible college
to prepare for whatever the Lord wanted to do with my
life. I wanted to learn!
"YOU LEARN TOO MUCH!"
Festus said with a loud voice,
Paul, thou art beside thyself; much learning doth make
thee mad." Acts 26:24
I was anything but a good student in High School, but God
changed my attitude towards learning after my conversion.
Although I had to work 20 to 40 hours a week next to my
college courses, I tried to learn as much as possible. I
even spent time in the library reading study material
that was not required. I got disgusted with fellow
students who signed up only for those classes which were
easy or required. Once, I asked a roommate if he was
seeking the least education for his money. His reply left
me speechless; Sure, I want to get paid for
working, not pay for it! The price for that piece
of paper called a diploma was around $15,000 in 1962!
Upon our arrival in Austria, we promptly enrolled in two
language schools simultaneously. In order to expedite the
learning process, we also hired a University German major
to give private tutoring.
After eight years of grammar school, four years of High
School, four years of college, two years of language
study and four more decades of learning, I am still not
educated. My office walls are full of Bibles and books. I
am presently devouring books on church history and there
is much more that I would like to learn.
People who criticize me are not enemies. Critics have
been some of my best teachers, for they tell me what I do
wrong when friends dont. Critics taught me good
German and I can only blame myself for the bad. But
sometimes, my critics say that I talk too much.
"YOU TALK TOO MUCH!"
Europeans have an expression which says,
Speech is silver; silence is gold. I guess I
am a silver person who has little time for gold!
When the Apostle James wrote about all the terrible
things our tongue is capable of, he was certainly not
saying that we should disobey Christ. We are commanded to
preach the gospel and be His witnesses. When it comes to
witnessing, many Christians seem to be infatuated with
gold. Unless the Word is shared with others, it produces
little if any fruit. My filing cabinet is filled with
sermons I have preached and even more are stored
A German invented the printing press and another German
translated the Bible into German. Printing multiplies the
potential of the tongue both positively and
negatively speaking. You dont make a single mistake
in the printing business; you make thousands or even
millions of them! But there is no denying the fact that
Christian literature has had a powerful impact on this
I began mimeographing a youth paper in 1972 and when
demand for the periodical increased, I bought an offset
press and began to print the magazine. Word spread that I
was printing, and soon I was swamped with requests to
print tracts, invitations, posters, leaflets and books
for churches and mission organizations. Tons of
literature were produced and smuggled into Eastern
No Christian rejects printed literature
because of all the pornography, yet there are some who
argue against the use of Internet for that reason. Three
years ago, in 1998, I was among 2 % of those over sixty,
who had Internet access. Today, senior citizens are the
fastest growing group getting on line. Most of them are
just consumers, but I am a producer, helping churches
create websites and serving as webmaster for six of them.
In spite of all this, I fully realize that the great
commission was given to people and not things. Tools
dont build a house but builders use tools to
expedite the process.
YOU DO TOO MUCH!
Friends tell me I am trying to do too
much but sitting still was always difficult for me. My
First Grade teacher wrote in my report card, Ralph
would rather stand on his head than his feet.
There is only one sure
way of avoiding mistakes and that is to make the
biggest mistake of all: do nothing! The farmer
who has no cows has the cleanest and sweetest
smelling barn. But is he really a farmer?
From the moment we
arrived in Austria, I was looking for things to do. Even
during language study, I helped remodel a house that was
to be used for a Bible School, drew Chalk
Talks in the Church on Wheels and
handed out flyers for a Telephone counseling service.
Within a year, I was teaching Sunday School, conducting
childrens classes among Gypsies, helping with camps
and doing literature distribution.
We started our first church planting project in 1966 with
a schedule that would have exhausted most senior pastors.
In addition to preaching sermons and conducting weekly
Bible studies in three towns, there were children and
youth meetings, visitation and evangelistic outreach.
Shoveling tons of snow and coal in winter and cutting hay
for our rabbits in summer were welcome diversions!
In 1969 we began a youth ministry in the industrial city
of Linz. The Catacomb Youth Center was dedicated in 1971.
Located in the heart of the city, it wasnt long
before we were working with drug addicts. We rented
several rooms in the Salvation Army, where
clean youth lived with addicts who wanted
rehabilitation. We called it the Extra Mile
Domicile. During the summer of 1972, the youth
center was open every night from 7:00 PM until after
midnight. We obviously did too much, but 40 young people
found Christ. After that, the center was open only three
nights a week.
As if I didnt have enough to do working with youth,
editing a magazine and operating a print shop, I also
accepted pastoral charge of the Linz Baptist Church
during the seven-month illness and rehabilitation of the
Pastor. Because the church had three out-stations in
other cities, these too became my responsibility. The
work load was exhausting and people kept telling me,
Dont do so much! On the other hand, the
same people kept finding more for me to do.
I often feel frustrated that I dont get half as
much done as I intend to do. This is perhaps one reason
why I crashed in the fall of 1995. They call it a
mid-life crises, but I was 58 then and I doubt if
Ill live to be 116! Why do I do so
much? I guess its because I want too much -
and spoiled brats usually get what they want.
The most hated person
in the workplace is the one who does too much. He
or she is a threat to less motivated workers and
sometimes even makes the boss nervous.
YOU WANT TOO
Before I was married, I owned 38 cars. I
was never satisfied with them and sought ways to improve
them and make them go faster. This same characteristic
drove my missions career. There was hardly a thing I
wouldnt try to reach Austrians for Christ and I was
always on the lookout for new ideas and methods to
accomplish that goal.
During the eighties, I became convinced that Austria
needed to train Christian leaders. Friends told me I was
wasting my time trying to generate interest in
establishing a Bible School. Four such attempts had
already failed but I kept planning, praying, working and
wanting until the Austrian Bible Institute became reality
in 1984. I was Business Manager, which meant raising
money to pay bills.
This was of course in addition to leading a church,
operating a print shop, and serving as Mission Field
I enjoyed working with kids, so when one of the Bible
Institute students said that he wanted to start a youth
organization, we joined forces to establish
ABÍJ in 1987. Soon there were sixty local
clubs in Austria, and beginning in 2001, the work
expanded into a dozen European nations under the name
YOU ASK TOO MUCH!
We seldom mention personal needs, but I
have raised more than half a Million Dollars for various
mission projects. I did fundraising for a print shop, the
Bible Institute, for refugee aid, and to build churches
in Romania and Albania. I collected many truckloads of
food supplies, clothing and other materials in Austria
that were shipped into Eastern Europe.
We are blessed and have no debts, but others keep asking
if they can help. That question usually puts me on a
guilt trip and I feel I must start another project.
I have probably turned down more money than I ever asked
for. Back in 1965, Wham-O (later purchased by Mattel
Corp.) wanted me to set up franchises throughout Europe
for distribution of their Frisbees and Hula Hoops. In
1982, I was asked to take on a monstrous $10-Million
printing project, but I turned down both offers because I
believed the Lord wanted us to be missionaries in
TOO MUCH INFORMATION"
In Austria, the first question that is
asked after being introduced is, What is your
occupation? Newspaper reports on accidents and
criminal offences always mention the occupation of those
involved even if they never worked a day of their lives.
For migrant laborers, it is sufficient to state this as
an occupation, but when I tried it on a form required for
registering a vehicle, the official was quite indignant.
He said, An American is NOT a migrant
If I tell them I am a missionary, the follow-up question
is, In what country? So I list all the things
I do and get a blank stare. There is nothing quite so
frustrating to an Austrian official as when you give them
too much information.
What should I answer?
I have served several churches and preached
hundreds if not a thousand sermons, but was never
I mastered most handwork occupations related to
construction and automobiles. Dare I claim to be a
builder or mechanic?
I am familiar with graphics and printing and
operate a fully equipped print shop, but never learned
I have edited and published two periodicals,
written numerous magazine articles and brochures. I am
working on a couple of books, but I don't consider myself
to be an author, writer or journalist.
I worked in an art gallery and learned to restore
old masterpieces. I carved elaborate picture frames and
applied gold-leaf. One of my ministries is doing
chalk talks. But I never took an art course,
so I dont qualify as an artist.
I learned to play steel guitar and banjo. I have
sung in choirs and ensembles, a 500-voice chorale and had
minor parts in three operas; does that make me a
I take pictures with every kind of camera. I
create videos and state-of-the-art multimedia
presentations, using four computer-driven projectors and
a video projector complete with sound effects and stereo
sound. I was one of the first in Austria to get a digital
camera, a gift from my son-in-law. But I am not a
I enjoy sailing but am not a sailor. My hobbies
help pass the time but they are not pastimes.
I am envious of the Apostle Paul, who could say, This
one thing I do
but for me, its all
the things I dabble in. It is frustrating, not knowing
what to tell people.
DONT CRY TOO MUCH!
Why do I learn, say, do, tell and want
so much? I really dont know, but it probably has
something to do with gratitude to God for the time,
health and gifts he has given me. Life is too precious to
spend on the beach or in front of a television set. We
owned a 12" black and white portable for three of
our 38 years in Austria, but I refuse to become a couch
potato. Retirement will be fun working for my Heavenly
Father with Uncle Sam paying my salary.
So, dont cry too much at my funeral. Cry for all
those people who never heard the gospel because nobody
got around to sharing Christ with them. They were too
busy learning, saying, doing, telling, wanting and asking
too much! And they will leave all their accomplishments
and accumulations behind, while I enjoy mine in eternity!
Ralph Harvey, 2001