(Download as Word document)

Father & Son gathering and dinner

6-minute video of steam trains in Austria. Write me if you would like a DVD of this film. YouTube stripped it of the nice sound track with music in the first minute of play but after that you can hear the train sounds!


The theme today is trains. I wondered if there was anything in the Bible about trains and discovered that, in the OT, there was a railroad connecting Africa and Jerusalem. Really? There was even a train in the temple!

I Kings 10:1-10: And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the LORD, she came to prove him with hard questions. And she came to Jerusalem with a very great train, with camels that bare spices, and very much gold, and precious stones: and when she was come to Solomon, she communed with him of all that was in her heart…

Isaiah 6:1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.

Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.

Dictionary Definition:
The word “train” is both a noun and a verb.

Something that trails or follows behind.
Examples: A bridal train or a string of railroad cars behind a locomotive.
This definition fits quite well to the occasion of our gathering. Some of you dragged your fathers in here and others had their sons in tow.

A line of moving objects, persons or animals.
Example: The buffet line this evening fit that definition.

An orderly succession of related thoughts or events.
That describes what I am attempting to do this evening, but I have a problem: My train of thought gets easily derailed in my one track mind.

To coach or accustom to a certain shape, mode of behavior or performance.
That is what fathers try to do with their sons. My father was not very successful with me, but he tried hard enough to raise me properly. A better word might be “he reared me.” He had a stick with a Bible verse on it that read: “To humble thee and to prove thee and to do thee good at thy latter end.”

• To make physically fit.
I became quite adept at dodging, which kept me physically fit!

Quiz: three questions (display a model steam train)
1) What is this train's main purpose?
2) What is it's most important component?
3) Who is the most important person?

Most people will probably answer: 1) transportation; 2) locomotive 3) engineer

Main Purpose: Entertainment
You probably wrote “transportation” as the answer to the first question, and this would be true for most trains. This train, however, is a toy. Toys are for entertainment. In fact, nearly all steam trains today entertain tourists or occupy space in railroad museums like the one you saw in the video.

Unfortunately, many fathers seek only a buddy-buddy fun relationship with their sons. They play ball with them, take them fishing, hunting or even play with model trains, but little prayer time or biblical training is involved. Someone has said, “The difference between a man and a boy is the price of their toys.” This may also apply to some Christian fathers.

The primary purpose of a church is teaching and training – making disciples. A disciple is a follower. Unfortunately, many churches today provide mostly entertainment. They attempt to attract large numbers by providing lively music, interesting and entertaining programs and activities, but fail to make disciples of Christ.

Most Important Component: Power Supply
You probably answered “the locomotive.” That is incorrect. There can be no question about what is most important. It is the power supply. Without it, the train is useless and nothing more than a decorative object. In the case of this model train, an electric transformer supplies power. A real steam locomotive has a tender loaded with coal. There must also be a fire in the locomotive that produces steam. Every component is important. The track, freight or passenger cars, the loc and even the caboose, but the power supply is most important.

The least attended service in most churches is the prayer meeting – if there is one. Our church constitution says we cannot do business unless a quorum is present, yet we regularly go about church business with very few praying. Prayer is the greatest source of power, and it is something that anyone can and should do, yet it is the most neglected part of most Christian's lives and even in churches. Martin Luther once said, "I have much to do today, therefore I must spend much time in prayer."

Fathers, do you pray for and with your family? Sons, do you pray for your parents and siblings? The family that prays together, stays together. My parents raised 11 children and they prayed for and with us! Before my father went to work and we children left for school, we had a brief time of family devotions. There were problems when we were growing up -- I caused many of them -- but my parents prayed and they raised their children with a measure of success. Today the family in America is in big trouble and I believe it is because few parents, especially fathers, are believers. And even fewer parents pray for and with their children.

Most Important Person: Owner/Operator
This train has no engineer, but someone owns and controls it. Even on a real steam train like the one you saw in the video, the engineer is not the most important person. The fireman is more important. You don’t even have to steer a train, but if no one is feeding the fire, the train will go nowhere. There can be no doubt about it. The owner/operator of the railroad is the most important person.

In Mark 9:33-34, the disciples argued among themselves, who was greatest. It is ironic that the greatest person who ever walked this earth was right there among them! The fireman and engineer are a team and both are employed by the train's owner. The owner determines how the train is to be used and it's destinations, but he seeks and needs workers to help carry out the task.

Bible verses:
Matthew 4:19 "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men"
Matthew 8:22 "But Jesus said unto him, Follow me; and let the dead bury their dead."
Matthew 16:24 "Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me."
Matthew 19:21 "Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me."
John 10:4-5 "And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers."

A lot of Christians who followed Harold Kamping (Family Radio) were disappointed and embarrassed when his predictions didn't come to pass. That will never happen to those who follow Christ. "Jesus Never Fails!"

According to the dictionary, a series of railroad cars linked together does not constitute a train. We may call it that, but unless it is moving toward a purposeful destination, it is not a train. (see definition from the dictionary above). A train may stop in stations or pause to allow another train to pass, but if it is not heading to a destination, it is not a train and there is need for neither an engineer nor a fireman.

Many people including fathers and sons are perhaps linked together by blood relationship, by marriage, by occupation or in some other way, yet they have no real driving force, no direction or purpose in life. If they are moving at all, it is simply gravity or inertia and few things are more dangerous than a run-away train.

My Testimony
In many of my report cards, the teachers wrote, “Ralph is very intelligent and gifted, ….BUT…” When I graduated from Woodstown High School in 1955, I just wanted to earn money and buy cars and have fun. I felt that all I needed was money and a car. I could get along quite well by myself and didn’t need God to push me around or tell me what to do and not to do.

By day, I earned money as a carpenter, and nights, I worked on cars. I repaired stock cars between races, de-chromed trunks and hoods and installed flame throwers in exhaust systems. I bought lots of cars, 38 of them by the time I was 25. I hooked up with a bunch of guys that had similar interests. And I purposely tried to uncouple myself from God. Like a run-away string of freight cars, my friends and I were racing downhill with no brakes, yet we felt thrilled at the prospect of what life had to offer us.

The only mountains I knew growing up in New Jersey were sand dunes. It was in Camp Sankanack in the Poconos that I saw my first mountains. My camp counselor took us on a hike and instructed us to follow him. But I looked down a steep hill and thought, “I could run really fast down that hill!” I took off running and by the time I realized that I couldn’t stop, it was too late. I eventually tripped over a stone that knocked me down. It seemed like I would never stop rolling! I was bruised and bleeding and two front teeth were broken off. I should have learned a lesson from that experience, but I didn’t.

At 19, I was working in the family construction business helping to build churches, but I was loaded with sin and guilt. Instead of being coupled to the gospel train, disciplined, purposeful and following the Lord, I was like a run-away freight train, heading for certain destruction. But my parents and others were praying for me.

In May, 1956, I was involved in an escapade with several friends that included a wild police chase. I could easily have been killed, but I wound up in court instead. The judge meted out stiff fines and gave us all a stern warning. Upon leaving the court room, I saw my criminal file lying unattended on the Court Clerk’s desk and slipped it under my shirt. I hoped to escape paying the fine, but it backfired and I landed in jail.

The judge knew my grandfather and decided to give me another chance. He gave me 24 hours to pay the fine which was now doubled. I had to sell my customized pink '52 Ford convertible for a fraction of its value in order to pay the fine. That hurt! It had as airbrush flame paint job and tail fins molded onto the rear. But I was not about to change my direction or ways. I soon bought another convertible, installed a powerful V8 engine and got a date for the Jersey Shore.

Another Chance
It was a lovely day for the beach and the top was down when I drove into the driveway of the girl's house. To let her know I was there, I revved the engine a couple of times. Suddenly a loud metallic banging noise under the hood startled me and I shut down the engine. I had forgotten to tighten the bolts on the fan when installing the engine the night before. The fan flew off, slicing through water hoses and banging around under the hood before falling onto the ground. It was Memorial Day and, back in the fifties, shops were closed on holidays.

The girl's parents seemed relieved at my calamity and generously offered to take us to a picnic at Camp Haluwasa in their big Packard. I had no other recourse and accepted. I was familiar with the camp. There would be good food, music and a sermon, but afterward, we could go swimming and boating. The camp even had a narrow gauge railroad.

A visiting preacher preached on the Prodigal Son and everything he said seemed directed at me. "God is gracious. He waits patiently for the prodigal son to come home. He doesn’t chase after us or force us but just hopes and waits and watches the road, hoping for some sign of remorse and repentance. As soon as the father saw his son in the distance, heading for home, he ran out to greet him and welcome him home."

The preacher then turned directly at me (so it seemed) and asked, "Haven't you had enough of that pig slop? You have been squandering your life and living for the devil; isn't it time to turn to the heavenly Father and seek his forgiveness?"

I was broken and confessed my sins, asking God to forgive me and make something useful of my life. I meant it!

Soon after that memorable Memorial Day, I applied to Bible College and was accepted on probation. Around the same time, my NJ drivers license was revoked. This normally occurs after accumulating 12 points worth of traffic violations, but I gathered points so fast that I had 22 by the time they caught up with me.

The Greatest Job in the World!
I had been riding a run-away train headed for certain destruction, but God saved me and called me to missions. He gave me a wonderful wife, who was also burdened for missions. We left for Europe aboard the SS United States in 1964 and served as missionaries in Austria for the next 38 years. God blessed our ministry and he is still blessing us after more than half a century serving Him.

There are risks involved when you serve the Lord. Daniel got thrown in the lion’s den and his three friends were thrown into the fiery furnace. And look what happened to Joseph! Most of the Apostles suffered violence. Read II Corinthians 11 to discover what the Apostle Paul experienced!

Back in Exodus, God called Moses while he was sitting on a sidetrack tending his father-in-law’s sheep. Moses began to make excuses. “Who am I?” “I can’t speak.” “I have nothing.” God replied, “What is that in your hand?” It was a staff (See Exodus 4:1-9). Everyone has something with which to serve the Lord.

Moses learned something very important: The great “I AM” had sent him. When we come to realize that the great “I AM” is in charge, then anything that you have in your hand becomes God’s. And with God, nothing is impossible! Jesus said, "Without me you can do nothing." With God, however, "all things are possible." God empowered Moses to lead a "train" of perhaps a million people on the great exodus from Egypt to the Promised Land.

Satan tries hard to get God's followers "sidetracked" but neither the Red Sea, the armies of Egypt, the hot deserts, nor the walls of Jericho could stop that train. It arrived in Canaan station 40 years late because of the people's disobedience, but it arrived.

After graduation from college I was offered jobs at The Philadelphia Museum of Art in the restoration department. Henry Hydendryk, the world's most prestigious frame maker, wanted me to work for him in New York. I turned these offers down because the Lord called me to missions in Europe.

A year after our arrival in Europe, the Wham-O Corporation asked me to set up franchises throughout Europe for the distribution of their Frisbees, Hula Hoops and other toys. Wham-O was later bought out by Mattel Corp. which also owns Fisher-Price, Barbie dolls, Hot Wheel and Matchbox cars etc.. In 1982, I was asked to take on a monstrous 10 million Dollar printing project. Money was available for anything I needed and equipment worth a million Dollars would belong to me at the completion of the project. This time, the temptation did not come from a worldly firm, but from a conglomerate of missions working in Eastern Europe under the umbrella of the Slavic Gospel Association. Again, the Lord showed us that we should continue our missionary work in Austria and I said "no".

We preached the gospel and planted churches. We operated a mission print shop, producing tons of literature for Austria and tons more were smuggled through the Iron Curtain into Eastern Europe. We organized, led and operated camps, did “Chalk Talk” Evangelism, created and showed evangelistic multimedia shows in scores of Austrian cities. We directed a youth center and a rehabilitation house for drug addicts and published a youth magazine. In 1984, we founded the Austrian Bible Institute. Together with one of the graduates, we started a national youth organization. There are now sixty clubs in Austria and the ministry has gone international, established in 17 European nations. We worked with refugees, and after the demise of the Iron Curtain, we helped to rebuild churches from Czechoslovakia to Albania.

I am now officially retired, but not about to become a couch potato. We are still involved in the Avant Ambassador Program, recruiting young people for missionary service (unfortunately without much success). We are trying to reach our neighborhood for Christ and accept speaking engagements such as this one. I do a lot of writing these days. I am busy for the Lord and enjoying every minute of it.

God invites us all to follow and trust him and cast all our burdens upon him. He cares for us and wants to make something useful of our lives. Are you ready? As the old spiritual goes, “Get on board, little children!” Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name...” -- where two or three Christians are coupled to the locomotive, Jesus Christ, nothing can stop that train! Get on board! Go back to your home, business, neighborhood, classroom, club, team, family, church, town, city, state, nation. Go back to your world, wherever it is, and find out what God is doing there. Then ask God what you can do for him. Follow God without hesitation into all world, beginning where you are right now! And get ready for the ride of your life! “Only one life, twill soon be past. Only what’s done for Christ will last.” "There is Joy in Serving Jesus!"

Ralph V. Harvey