LEE COLLEGE - Not only did the Harters acquire their education from Lee, but God also taught them how to live by FAITH.
The Harters located a two-room apartment that was part of a house that had been divided up into various apartments. The rent was $40 per month. Soon it was time to register and enroll at Lee College.
Since the Harters had never had anyone in their families to attend college before, they knew nothing regarding the procedure of enrollment. It seemed that they were running into roadblocks everywhere and soon the designated time would be up before they could even get enrolled in school. However, their former pastor, Rev. R. J. Varnell, had said to them that if they should need any help, they should contact Rev. James Cross. Rev. Cross was the President of Lee College and was Varnell's former pastor many years ago.
Facing certain dilemma, Melvin and Roberta went to Brother and Sister Cross' home. It was a large brick home just down the street from Lee College. They walked up to the door, rang the door bell and all sorts of sounds went off. The large wood door opened and a little lady, with what appeared to be a cloth of some sort wrapped around her head, answered the door. Melvin and Roberta both thought this woman was a housekeeper so they requested to see Brother & Sister Cross. They explained that Brother Varnell said they should see Brother Cross should they need assistance regarding the enrollment process at Lee College.
The lady who had come to the door informed the Harters that she was Sister Cross and invited them into her home. Melvin and Roberta told Sister Cross of their dilemma. Sister Cross immediately telephoned her husband and informed him that she had two little kids who were from Brother & Sister Varnell's church and that they needed some help. After drinking a soft drink, she told the Harters to go directly to the President's Office. The Harters went back to Lee and arrived at the President's Office. Brother Cross and the Harters had a wonderful time of fellowship. Brother Cross called his secretary, who in turn, made a telephone call, and soon someone arrived for the Harters. This person took the Harters to the front of the lines to get them registered for school.
Finally, Melvin was seating in the Business Office. A woman in charge,Jesse Frazier, told Melvin that he has to pay $500. Melvin sat there and the lady requested again that he pay his $500. Melvin mentioned to the lady that she should check her records again and see if this $500 was already paid. She checked her paperwork again and said that there was no money paid on the Harters' account. Melvin told her that he did not have any money at this time, and simply thought the Lord had already taken care of it since it was the Lord who spoke to them to go to Lee.
The Business Office woman requested that Melvin go to the Financial Aid Department and speak with its director, Rev. O. Wayne Chambers. Melvin went to Brother Chambers' office and told him the story of how the Lord spoke to him and Roberta at the laundromat and told them to go to Lee.
Melvin told Brother Chambers that he had no funds for college; instead, he believed God would meet his need. Rev. Chambers asked Melvin if he would tell the same story to three other ordained ministers if he brought them in. "Of course," stated Melvin, "there was nothing to change." Three other men stepped into the office and Melvin repeated his story about how the Lord had spoken to him and Roberta and told them to "Go to Lee." Following this, everyone got down on their knees and prayed.
After prayer, Rev. Chambers wrote a note and gave it to Melvin to give to the woman at the Business Office. Melvin never opened the note and read it (although later in life, he wishes he had); he simply gave it to the lady. Regardless of the situation, Melvin and Roberta were both enrolled at Lee College as bible college students. Praise God!
God never gives an individual the total plan for his life. If God did, then the individual would be so overwhelmed that he would not think he could do it.
Melvin believed Jesus was coming soon and that he should only take perhaps one or maybe two semesters at Lee and then he would be gone. Melvin convinced his Advisor so that he assigned Melvin to junior level classes such as Homiletics, etc. in order to quickly get the necessary courses needed so he could go back on the evangelistic field.
But, oh, that Homiletic Class. The professor was Haskell Bullock. Bullock did not seem to teach fiery Pentecostal preaching as Melvin had known it. If anything, he appeared to be more Presbyterian, even though his background was old-time Pentecost. The latter portion of the course involved two students preaching and the other students giving their evaluation.
One day, Melvin was to be the second student to preach. Melvin thought that he was to really preach, so he prayed and sought the face of God for his message. At the time designated for his preaching, Melvin began to preach. He soon took off his coat, then loosened his necktie, and afterward, unbuttons his vest. He was really into preaching. After a short break, the students in the class gathered together and started their evaluation. The class rapidly went through the evaluation on the first student and now prepared to critique Melvin's sermon.
At this time, Melvin began to realize what the class meant about preaching, and it certainly had nothing to do about anointed Pentecostal preaching. They were interested in three points, certain illustrations, a minister's poise, and various other things.
Melvin did not want to take the criticism about to be given out regarding his preaching, so he quietly prayed and asked the Lord to help him. When the class began to watch the video regarding Melvin's preaching, they were very disappointed. The video was blank. For some strange reason, the camera had not recorded Melvin's preaching. No one could understand why, but Melvin knew why. The Lord had taken care of the situation. Praise God!
During this time in Bible College, the Harters joined the Pioneers For Christ (also known as PFC). This was an organization established by lay evangelist Charles Beach and sponsored by Lee College. There were various vans that were used to take young students nearly everywhere into local Churches of God. A PFC team would conduct week-end revival meetings in the local churches during the evenings, and during the day time, PFC's would knock on doors in the local communities and win many people to Jesus Christ. This was the thing for the Harters. They traveled as far north as Traverse City, Michigan preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and winning many to Jesus Christ.
Living in Cleveland, TN at that time, working a job and going to bible college full-time was difficult. There was very little work, and the hourly wage was not good. Melvin was able to obtain employment at the Church of God Publishing House in the stock room, filling orders. His Bible at the time was very old, and had actually broken in half. He could carry the Old Testament in one hand and the New Testament in the others. He worked with two wonderful Christian ladies who took a real liking to Melvin. When they discovered that his Bible was in such pitiful condition, they presented a special Christmas gift to him. It was a Black Thompson Chain Bible, the best that was made. Since that time, Melvin has preached from that Bible for more than 25 years. He has put special marks and written study notes throughout that Bible. It has now been put away, and he plans to give it to his sons.
Roberta was a professional secretary and could type and do shorthand. She was so good that she had received a scholarship from it. However, there was no work in Cleveland at that time.
Roberta had become pregnant; however, the child died while in the womb and she became very sick. The doctors did not know what was wrong with her. Later, she passed the baby, and it was only God that prevented her from dying. However, she needed special medication that cost $10, but the Harters did not even have $10. Melvin made only $30 a week. They could only pay $3 per week for groceries. (At the time, the Harters thought that food stamps were only for the elderly, and did not realize they qualified until their last year in Bible College.) Since eggs cost 25 cents from a local farmer, the Harter ate eggs several times a day. There was no financial support from their local church or family. A few times throughout the year, Melvin's grandmother would include a five dollar bill in her letter. When it arrived, the Harters were so happy. They set aside a quarter and would go to the local bakery where they could purchase one chocolate burger. It was a round cream filled donut with chocolate on it. Melvin & Roberta would cut it in half, and then eat it. They would chew on every bite nearly one hundred times before they swallowed it because it was so good.
For a while, the Harters had no automobile. They would walk to the grocery store on Ococee Street and carry their groceries home. One one occasion, the potato bag busted and since the street is on an incline, the potatoes began rolling down the street. Melvin had to immediately run after them before they were lost. On their first Christmas, the Harters purchased a tree and then carried it home. There were not decorations for the tree, so the Harters popped popcorn, attached each one with the needle and thread and then hung the strings of popcorn around the tree.
That first year when Roberta was sick from the dead baby she was carrying, along with no job, and just one egg left, she said to Melvin, "How do you want your egg? Fried, boiled or scrambled?" Melvin said, "Roberta, you can eat it. I don't think I could eat another egg for the rest of my life." That morning, Roberta knelt down on her knees in front of the couch and began to pray. The Harters had a picture of Jesus on the wall just above their couch. Roberta looked up at the picture of Jesus and said, "Lord, I know you have sent us here to go to Bible College. I am asking you to send us food and meet our needs in Jesus' name."
No sooner did these words come out of her mouth then God began to move. While Roberta was still on her knees, there was a knock at the door. She got up from her knees in prayer and went to the door. When she opened the door, there was a man standing, a stranger, someone whom the Harters had never met before.
The man said, "Maamm, I am a Christian. Today, I was at the grocery store purchasing my groceries. While there, the Lord spoke to me to obtain various other items as well. I thought, "Lord, I don't need these items, but the Lord said I was to purchase them for one of His children." The Lord directed me to your street, and to this apartment. If you don't mind, I would like to give them to you."
Roberta knew that the Lord had answered her prayer. After the man had delivered 4 or 5 bags of groceries to Roberta, he prepared to leave. Just as he was walking toward his car, he stopped and returned to the door. He said, "The Lord said for me to also give you this." And in his hand was a five dollar bill and five one dollar bills. It was exactly the ten dollars that Roberta needed in order to obtain the medication she required from her dead pregnancy. Praise God! Roberta wrote every item down that the Lord had given to her. She still has that grocery list to this day.
Roberta was unable to get a job anywhere in Cleveland. It was discouraging not to have a job, but Roberta continued to pray and ask God to give her a job. A fellow student attending Lee College by the name of Raymond Culpepper was conducting revival services at the North Cleveland Church of God at the time. Melvin and Roberta went to the meetings. The crowd was very large. Several thousand people were in attendance. The Harters could only find a seat in the church's balcony. That evening, Raymond Culpepper was given the pulpit to preach, but before he started preaching, he said, "Today, while on my face before the Lord, God gave me a vision of a young lady who was calling on the Lord to give her a job. She is here tonight, and God is going to give her a job." About that time, he pointed to the balcony and began to describe the young lady, what she was wearing, etc. Melvin looked at Roberta and said, "Roberta, I think he is talking about you."
Roberta said she thought that he was going to tell her that she had backslid or something, but Raymond Culpepper called her down for special prayer. Roberta proceeded down the stairs from the balcony, and while she was a third of the way down the main aisle of the church, Culpepper stretched his hand out to her and began speaking in other tongues. The power of the Holy Ghost hit Roberta and she fell to the floor.
The following morning, Melvin asked Roberta if she was going to go out and look for a job. "No" replied Roberta. God said
At the end of the school year in May 1970, the Harters bid farewell to their friends at Lee College and started back into evangelism. They were offered an opportunity to join an evangelistic team, however, their local pastor at that time, Rev. Fred Mercer requested they return to Circleville and assist the church in its evangelism programs. Since he was a District Overseer, Rev. Mercer would help the Harters get revivals in the various Churches of God on his district; however, there were no revivals.
The Harters went to Circleville, Ohio and began canvasing the entire community. For most of the summer months, Brother & Sister Harter devoted over 40 hours per week just in knocking on doors throughout the community. In addition, Brother Harter preached at every opportunity he had. Rev. R. J. Varnell, the Harter's former pastor, was serving as pastor of the Lancaster Church of God that was just about 25 miles away in Lancaster, Ohio. Rev. Varnell gave several opportunities for Brother Harter to preach at his church, to which Brother Harter was most thankful and never forgot the kindness of his former pastor.
When the summer ended, there was no place to go, so the Harters returned to their small apartment in Cleveland, TN and prepared for their second year of Bible College.
It was rather embarrassing, since Melvin had such a desire to preach the gospel and wished to do evangelistic work. However, God had other plans for the moment.