Melvin & Roberta married at age 18 on June 6, 1969 at their home church, the Church of God (Cleveland, TN) in Circleville, Ohio.
Both were committed Christians who were saved, sanctified, baptized in the Holy Ghost and members of the Church of God.
Melvin and Robera had come from religious families who had been established in the Church of God for many years.
Shortly after marriage, Melvin & Roberta began holding services in various churches. They had preached several times at the Church of God in Chillicothe, Ohio located on Douglas Street. The State Overseer at that time was Rev. L. H. Aultman.
One Monday, Rev. Aultman called Melvin and him to be the pastor of the Chillicothe Church of God.So just after turning 19, Melvin was a pastor. However, Melvin states that although he knew about salvation and many of the doctrines of the Bible because he grew up in a very religious home, yet he did not feel qualified to be a pastor because pastoring meant that you would have to preach on many things that related to the development of a Christian's life. So the coming Saturday, Melvin contacted the State Overseer and resigned his pastoralship.
Melvin and Roberta spent a considerable amount of time in prayer, seeking God's will for their life. One day, while washing their clothes at the Highlander Laundrymat in Circleville, Ohio, Melvin was putting a basket of clothes in the trunk of his car. All of a sudden, Melvin heard the voice of the Lord. This was the first time the Lord spoke to him in this manner.
The Lord said to Melvin, "Go to Lee." Of course that meant, Lee College in Cleveland, Tennessee. Melvin went back into the laundrymat to tell Roberta that God had spoken to him in a most unusal manner. However, when he went in and said, "Roberta, the Lord just spoke to me." Roberta immediately said, "Yes, I know. The Lord spoke to me as well and said that He had just spoken to you and told you to go to Lee College."
"Yes," exclaimed Melvin, "That is exactly what the Lord told me."
At this time Roberta worked as a secretary for General Telephone Company and Melvin worked as manager for Joe's Sunoco, both located in Circleville, Ohio.
Melvin and Roberta resigned their jobs, gathered together their small savings, bid farewell to family and friends, rented a U-Haul truck and left for Cleveland, Tennessee after turning just 19, only a few months after their marriage.
To the Harters, going to Tennessee was like going far away into another country. Neither Melvin nor Roberta had been very far from home prior to this time in their life.
Pastor Varnell was originally from the Dalton, Georgia area and he shared with Melvin how friendly southern people were. Various others told Melvin that not everyone in the South realized the Civil War was over, and warned him to be on his guard since he would be classified as a Yankee.
When Melvin and Roberta arrived in Cleveland, Tennessee in August 1969, they were excited because they were in the center of God's divine will.
It appeared that everyone in Cleveland was very friendly to them. When Melvin and Roberta were driving on Ocoee Street, everyone was honking their horns and waving at them. Melvin and Roberta responded to each other how friendly these people were, that is until they heard a man shouting to them, "You are going the wrong way, Stupid." The Harters were going the wrong way on a one way street. Melvin and Roberta had the biggest laugh.