Melvin Harter was just a young man at age 16 when God called him into the ministry. With his Bible and guitar, Melvin set out to do evangelistic work.
During his early years, Melvin preached on street corners, in people's back yards, in local city parks, as well as on the radio. He conducted open-air meetings, and later began to preach under gospel tents as well as conduct auditorium services. During his time in Bible College, Melvin would preach on top of his old bus, and later pitch his gospel tent on Keith Street and conduct tent revivals.
In the summer of 1971, Rev. W. Edwin Tull, Director of Christian Services for Lee College, asked Melvin if he would like to evangelize in the eastern part of the United States. Melvin & Roberta were soon assigned to conduct revival meetings in Pennsylvania and New York. The arrangements were made, and in May 1971, the Harters traveled in their bus to Ohio where Melvin's sister Sandra and her husband Kenny would join his evangelistic party.
Painted across the front of the bus where 8 inch florescent letters spelling JESUS SAVES. Along the upper part of the bus, above the windows were the words that Billy Sunday had used in his revival campaigns in the early 1900s, GET RIGHT WITH GOD! DO IT NOW! On the back of the bus was a sign with the words printed, TRY JESUS, IF YOU DON'T LIKE HIM, THE DEVIL WILL ALWAYS TAKE YOU BACK, TRY JESUS!
Melvin drove his bus to his grandparent's home. His grandparents, Rev. Milford & Eithel Buckler had served as evangelists for many years, putting up large army tents that they converted into gospel tents, conducting revivals that lasted 2-3 months at a time, starting churches, doing all of this with nine children, and mean while, lived on a bus that Milford Buckler constructed by cutting the end off of one bus and the front off of the other bus and then welding them together. Gramps always said that it was a strange looking vehicle that they traveled in and it was often hard to make the curves in the road while traveling through eastern Kentucky back in the early 1930s and 1940s. Yet, God sustained them because of their prayer life, their faith, and their faithfulness to God.
While visiting that day, Melvin did not realize it at the time, but that would be the last time that he would ever see his Grandmother again in this life. When Grandma Buckler realized that her grandson was preparing for evangelistic work, she asked Melvin to kneel down in front of her. While on his knees, she laid her hands on him and asked the Lord to bless him and Roberta as they prepared to do God's work. Upon finishing, she reached into her purse, and pulled out a one dollar bill. Then she handed it to Melvin and said, "This is all that I have right now, but I want you to have it." "No," replied Melvin. "I can't take your money." But she insisted and said, "Your grandfather & I know what it is to live by faith. And I want to give this to you to help you in your evangelistic work." Melvin did not realize it until his grandmother walked out to see the bus, but she was loosing her eye sight due to diabetes. "Why," she said, "Do you have letters on the side of the bus?"
Soon the Harters were on their way to Philadelphia, PA, traveling on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. They had stopped for fuel and as the bus was getting back on the turnpike, they noticed a man who fell to his knees and threw his hands up as though he was praying. Melvin thought that the man had seen the big JESUS SAVES words on the front of the bus and that he was just making fun of the bus. But that was not case.
Later, when the bus made another stop for fuel, there was a knock at the door. It was the very same young man who they had seen fall on his knees earlier. The young man asked if the bus was going to Philadelphia and if so, could he ride along? Of course, the young man was welcomed on the bus.
As they traveled on toward Philadelphia, Melvin asked the young man if he would like a sandwich, to which the young man responded, "No thank you, I don't eat meat." Then the young proceeded to tell Melvin how that he at one time was a Methodist, but now he is a Hara Chrisna and how that he had found tremendous peace in his new religion. Melvin was not acquainted with the young man's new found religion at that time, so he simply read to the young man from the Gospel of John.
The young man said, "If what I have shared with you does not affect you, then this will." And he began chanting and continued to do so for quite some time. Then Melvin said, "Now you have been chanting, how about us singing a few songs?"
Melvin, Roberta, Sandra and began singing. While they were singing, Power in the Blood, When We All Get to Heaven, and a few more good old Pentecostal songs, the Spirit of the Lord came into that bus.
Kenny was driving the bus at the time, but all of a sudden, he jumped up out of the driver's seat, began shouting down the aisle, and praising God. You should have seen that young man's face. It looked as though his eyes would pop right out of his head. He turned white as a ghost, and began saying, "Whoa, stop this bus. Stop this bus."
Kenny regained his composure, went back to the front and sat back in the driver's seat and took control of the bus. He pulled the bus over to the side of the turnpike. I saw that young man jump out of the bus, run down through the ditch, jump over a fence, run through a field, and jump another fence, and then he was out of sight.
That was one experience that Hara Chrisna fellow will never forget. And by the way, the Holy Ghost did an excellent job driving our bus. When Kenny was shouting, the bus stayed in the proper lane and maintained its speed at about 55 mph. We continued our journey and arrived in Philadephia late that night.
Our first morning in Philadelphia, a local pastor met us at the bus and informed us that Grandma Buckler had passed away during the night, and that we could return to Ohio if we desired. My sister & I thought about it, but felt that Grandma would want us to continue on our evangelistic endeavor, and we would remember her when she was alive.
We stayed in eastern Pennsylvania for about a month. Garland Griffis was the State Overseer for the Church of God, and Steve Brock was their Evangelism Director. We had a wonderful time preaching and conducting services throughout the day as well as during the evening. Soon our time was up, and we were now scheduled to go on to New York.
Manual Campbell was the State Overseer for the Church of God in New York. He was a godly Christian gentleman who really loved the Lord and was wonderful to the Harters.
It was the first time the Harters were driving their bus into New York. While driving through New York City, Melvin was driving and he seen a sign that said, BUS LANE, so he thought that meant that he should drive only in that lane. The traffic was nothing like he had ever seen. The bus lane led them to a tunnel. A sign stated at the entrance of the tunnel, NO PROPANE TANKS, and Melvin knew they had a small one connected to their small cooking stove, but there was no way he could prevent the bus from entering the tunnel.
When Melvin drove out of the tunnel on the other side, police cars were waiting on him. He pulled over, and the officers asked if he had seen the sign regarding the prohibition of propane tanks? Melvin explained his situation. The police gave the Harters a personal escort out of the city and informed them to never come back. That did not affect the Harters, there were many other cities in the State of New York that needed Christ.
While in New York, the Harters took advantage of the opportunity and visited the New England States as well. Meanwhile, God blessed the efforts of the Harters during their endeavor in New York. Some of the cities that they held outstanding revivals in are Buffalo, Rochester, Niagara Falls and Newburg.
During the day, the Harters knocked on doors in local communities and conducted street services from the platform that was constructed on the top of the Harter bus. In the late afternoons, the Harters would drive the bus through local communities and announce their evening revival meetings via the large speakers mounted on the top of the bus. Melvin took the Bible literally when Jesus gave the parable that we should go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in that My house may be filled. Melvin believed that preaching to a full house was God's divine will.
In the Rochester revival where the local church ran about 30 people, over 125 new people walked into the Harter service. In the Newburg meeting, a church that ran an average 60-80 people in their Sunday services, over 300 people were attending the one week revival meeting. God's Spirit fell upon the congregation at the Niagra Falls Church of God where Rev. Daniel Combs served at the time as pastor. In Buffalo, people were hanging on the sides of Harter's bus when it was going through the streets, announcing the Harter Revival being held at the Church of God located on Indian Church Road.
The bus required eight parking spaces in the parking lot at the University of Buffalo. While Melvin was preaching from the top of the bus, a police cruiser pulled up, and then left. After Melvin had finished preaching, the police cruiser pulled up again. This time, two police officers asked Melvin to get into their police car and go with them to police headquarters. Since they did not require the Harters to stop broadcasting the special tapes Melvin recorded for the bus, Melvin informed Roberta and the others to continue playing the tapes over the speakers. However, Melvin later discovered that his evangelistic party shut everything down, got on the bus and began to pray for Melvin as he was taken to police headquarters.
When the cruiser arrived at the police station, only one officer went into the building while the other remained with Melvin in the car. It was during this time that Melvin began to understand what God was doing. The officer remaining in the cruiser said, "I know what you are doing. My father was a Pentecostal preacher. I was raised in the Pentecostal church. I use to be saved, but I have backslidden and am lost today." Melvin was able to testify to the policeman about Christ. Shortly afterwards, the second officer returned and had Melvin to go into the police station. The officer at the main desk stated that Melvin needed a permit. Melvin responded, "I already have a permit." The officer had his secretary to go again and see if she could locate Melvin's permit. When she returned, she stated that they had no record of any permit issued. The policeman at the desk then asked Melvin if he could show him his permit. Melvin immediately quoted, "Jesus said, Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. That is my permit Sir."
The two police officers took Melvin back to his bus. They informed him that he had to remove his bus from the parking lot since it was taking up eight spaces. But they also told him that he could pull his bus along side of the curb on the street and he could continue with his preaching and street ministry. Praise God!
When the Harters finished their revivals in New York, they returned to Ohio. Upon their arrival, Rev. L. H. Aultman, the State Overseer of the Church of God for Ohio, had Melvin to come to the State Office. He informed Melvin that he had been in New York and Manuel Campbell told him of an evangelistic team that had done a tremendous work in his state. When Aultman learned it was the Harters, he exclaimed, "Those kids are from my state." So at his office, he informed Melvin that he had heard the wonderful things the Lord had done with him and that he wanted him to do the same thing in Ohio, to which Melvin was thrilled.
Aultman requested that Melvin go to Belpre to conduct a two-week revival, after which Melvin was already scheduled to go to Washington Court House, Ohio for one week revival, after which he and Roberta would then return to continue their studies at Lee College.