Robert Gilmour LeTourneau Moves Men and Mountains

Robert Gilmour LeTourneau was born in Richford, Vermont, USA, on November 30, 1888, into a deeply religious Plymouth Brethren family. His two sisters became missionaries to China.

Not a preacher, not a reformer, not a gospel singer, not a hymn-writer, but a businessman who learned to give Christ first place in his industrial life. Remember that the Lord does not call every believer to stand behind a pulpit, or sing like a nightingale!

Robert was the fourth of eight children, ran away from home at the age of 13, and gave up school at 14 in favour of working in an iron foundry! He continued his education by correspondence. In his late teens he was living in San Francisco at the time of the great earthquake. He made money selling pictures of the earthquake and during the rebuilding he was introduced to the welding torch, which became his favourite tool.

Godly parents, Caleb and Elizabeth LeTourneau, were praying for this rebellious son, and at 17 he made a commitment to Christ. By the time he was 28 he was working as a mechanic – and had eloped with his 16 year-old bride.

Robert and wife, Evelyn, became involved with the Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. Matthew 6:33 – “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you” became his life motto.

In 1909, at age twenty-one, LeTourneau moved to Stockton, California, and began a dirt-moving business. There he built his own scrapers, exploiting the welding skills he had previously learned. At that time scrapers were pulled behind Caterpillar tractors.

LeTourneau had borrowed $4,500 to start his business and he put himself into it with zeal and willingness to innovate.

A significant change came in 1931 when he “made a deal with God”. That year he had lost $32,000. He felt challenged to make God a major partner in his business so he transferred 90% of the shares into a charitable trust and declared “God owns my business”.

The next year he switched to making scrapers, bulldozers, cranes, etc. His 1932 net income was a positive $52,000. He built the first all-welded scraper with electric motors to adjust the blade, and he invented the bulldozer blade that attached to the front of a caterpillar tractor. In 1932 he used rubber tires instead of steel wheels for the first time on heavy equipment when a customer complained that the steel wheels sank in the sand.

In 1937 LeTourneau came up with the idea of a self-propelled scraper, rather than one that is pulled. When Caterpillar refused to make the components he needed, Le Tourneau built it himself. This put him in direct competition to Caterpillar. Development of the self-propelled, scraper-earthmover in the late 1930s placed R. G. LeTourneau Inc. in the forefront of the earth-moving and heavy equipment industry just as World War II was beginning. “Seventy percent of earth moving machinery used by the Allies in World War II was supplied by his company!”

LeTourneau brought dozens of innovations to the industry he helped to create … and millions of dollars have been channelled into evangelical Christian work as a result.

He once said, “If you’re not serving the Lord, it proves you don’t love Him: if you don’t love Him, it proves you don’t know Him. Because to know Him is to love Him, and to love Him is to serve Him.”

He was known as “God’s Businessman” because 90 percent of his company stock was given to the LeTourneau Foundation, which sponsored Christian missions in South America and Africa and financed educational projects. He pioneered industrial chaplaincy for his employees and travelled each weekend to tell large audiences how to apply Christian principles in everyday life. Thus be became a mover of both men and mountains.

Robert G. LeTourneau died in Longview on 1 June, 1969.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Unseen Authority

I have often struggled to comprehend authority that is not explicitly displayed. And so I have a problem truly understanding the operational authority in a situation if it is unseen. Yet in our lives much of the most important authority we will employ or be subject to is unseen.

I discuss this reality in helping husbands work through issues with their wife. In my recent trip to Europe I applied it for the first time to assist a young mother work through issues with her children.

Let me explain what unseen authority is in practice and how you can tap into it.

Enforced Authority

When we see authority enforced we tend to think of it as having bearing in a situation. If a sign says, “Do not walk on the Grass” and yet everyone does walk on the grass we see that the authority behind the sign is effectively non-existent.

When we see a security guard checking everyone and causing people to be detained and blocked from entry then we think of the authority as being effective.

This is what I mean when I say that we tend to respect authority when it is explicitly displayed. When we do not see an explicit display we tend to think of the authority as being of a lesser quality.

Unseen Authority is Real

While some forms of authority appear to be ineffective they can still be very real. Their reality may become apparent at some later time when recourse is finally applied. This is the case with God’s judgement of man’s sins. Many sinful people live all their life without any apparent recourse or judgement for their actions. But on the day of God’s judgement there will be a very evident display of the power and relevance of His authority.

But unseen authority is also real in other ways as well. Consider the authority which a patriarch has in passing down a family blessing to his children. In the case of Isaac, son of Abraham, the man was old and blind when it came time to pass the blessing. Isaac was of no economic value, having past his usefulness. He was able to be fooled by his wife and son.

Yet this useless old man had unseen authority. There were many things that Isaac could not do. He certainly could not have physically thrown his weight around and given us an explicit display of his authority, but he carried authority none-the-less.

The Unseen Transfer

When Isaac put his hands onto Jacob’s head he transferred the most potent family blessing in human history. Yet it was not charged with Hollywood effects or tinctured with electronic thrills.

The authority that flowed through Isaac was unseen and the transfer that came to Jacob was also unseen. And in just the same way there is an authority which we can employ that is just as invisible, but also just so powerfully effective.

Headship is Unseen Authority

What the Bible calls headship is actually invisible authority at work. It may or may not be seen in some explicit display, but it is equally as real either way. The problem that many people have in coming to terms with this unseen authority is that it is ‘unseen’ and they tend to think that authority must be demonstrated to be real. I hope I have at least opened your perspective a little on that score.

When the Bible teaches that parents have authority over the children and that the husband is the head of the wife these expressions of God’s authority (the government of God) are profoundly real, even if they are impossible to see with the naked eye.

The headship that God assigns is so powerful that it remains in force even when those who should be under that headship are in rebellion.

Did you get that? Headship and authority from God is so real and enduring that not only does it not have to be visible but it can even appear to be contradicted.

The Persistent Unseen Authority

For example, consider a man whose wife has chosen to leave him and live in a separate dwelling. As far as the visible expression of his authority over his wife is concerned it is nonexistent. So what is the reality?

Let us assume, for the purpose of this example, that the husband goes to God in prayer and tells God that the wife is no longer under the husband’s authority. The wife believes that to be true and so does the husband. But what does God say?

Imagine God calling the angels over with the record books to check the matter out. In God’s files what is the record of the authority over the wife? 1Corinthians 11:3 says that the wife is under the husband’s headship. Now the wife has decided to leave the husband. Did the wife’s action change God’s reality? That might best be answered by considering the question, “Is the authority assignment in God’s hands or man’s?”

The Government of God is determined by God and all the authority He assigns is as He assigns it. Mankind is not given the ability or authority to mess with God’s turf. So the authority given to the husband is persistent unseen authority. It persists even in the face of the wife’s rebellion against it. It is not authority based on explicit display, but on God’s supremacy.

Applying the Unseen Authority

In further posts I plan to elaborate on how I apply the truth about unseen authority into the circumstances of the marriage and parenting. Suffice it to say here that once we understand the persistent quality of God’s assigned authority we are better equipped to use that authority, at least before God’s throne, even if the people who should be under that authority have rejected it.

Narcissa and Marcus Whitman Massacred Missionaries

Narcissa and Marcus Whitman were massacred on November 29, 1847.

This dedicated missionary couple both hailed from upstate New York. Marcus was born in 1802 in Rushville and Narcissa in 1808 in Prattsburgh. Narcissa, born into a devout Presbyterian family, committed herself to the mission field at the age of 16. Upon completion of her own education she taught primary school in Prattsburgh. Then in 1834 she moved with her family to Belmont, New York, still awaiting the opportunity to fulfil her missionary pledge

Marcus studied medicine under a local doctor and received his medical degree in 1832. After practicing medicine for four years in Canada he returned to New York and became an elder in a Presbyterian church. He then felt the call to reach the Indians of Oregon, prompting his trip in 1835 to seek out potential sites.

Narcissa could not get backing from the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions since they did not support the notion of unmarried women being sent to the mission field. Marcus and Narcissa solved her problem by deciding to be wed in 1836.

The day after their wedding they left for Missouri in the company of another couple, Henry and Eliza Spaulding. Some years previously Narcissa had rejected Henry’s marriage proposal, nor did Henry have a ‘personality suited to teamwork’.

The group travelled with fur traders for most of the 2,000 miles of ‘gruelling hardship’ and took wagons farther West than any American expedition before them. Along the way, Narcissa and Eliza became the first white women to cross the Rocky Mountains. Reaching the Walla Walla River on September 1, 1836, the Whitmans decided to found a mission to the Cayuse Indians at Waiilatpu in the Walla Walla Valley. Henry and Eliza travelled on to present-day Idaho where they founded a mission to the Nez Percé indian tribe at Lapwai.

Narcissa and Marcus built a “rough lean-to with a mud roof … and only blankets for doors …” There, three months later, a baby daughter was born.

The Whitmans threw themselves into their mission, with Marcus taking church services, practicing medicine and constructing numerous buildings. Narcissa taught in the mission school, while also running their household and assisting in the religious ceremonies. Initially optimism prevailed, as reflected in Narcissa’s letter home, “We never had greater encouragement about the Indians than at the present time.”

Optimism soon faded when the Whitman’s two-year-old daughter drowned in a nearby stream in 1839 and Narcissa’s eyesight gradually failed almost to the point of blindness. Their isolation dragged on year after year and the Cayuse continued to resist their preaching of the gospel.

From the perspective of the Cayuse, whose souls the Whitmans felt they were destined to “save,” the mission was at first a strange sight, and soon a threatening one. The Whitmans did not see the need to make the gospel culturally relevant to the Indians. While the Cayuse saw gifts as an essential part of social and political life the Whitmans thought of it as a form of extortion. While the Cayuse linked religion and domestic life, Narcissa rejected the idea of allowing the natives into their domestic life. Even a sympathetic biographer admits that “her attitude toward those among whom she lived came to verge on outright repugnance.”

As the mission station began to grow “it resembled an inn for immigrants” and prices at the Whitman store – justly or unjustly? – were spoken of as being exploitive. The Indians resented the missionaries’ ‘prosperity’. The mission board 2000 miles away heard rumours and censured them.

Due to the lack of fruit the American Missionary Board decided in 1842 to close the mission and transfer the Whitmans elsewhere. Marcus returned East, undaunted by the coming winter, determined to convince the board to reverse its decision. He was successful and on his return journey in 1843, helped lead the first “Great Migration” to the West, guiding a wagon train of one thousand pioneers up the Oregon Trail.

This influx, however, soon had the Whitmans spending more time assisting settlers than ministering to the Cayuse. They took in eleven orphaned children and their mission also served as a kind of boarding school for early Oregon settlers like Joe Meek, whose daughter lived there for a time.

The mission’s close connection with the influx of white settlers further strained relations with the Cayuse. Narcissa observed in a letter of July 1847 that “the poor Indians are amazed at the overwhelming numbers of Americans coming into the country… They seem not to know what to make of it.”

In late 1847 an epidemic of measles, brought by the white man, struck immigrant and indian alike. However the white children survived, while half of the Cayuse, including most of their children, died.

So it was that on November 29, 1847, several Cayuse, under the leadership of the chief Tiloukaikt, took revenge for what they saw as treachery on the part of doctor Whitman. Of the 72 people living on the mission they killed fourteen, including the Whitmans, and burnt the mission buildings to the ground.

Narcissa was 39 years of age; Marcus was 45.

This event sparked Indian wars which were long remembered. Weakened by disease and subjected to continued white raids, what remained of the Cayuse were assimilated into nearby tribes, especially the Nez Percé and Yakima. Thus the Whitmans’ missionary efforts ended in their own deaths and also the end of the Cayuse as an independent people.

A post referring to to these events and adding other detail has already been posted on September 4, 2008. The link is:

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

Jeremiah Eames Rankin Says Goodbye

Jeremiah Eames Rankin died on November 28, 1904, at the age of 76.

Born on January 2, 1828, at Thornton, New Hampshire, Jeremiah was educated at Middleburg College, Vermont. After his ordination to the American Congregational ministry in 1855 he pastored in various American states, including 15 years as minister of the First Congregational Church, Washington DC (1869-1884).

Rankin was of a literary bent and looked for useful ways to stimulate and minister to his congregants. He wrote poetry, compiled other people’s works and composed hymns. Among his works is The Babie, a poem composed to reflect awkward Scottish accent. Another book, The Journal of Esther Burr, is a biography of one of Jonathan Edwards’ daughters.

Rankin wrote hymns and added them to two collections which he edited, “The Gospel Temperance Hymnal” and “Gospel Bells”.

Yet Dr Rankin’s most enduring work, the hymn “God Be With You Til We Meet Again” came with no particular purpose or inspiration. He had simply noted in a dictionary that the word “Goodbye” was a conjugation of “God be with you”. So he decided to compose a benediction song that effectively said “Goodbye” in an appropriate manner for a congregation.

God be with you ’till we meet again,
By His counsels guide, uphold you,
With His sheep securely fold you –
God be with you ’till we meet again.

For all his literary talents Rankin could not compose the tune for himself. So he sent the text off to two prospective suppliers of melody. One was a well known composer and the other an unknown Methodist schoolmaster, who was a very amateur and by no means competent musician.

When the music was ready, Rankin preferred the schoolmaster’s tune, thus giving the otherwise unknown W.G. Tomer a share of the international limelight.

The song was popularized by Ira Sankey in D.L. Moody’s evangelistic meetings. And many a missionary sailing for an overseas field of service would hear friends singing it as the boat left the wharf.

A scout master visiting a dying lad in a London hospital heard the boy repeating “One Four One”. The man had no idea what the boy meant, but after the lad’s death the man discovered that Hymn 141 in the hymnbook was “God be with you til we meet again”. For a season some English scout groups began using “141” as their code for “Goodbye”.

In 1889 Rankin was elected to the Presidency of Howard College, Washington DC, a school originally founded as an African-American seminary after the Civil War, where he continued until his death.

This post is based on the work of my late friend Donald Prout whose love for books and Christian history led him to collate a daily Christian calendar. I continue to work with Don’s wife, Barbara, to share his life work with the world. I have updated some of these historical posts and will hopefully draw from Don’s huge files of clippings to continue this series beyond Don’s original work. More of Don’s work can be found at I am indebted to Don for awakening in me an interest in Church History, which I previously considered to be a little stuffy and of little practical value. I find in the process of updating Don’s Christian Diary that I am being constantly refreshed, illuminated or challenged by the lives of those who have gone before.

The Spirit of a Marriage

Have you damaged the spirit of your marriage? Do you know the current health of your marriage? What is the ‘spirit of the marriage’ and how can it be damaged or healed?

These are the questions I will open for you, so you will be attentive to some things that may have escaped your attention up until now.

Hidden Person in Your Spouse

The Bible tells us that each woman has a “hidden man of the heart” which is a source of true beauty for them. Peter advised women not to be distracted by their external beauty tricks, of tizzing up their hair or wearing jewellery. Instead, he advocated that the woman allow her inner beauty, the “hidden man of the heart” to come forth.

“Likewise, you wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation (example) of the wives; While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear. Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price. For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement.” 1Peter 3:1-6

Hidden Things in Your Marriage

Each person has a hidden, inner life. We do not readily expose our inner self to others, and in fact our inner self is at its most special when shared between husband and wife. The wife is encouraged to reveal to her husband the hidden person within her heart.

Many people never see the hidden person in their spouse. But worse still, many people damage their marriage by offending the inner person in their spouse.

Hidden Damage

Marriage creates the most intimate level of relationship possible on earth. Two people receive a divine status as one physical entity, enabling them to share intimacy in the sanctity of God’s own morality. This unique relationship should be the place where two people are able to share their most hidden thoughts and feelings with each other in complete confidence and security.

However, when husbands and wives offend each other they cause the other to lock away their most secret thoughts and their hidden person, so that they never show the other the “hidden man of the heart”. This becomes a hidden damage in the marriage.

On the surface the couple may be happy, cooperative and exemplary. Yet one or both will have closed off their inner person from the other.

They may enjoy frequent and fun-filled physical intimacy but the intimacy of the soul is rarely if ever enjoyed by them.

Hidden Man Intimacy

Every marriage holds the potential for a level of interpersonal fellowship and sharing where both husband and wife trust their most secret and sacred self to the other. That is a profound level of intimacy

When a couple has intimacy at the level of the hidden man they are reaping richness from their marriage which others simply do not know exists.

The Spirit of the Marriage

The spirit of the marriage is that wonderful potential which your marriage can enjoy if only you both love each other with the level of commitment and openness that enables both to readily reveal the hidden man of the heart to the other.

This spirit of the marriage is damaged when the couple hurts and offends each other. When a husband or wife feels that their spouse does not respect, love, cherish and trust them the spirit of the marriage is damaged.

If, for example, the wife feels dismissed by her husband, and that he does not care for her inner thoughts and feelings, just that she make him happy, then she will shut down part of herself and that will damage the spirit of the marriage.

Auditing Your Marriage

Your marriage may be a happy and delightful relationship where the two of you get along with great companionship. That’s great. But even so it is possible for you both to be missing the richness of the spirit of your marriage. This will be because one or both of you have damaged the inner man of the other and caused them to close off their ‘hidden man’ from the other.

So how is your marriage going? How is the spirit of your marriage? If you have damaged your relationship and your spouse is not opening to you the depths of his or her heart and soul then you are the poorer for it.

Don’t settle for less than a rich and wonderful depth to the spirit of your marriage, where the hidden man of both of you is trusted in the hands of the other. I pray that your experience be that of a blessed spirit of the marriage.