More than 100 years have passed since the RMS Titanic tragically collided with an iceberg in the North Atlantic Ocean on April 15, 1912. The luxury ocean liner carrying within its walls more than 2,200 passengers and crew embodied the glamour and hope for the future of travel, each passenger filled with their own heart’s intent of arriving safely in New York City. Shocking the world, the RMS Titanic succumbed to the damage sustained from the iceberg and only 700 passengers would find themselves able to arrive at their destination. Few were rescued from the ocean’s chilling waters, the testimonies of those who survived inspire countless stories of love, hope and heroism.
The RMS Titanic’s voyage has been immortalized not only through its earth-shattering history but also through it’s romanticized re-telling of an inspiring, yet fictionalized, love between two characters, Jack Dawson and Rose. Captured by director James Cameron, the final moments of the film notoriously overwhelms the hearts of viewers, captivating their attention with a love that broke the barriers of tragedy and transcended the terror of a truly horrific event in history as passengers and crew fought for their lives in the dark ocean waters.
Although popular opinion may argue there may never be a love as inspiring as that which was created for Jack and Rose, a survivor’s testimony has captured the heart of the faith community around the globe, a story of love that goes beyond the romantic and reaches the eternal.
Reverend John Harper of Scotland found himself onboard the then glorious RMS Titanic along with his young daughter and sister. A renowned and beloved evangelical pastor, Rev. Harper had earned a reputation that crossed oceans as he was asked to speak at The Moody Church in Chicago, and to this day his reputation lives through the vivid testimony of his love and heroism.
After ensuring that his young daughter and sister would have the best opportunity of safety, accounts given from that night place Rev. Harper on the ship’s deck evangelizing, pastoring and comforting people who would be unable to secure their place among the survivors.
As the RMS Titanic began to fall into the depths of the ocean, Rev. Harper joined nearly 1,500 people battling the below-freezing temperatures of the Atlantic. Equipped with a life vest, Rev. Harper did not allow the freezing water to deter him from his life’s purpose and mission, and he continued to evangelize to those trapped by their grave circumstances. With his last breaths, he turned his attention to the hope of heaven and the love and peace given through faith in Christ Jesus as he swam through the darkest night reaching as many souls as he could.
As recorded by Rev. Harper’s church, Harper Memorial Baptist Church, Rev. Harper reached a man in the waters and asked if his soul had been saved to which the man responded, “No.” The reverend then threw his own life jacket to the man and said, “Here then, you need this more than I do…” and proceeded to swim to other people.
Although Rev. Harper would be welcomed into heaven that evening, this man would recount four years later at a Titanic survivor’s meeting how Rev. Harper had led him to Christ. He described the reverend’s last moments, as he frantically swam from person to person until he could no longer move due to the icy waters. His last moments were compelled entirely by real, unending, incomparable, never-failing love. His last words were, “Believe on the name of the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.”