Faithful To The End In The Lord’s Harvest
Elmer G. Klassen, a long-time co-worker with Herald of His Coming, was called to his eternal home on September 19, 2011. Herald of His Coming pays tribute to Brother Elmer for the significant part he took, under God, of forwarding the Word and work of God in various places around the world, which included expanding the message which God entrusted to Herald of His Coming into additional languages.
Brother Elmer had a good, biblically based upbringing in a Christian home and in a little country church in Kansas, USA. He came to know the Lord as his personal Lord and Savior in his youth. One weekend an evangelist from Los Angeles ministered in their community. He had a fiery message on winning the lost to Christ. Elmer’s heart churned as he drank in the challenge presented, taking out time only to dash home and do the necessary chores on the farm and hasten back for the evening session. Other young people in the community were likewise challenged. This resulted in their involving themselves in Bible studies, teaching of children, witnessing, and like activities aimed at winning the lost. As time passed, Elmer purchased a little bus and drove a group of the young people to take some training in the Los Angeles evangelist’s short-term soul-winning school. Here they studied and practiced witnessing and preaching on the streets.
It is recorded for us in Luke 10:2 that Jesus told those whom He was sending forth with the Gospel message, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth laborers into His harvest." As he prayed, Elmer began to realize that God had laid His hand on him to do more than labor to bring in a literal harvest of wheat on a farm of his own. God was calling him to enlarge his vision to win souls in the great harvest field of the world. Elmer’s heart constrained him to give his life to be one of the needed laborers. The Holy Spirit which had come in power into his life lit a fire that burned up natural desires to live for his own gain and focused him on all-out living for the One whom he had taken as his Lord and Master.
By the time he was age twenty-six, Elmer’s home church had commissioned him to go forth as a witness, and it was to Germany that he felt led to go. As a stranger in the land, living by faith, experiencing that his bold and courageous witness for Christ on the streets was not always accepted, and feeling uncertain about how God would have him fit into service for Him there, he at times was somewhat discouraged and perhaps lonely.
Some unknown person had placed Elmer’s name and address on the mailing list of Herald of His Coming and it reached him in Germany at this crucial time. He found encouragement in the messages. He sensed a kinship with the leaders and workers of the Herald as they wrote of Christians giving themselves zealously and sacrificially in devoted service to Christ, with a burden for evangelization of the lost and revival in the church to prepare her for the soon return of Christ. The messages of the Herald fed the fire in his soul and encouraged him to continue to witness and to win souls for Christ. He wrote to Herald of His Coming sharing his heart vision and activities. The one reading his letters realized he was a "live-wire" for Christ, as she expressed it. This led to his being asked by the U.S. office to help a brother working to get a German edition of Herald of His Coming into print. Elmer felt led of the Lord to lend a hand. If the messages had helped him press on in the work of the Lord, surely they would help others also.
Very soon Elmer unexpectedly found himself with the entire responsibility for a German Herald upon him, as the other brother was led elsewhere. How exciting it was to Elmer in 1957 when he received the first 5,000 copies of "Herold Seines Kommens" – the German Herald – from the printer. Almost immediately he took off with 500 copies to Vienna, Austria, and met with good success in distributing them. He quickly found himself in need of the first piece of equipment for the ministry, an addressing machine, for addresses began to come to him from places throughout Germany, as well as from other European countries where German was spoken. Very soon, an average of more than a million papers, booklets and tracts were being distributed per year in the German language, as some readers began to sacrifice to finance the work. The fiery messages challenged many who did not hear such messages otherwise. In his Volkswagen Elmer traveled widely over Germany and Austria, carrying many tons of Gospel literature on the autobahn (expressway) built years before by Hitler to speed war machines but now speeding out the Gospel of life and peace.
In 1961 Elmer began printing a Dutch Herald. The additional strain of this venture resulted in his being hospitalized for 40 days, but after what he termed, a new dedication of heart, and body, there followed a miraculous healing, then a dedication to the work to which God had called him and a dedication of all his possessions, and he was wholeheartedly at work again. Gradually God gathered around Elmer a loyal staff, in whose hearts also glowed a desire to win souls. At times he took them soul winning on the streets and door-to-door. One of his first co-workers went as a missionary to Africa.
Romans 8:32 was a strong support for his faith that God would supply the necessary means as the ministry expanded: "He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" If God’s heart gave us the supreme gift of His one and only Beloved Son to suffer and die for us, surely we can expect Him to supply all needs for the spread of this wonderful story of divine love.
As the years passed, God used him to print also an Italian and a French Herald. God gave him the privilege of helping a Russian Army officer who had defected to the West, to follow Christ and to be discipled, and together they produced for a time a quarterly Russian Herald. West Germany had the advantage during Iron Curtain days of being able to mail into East Germany. He also published books, brochures and tracts in the European languages and bought and distributed Bibles in various European languages. Hungary was one country that benefited from his distribution. The impact made by all the pointed and anointed messages of the European Herald editions is known only to God. But in his frequent travels throughout Europe Elmer could see firsthand that many pastors, students and laymen as well as the congregations were blessed and spiritually quickened. His zeal seemed to know no limits as he envisioned revival in Europe. He was well aware that revival was the work, not of men, but of God through the Holy Spirit. Since God promises in His Word, "And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh" (Acts 2:17), the outpouring of the Holy Spirit became a focus of his labors and prayers.
Strongly undergirding the work of the German Herald staff were the prayer meetings which he initiated, and he introduced fasting to his staff as well. He was active in prayer gatherings outside the Herald ministry also. Where prayer meetings were at a low level, he encouraged the Christians to gather in twos and threes to pray for revival in Europe and the growth of the Gospel in all the world. He urged them to lay hold of the promises of God through prayer as he was endeavoring to do.
After the European editions were going well, Elmer responded to requests to help other Herald editions. He financed the printing of translations sent to him from the field, usually bimonthly or quarterly, and sent them in bulk back to the field to be distributed. In this way the ministry in Germany helped a faltering Portuguese edition in Brazil, and a sporadic Spanish edition which went widely throughout Latin America. He also assisted a Tagalog Herald printing in the Philippines. Because of eager requests he printed in at least four languages of Africa – for Nigeria, Ghana and Malawi. He also produced in English a smaller paper than the English Herald of His Coming. Hundreds of thousands of copies of these issues were printed and mailed from the German office.
After 32 years of zealous service in Germany, Elmer returned to the U.S., where he married and made his home. He was asked to serve as publisher of the English edition of Herald of His Coming. This involved assistance to Herald editions in Asia and Africa, and he eventually took the printing of the Spanish Herald into the English Herald office. God-called, capable workers carry on the work in Germany and editions in German, Dutch, Italian and French are printed regularly under their supervision and with the Lord’s enabling. Elmer retired from the Herald ministry in 1999.
A hymn that he frequently led us in singing when leading in office devotions was: "My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name. On Christ, the solid Rock, I stand – All other ground is sinking sand…" (Edward Mote). His devotion to and dependence on the Lord of the Harvest was the inspiration for the zeal, the passion, the strength and the energy which he poured into his service for God and which God was pleased to bless to many. Ever burning in his heart was the vision of world evangelization through world revival, and God privileged him to take a significant role in helping to spread the Gospel into all the world.
To partner with God in His mission required of Elmer, as someone once wrote in Herald of His Coming, "…a sustained vision for revival, a faith that forged ahead with only the promises of God to rely upon, hard work that at times almost brought him to the breaking point, and prayer that persevered until it prevailed." With things in this world moving at jet speed, so ought also the work of the heavenly kingdom to go forward with divine force and speed, he felt. He had a firm conviction that the Gospel must go into all the world and then our Lord Jesus would come again (Mark 13:10). He lived and worked with an intensity which was a challenge to those of us who worked with him. We are thankful to God and grateful to Elmer for the zeal and faithfulness that he manifested as we partnered together. Even after he retired from the Herald ministry, Elmer and his wife continued heart and soul in prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit worldwide and the ingathering of a harvest of souls.
A verse very meaningful to Elmer was John 15:16: "You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you [a Kansas farm boy], and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain." There is abiding fruit in many places where Elmer helped sow the Gospel seed around the world, to the glory of God.
From his days on the farm Elmer knew what it was to see a beautiful field of golden wheat almost ready to be harvested, when storm clouds suddenly gathered and as they passed over, the grain was laid to the ground, a ruined harvest. Might we each one respond with willing obedience to the plea of our compassionate Lord Jesus Christ as He looked upon the lost multitudes: "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He will send forth laborers into His harvest" (Matt. 9:37-38). Pray! Give! Go! Whenever, wherever, however God is pleased to use us, might we be those laborers faithful to the end!