“I think God has something really special in mind for you to do.”
Those words from Carolee Ewing at a Boise Bible College Spring Conference still ring in Sam Harsin’s mind from time to time.
Adopted as an infant from Korea, Sam grew up on a 2,000-acre farm near Baker City, Oregon, with strong Christian parents. He doesn’t remember experiencing much prejudice as a minority in that small community. He loved music and was cast as the lead in high school musical productions, and was the Drum Major in the Baker Elks Drum and Bugle Corps. One day his dad said, “You should check out that Pammy; she’s pretty cute.” Pam was another drummer in the band and had already caught Sam’s eye. It was one of the few times he took his dad’s advice, and he’s glad he did.
His senior year, though he hadn’t been nominated, he threw his hat in the ring during the election of state officers in the Oregon Future Farmers of America. His speech, which he spent most of the night writing, got him elected as state Vice President, and he was the first officer to come from eastern Oregon. This confirmed his strong oratory skills, which he had been discovering since giving his life to Christ at camp at age 12. Throughout his life, he has seen how God has used his speaking skills to share the Gospel with others.
Sam had already gained some life experience and spent some time trying to decide what he wanted to do in life when he came to Boise Bible College. After high school, he signed up with the Air Force because his draft number was low, only to have the draft discontinued after he enlisted. After boot camp and training, he married Pam, the drummer, and they were off to his first assignment. He was approved for an early release, and they returned to Baker and settled into working ultimately at Safeway thanks to a friend from the First Christian Church. Music had been a big part of life, so he studied music education at Eastern Oregon University. The question was, what was for him? After trying a few things, including life on a farm, the military, and studying music education, he knew what wasn’t for him.
Sam became increasingly interested in spiritual things. On Sundays, he often started work after church. One Sunday morning during the invitation, Pam asked, “Do you think we should go?” He asked, “Do you want to?” and she said, “Yes.” They stepped into the aisle, facing opposite directions! Pam had meant, “Go out,” while Sam thought she meant, “Go up.” He recalls, “Being a guy, I thought she was facing the wrong way, so I spun her around and up we went,” to a confused minister. Sam told him, “Pam wants to dedicate her life to Jesus, and I want to rededicate mine.” He says something happened there, as he felt a renewed excitement and hunger for knowing Jesus he hadn’t felt before, and she was immersed into Christ a little later. They attended church and Bible studies, learning all they could.
They learned that Pam’s brother was considering becoming a Mormon. Their preacher told him about Dr. Charles Crane, who had written books on how to handle Mormonism. They hosted Charles and an elder from the Caldwell Christian Church, her brother, and two Mormon missionaries. After an evening of presenting and teaching, Pam’s brother decided not to become a Mormon. Dr. Crane’s teaching mesmerized Sam and Pam.
Sometime later, their preacher, Marvin, called one night to say he felt Sam would not be happy unless he was in the ministry reaching people with the Gospel. His actual “calling” came in the form of Boise Bible College Development officer Ernie Chamberlain, probably acting on a tip from the minister, who called Sam. “I understand you’re interested in Bible college,” he said. “Not really,” replied Sam. But Ernie asked for a meeting, and Sam agreed, since “his insistence was a bit intriguing.” After the meeting, Sam was still not interested, but then Chamberlain said he knew someone who wanted to pay his way. Sam says, “I was sort of mentally slain in the spirit by that offer. If someone sees enough potential in me to invest in, why not?” So they made plans to move to Boise.
His first year at BBC, he was a “Sponge Bob,” soaking in all the knowledge from the “come to life” storytelling of Professor Kenny Beckman and the “dig deeper” style of Greek Professor Lee Magness. If a student objected to a teaching, he was invited to research it further and then discuss it with the professor. Sam didn’t fully realize it then, but now appreciates how all the teaching was based on sound interpretation of Scripture. Sam and Pam used their gift of music to sing at many College events and area church services. They often traveled with Mr. Chamberlain. Sam remembers Ernie’s insightful maxims like: “Give to God your best, and leave to Him the rest,” and “If you see a need and have the means to fill it, consider yourself called.”
Sam never had to take up the anonymous donor on his offer to pay for school, thanks to the GI bill. But he later learned it was Earl Robinson, an elder who had accompanied Charles Crane in that meeting all those years before. (Earl served on the BBC Board of Directors from 1974-1987). Sam graduated in 1980 with a BA.
If you see a need and have the means to fill it, consider yourself called.
His first ministry was under Professor Beckman, who also preached at First Church of Christ on Castle Drive in Boise. He ministered to youth and preached at evening services. After a few sermons, Beckman shared a bit of wisdom: “Remember, preparation tendeth to brevity.” Ernie Chamberlain had also offered, “After twenty-two and a half minutes, the brain goes to the seat of the pants.” Sam says it took him a while, but he finally figured it out, though some might still disagree. Evangelism and the truth of the Gospel have always been Sam’s passion. That first year the church was blessed to see over 57 additions.
Over time, Sam’s ambition gravitated more to church plants and evangelism. He served a church Bill Putman had planted in Nampa for 13 years, where he earned a second degree in the “seminary of hard knocks.” Dick and Carolee Ewing, Orin and Oleta Hardenbrook, Rick and Della Deighton were members and encouraged him.
A second calling from Ernie Chamberlain came when Ernie called to ask him to consider planting a church in Graham, WA. They planted Rainier View Christian Church. Their musical abilities and Sam’s preaching combined with his zeal to share Jesus kept the church going strong. During that time, Sam and Pam were directors for family camps at Pleasant Valley Christian Camp. They worked with many wonderful people like David and Melody Davolt, and Dan and Marci Hamilton, who encouraged them. Pam served as the camp office manager for many years. In it all, God was faithful and strengthened them. The Harsin’s left after eleven years. Soon after their departure, the church merged with Parkland Christian Church and now has two locations, both called Rainer View Christian Church and are a thriving body of Christ.
Sam then moved to the north end of Seattle and took the lead at a struggling Shoreline Christian Church. Fifty members were added, but it became apparent they needed to either close or merge with another church. With George Johnson and the Christian Evangelistic Association’s help, the merger with Northwest Church, where Dr. Milton Jones was the minister, was completed. The Shoreline building was put up for sale, and they moved in with Northwest. However, Sam soon realized it wasn’t working to have “two heads,” so he resigned.
The transition away from full-time ministry was hard. Losing their older daughter Amy to a long-term illness and Pam’s mother to a short-term illness added to their struggles. Like the song, “through it all,” … Sam said, “they learned to depend upon His Word.” They moved to San Bernardino, CA, working in property management, allowing Sam to help minister to a small Christian Church there through the transition of their preacher’s illness and ultimate death. They spent a few years in California working in property management, always finding a place to preach or sing the Gospel message.
They now live in Smyrna, TN, where they spend a lot of time with their two granddaughters (and their daughter Lindsay and her husband, Dr. David Kennedy). Sam can’t stay away from ministry completely and has found a local church to help through a transition after a church upset. And it looks like he will get to be involved in another church plant soon. That does his heart good.
Sam has been a steady plodder through his ministry, seeking to advance the Kingdom, allowing God’s strength to work through his imperfections. He’s grateful for the confidence and understanding of the Gospel’s truth and the handling of God’s Word he received from Boise Bible College. He encourages those considering Bible college, that whether they want to be prepared for vocational ministry or just build a firm foundation of understanding, “you may very well be equipped to do that really special thing God has in mind for you to do.”