5 Questions With Edgar Harrell

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Today's guest is Edgar Harrell.

I just recently reviewed his book, Out of the Depths and Mr. Harrell has graciously agreed to discuss the book and his experiences here.

A brief bio from his website, www.indysurvivor,com:

Edgar Harrell owned and operated the Pella Window Company, Inc., Rock Island, Illinois for thirty-five years until his retirement in 1985. During the years 1970 to 1985, he served on the board of trustees of the Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago, Illinois, and has been a popular Bible teacher and lay minister throughout his adult life. He has enjoyed many years of fishing and big game hunting in the Rocky Mountains from Alaska to New Mexico, and currently resides in Clarksville, Tennessee with his wife Ola, together enjoying their two children, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. As a survivor of the USS Indianapolis (www.indysurvivor.com), Mr. Harrell speaks extensively around the United States about his experience at sea.

OK, let's get started:

1. During the tail end of WW2 your ship, the USS Indianapolis, was sunk by Japanese torpedoes. You and your shipmates were in the water for 5 days. Was there ever a moment where you felt like giving up?

I must say there were moments when I believed life on this earth might be over, especially when I saw the carnage of the many bloated bodies, unrecognizable, floating in our very midst, even slamming into us as they tumbled off a 10 foot wave of water, leaving some of their putrid flesh on us. Likewise, seeing a shipmate so exhausted that they were willing to just give up, or hearing that blood curdling scream, to see that kapok go under and see it surface in a school of sharks was indeed a test of faith. 

From the 80 or so in our group just after leaving the ship, and only 17 the third day at noon, was a test of our endurance. I often say "it is much easier to die than to fight to live". To see a body that had been disemboweled, or the bottom torso gone, left you with despair. Some of our shipmates were drinking salt water and became delirious and thus your enemy, even thinking that you had a canteen of water in your kapok jacket and thus might stab you  to get that sacred water. However, there was too many things happening daily that told me that somehow or someway I would survive. I had that assurance given to me when I looked into the oil covered water below when I was praying just before I left the ship. I had poured my heart out to the Lord, whom I knew, telling Him, "I don't want to die, I want to live. I have a Dad and Mom back home, two sisters and six younger brothers. I also have a brunette that promised to wait for me." (Yes and she waited and has been my companion for these past 67 years.) "I want to live and have a family, I want to live for you." As I prayed, the Lord responded by calling to mind the Scripture that says I will never leave you or forsake you or John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." Those words flashed into my memory as if the Lord was personally speaking to me. That was the hope that ultimately sustained me those days. That too became my prayer of praise and thanksgiving, yes His Divine Providence.

2. Have you ever felt bitter about what happened?

With Commander Hishimoto? No.  With the Japanese people? Absolutely not. I would liked to have met Commander Hishimoto and thanked him that he did not surface and strafe us. I have met his grand-daughter and great-grand-daughter and embraced them with tears and delight of restitution on each of our parts.

3. Your Captain was eventually exonerated of culpability in the sinking of the USS Indianapolis. How important was that for you and your shipmates?

Three hundred seventeen survivors fought for 50 years with the Navy, Pentagon & Washington to have our good Captain exonerated. This took the survivors organization going before the Armed Service Committee in Washington, DC and getting a joint resolution from the House and Senate, which President Clinton signed, getting Captain McVay exonerated. We could wish that our present President would go the next step and have the Court Martial EXPUNGED from the record. That is the need today for the miscarriage of justice and the court martial of Capt. Charles B. McVay III in 1945.

We have been promised by the Sec. of the Navy to have another surface USS Indianapolis in the not to distant future.

4. Throughout your book, Out of the Depths, you talked about the Lord protecting you, providing for you, etc. Did your understanding of God and His grace change in any way through the experience?

Yes, yes in many ways. It has become one of praise and thanksgiving. It has driven me closer and closer to the Lord. There is never a day that passes but what I remember those days and remember His assurance, plus His mercy and grace. Each of those 4 1/2 days God revealed Himself to my most present needs.

5. What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

I could wish that readers would read the details of our daily experiences, plus realize the cost paid by my shipmates, which was the largest disaster at sea in the history of the US Navy. Respectt our service men who have and our presently sacrificing for our freedom.

Thank You Mr. Harrell!

God Bless & Semper Fi

Edgar Harrell USMC
Survivor USS Indianapolis

If you get the chance, check out Edgar's website here 

Notes on the above interview: 

A kapok is a type of flotation device. 
Commander Hishimoto was the Captain of the Japanese submarine I-58 that sunk the USS Indianapolis. 


Out Of The Depths

I love history.

In particular, I love to read about the generation that served during World War 2.  They have often been referred to as the "Greatest Generation."

Out of the Depths is the story of the USS Indianapolis.  The men of the USS Indianapolis fought valiantly during the war.  Then the unthinkable happened.  On July 30, 1945, she was hit by two Japanese torpedoes.  The Portland class heavy cruiser sunk to a watery grave in twelve minutes. Only about 900 of the 1,196 men aboard entered the water. A series of Naval mistakes meant that no one knew the USS Indianapolis had been sunk. For five horrifying days the men drifted at the mercy of the seas. They were exposed to shark attacks, hypothermia, severe dehydration and salt-water hallucinations. Finally, the 317 men who had survived this terror were accidentally spotted and rescued.

Written by Edgar Harrell, one of those survivors, Out of the Depths takes you on board the USS Indianapolis as it fulfills its missions during WW2.  Edgar's first person account is coupled with the memories of other survivors and paints a vivid and horrifying picture of the struggle to survive against overwhelming odds.

Despite those odds, Edgar also shows how the hand of God was with them during these terrifying days.  This is a story of sacrifice, courage and faith that grips you as you read through the accounts of what happened during those 5 terrifying days.  It is a miracle that anyone survived this ordeal and throughout Edgar's story, you see how God provided for he and his shipmates as they drifted on the waters day after day.

This book is a must read for any history buff and for anyone who yearns to see God moving in peoples lives today.  Edgar Harrell shares the story of the disaster but also of the recovery and the impact it has had on his shipmates and their families today.

Do yourself a favor and pick up this book today.

I received a free copy of this book for review by Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. 


The Art of Storytelling

I love to tell a story.  Sadly, I have not always told a story well.  It took me many years to learn that there is an art to telling a good story.  I wish I had come across The Art of Storytelling by John Walsh ages ago.  This is a book that encapsulates all of the lessons I learned and many more that I never knew until now.

Walsh breaks down the art of storytelling into three sections.  The first section is on crafting a captivating story.  Here you will find everything from planning your first words and researching the facts to adding description and eliminating needless details.  I found a lot of useful information in this section of the book.

The second section is on the tools for telling a captivating story.  This area deals with facial expressions and body language.  I have always struggled with what to do with my hands when talking and this section covers it.

The final section is on BibleTelling.  This is great for anyone who wants to capture an audience of any age with the wonderful stories found in the Bible.  In fact, I finished this book as I was preparing to tell the story of David and Goliath.  After applying a few of the principles found in this book I received numerous complements on how I presented this passage of Scripture.

You don't have to be a pastor or even a public speaker to  benefit from this book.  You can use it to enhance how you tell stories to your kids or grand kids.  Students would also find great use for this book.  Do yourself a favor and learn from John Walsh The Art of Storytelling.


OneCry - A Nationwide Call for Spiritual Awakening

"If we are content to live without revival, we will."  Leonard Ravenhill (1907-1994)

I have always loved reading about revivals.  One of the best gifts I ever received was when Sarah tracked down a copy of Charles Finney's Revival Lectures.  I would love to see a revival breakout nationwide, as it has in various places around the world over the years. 

So when I came across OneCry: A Nationwide Call for Spiritual Awakening, I was more than a little intrigued. The authors, Byron Paulus and Bill Elliff, are calling people to unite in Biblical repentance and fervent prayer for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit.  

This book is a call for revival for the next generation.  Each chapter ends with a QR code so that you can watch videos that support the topic being discussed.  The website, http://www.onecry.com/ is filled with resources, including revival tweets you can send out over social media.  The authors have put a new-fashioned spin on an old-fashioned call to revival.

The passion that Paulus and Elliff have to see revival spread across the nation comes across on every page.  OneCry is filled with interesting stories, applicable Scriptures and a true challenge to the reader to pray for revival.  The book would probably work best if done as part of a group study.  The discussion questions and prayer portions of the book are ideal for spurring your church onward towards revival.

I thought the book was very well written. Any reader who came away from reading it without having their hearts stirred toward revival should check their spiritual pulse.  Where the book does not work, in my opinion, is that it is to limited in it's call for revival.  The authors provide statistics on the state of decay in the US and make frequent references to seeing revival break out in America.  Many of the discussion questions also are specific to the United States. Living in Canada, I felt the book fails to connect with an international audience.  

If you can get past that and you desire to see revival break out in your lifetime, then this is the book for you.


Sheep or Goats

I was listening to Keith Green's song, the Sheep and the Goats the other day.  If you have never heard of Keith Green here is a YouTube copy of the song for your enjoyment: 

The song is based on Matthew 25:31-46.  I have always read that Scripture through the eyes of the "sheep".  Another words, as the Christian who did those wonderful Christian things like feed the poor, visit the sick, etc.  I felt somewhat self righteous.  I have never looked at myself that way but I see now that I was very proud of being a sheep.  Every time I have looked at this passage I recalled all of the times I ministered to those less fortunate. 

I was needing a good smack upside the head.

I got when just over a week ago.

I was coming back from a Salvation Army social service conference Abbotsford, BC.  It was a great few days of encouragement, refreshing and a challenge to embrace those God has called us to work with.

I left feeling pumped...and tired.

We left the conference after lunch to start the 13 hour drive home.  We had plans to overnight a little over halfway home.  A couple hours in we stopped at a convenience store and got out to stretch.  As we walked in the store, my wife noticed a lady hitchhiking on the road.  Unbeknownst to me she began praying and asking God if we should pick her up.  Apparently He said yes because as we pulled out on the highway, she asked me to stop and pick this lady up.

Let's just say I was not happy with the decision.  I was tired and didn't feel "up" for ministry.  I pulled over and the lady hopped in.  Over the next couple hours I had my own conversation with God, one I am ashamed to say was filled with grumbling and complaining.  Meanwhile Sarah was chatting this lady up in the backseat.  As she continued the conversation the lady began opening up and the next thing I know she was sobbing. 

You would think that would have softened me up a bit but even though I silently prayed for her and for Sarah, I was still miffed that our schedule was impacted by this distraction.  I was wondering what this adventure would "cost" us.

After awhile, she asked to be dropped off and Sarah again spoke with her about God bringing her into our path and the woman again broke into tears. 

I had a lot of repenting to do that day.  I was reminded of this passage of Scripture and on this day, I was acting much more like a goat than a sheep.

I was not wanting to inconvenience my plans.  MY PLANS!  God obviously had other plans but on this day I was not wanting to go along with them.  Only God knows where this woman is with her journey towards Him, but I know that if my thoughts had become action, it could have negatively impacted this woman to the Gospel.

Thankfully Sarah was listening to God.

I share this confession of my mistake because I don't want you to make the same one.  I thank God His mercies are new every morning. 

I never again want to act like a goat.  I was miserable. 

I want to reach those less fortunate but not out of pride.  I want to serve those God brings me into contact with in humility. 

I want to be a sheep because of Him!

Sheep or Goat? Which one are you today?