I love to read the stories of successful people, and the challenges they overcame in the pursuit of their dreams. The LIFE community–led by Orrin Woodward and Chris Brady–that I am proud to associate with, is full of stories of average people overcoming the odds to achieve great results. I recently finished a book that was written on the life of Harry Bollback, co-founder of an organization called Word of Life (WOL), that has made a huge impact on many lives across the globe. Harry’s story begins in Brooklyn, NY, where at a young age he began developing a love for music. There he met and developed a friendship with another young visionary leader, named Jack Wyrtzen. Jack and Harry both had a passion as teenagers to share their newly acquired faith in God with the world. They began their journey on the street corners of New York City, and eventually grew to the point that they were renting Madison Square Garden–and even Yankee stadium–to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ.
In 1943, World War II was raging, and Harry joined the US Marines Corps. He was part of many bloody battles in the Pacific, and fought beside many brave men who never came home. In one of the many close calls, Harry remembers, “in my company of almost 200 men, I was one of only seven who got out without being killed or wounded. Years later I found out 40 percent of the First Marine Division, of which I was a proud part, was killed or wounded in that battle.” Day after day, battle after battle–through unbelievable odds–God preserved Harry’s life for His future plans.
Upon returning home, Harry again rejoined Jack in his vision to reach people for God. Through some amazing circumstances, they bought some property in upstate New York; and began some camps for kids. This led to the beginning of a Bible Institute in Schroon Lake, NY, that eventually expanded to many countries around the world. In 1951, as the camping ministry was being developed; Harry felt that God was leading him and his family to Brazil as missionaries. He packed up, left all the comforts of home in the US, and traveled to the jungles of Brazil. The next twenty years were filled with exciting adventures and near-death experiences, as Harry followed his God-given purpose into many hostile areas in the Amazon jungles. The stories of tribes dying of disease, not being able to communicate due to language barriers, and being many days away from family with no communication; are heart-wrenching. Nevertheless, through it all, Harry saw many come to a saving knowledge of Christ through his sacrifice. Today, tens of thousands of people in Brazil have been influenced by the camps and Bible Institutes that Word of Life operates there.
Returning to the United States, Harry again became involved with the WOL ministries. With Jack’s encouragement, he began writing music and eventually musical productions, that have been produced and performed all around the world. Harry says, “you should never underestimate the power of suggestion. Sometimes God works in us to do something we would have never tried on our own by having someone speak His words to us.”. Overall, he produced 13 musicals, including “Let Freedom Ring,” “Revelation,” “Daniel,” and “Genesis”. More than two-million people have attended these different concerts throughout the years.
Today, Harry is in his upper 80′s and lives in Florida. Last week my daughter, who is attending Word of Life Bible Institute in Florida, was able to hear him speak at a conference. She said of all the great speakers, Harry’s passion was superior to everyone else’s. His enthusiasm is infectious wherever he goes. He is truly a blessing to know and be around. What makes someone’s life so inspiring, and keeps them going and influencing others around them in such a positive way? As U.S. Army Major General John H. Stafford says, “The secret to success is to stay in love. Staying in love gives you the fire to ignite other people, to see inside other people, to have a greater desire to get things done than other people. A person who is not in love doesn’t really feel the kind of excitement that helps them to get ahead and to lead others to achieve. I don’t know any other fire, any other thing in life that is more exhilarating and is more positive a feeling than love is.” Harry found his purpose in life and fell in love with it. This purpose has taken him all over the world through incredible challenges and adventures; and has influenced millions of lives.
What challenges are you experiencing? Is your life a daring, bold adventure that is positively affecting others? Will your story be worth telling? I encourage you to challenge yourself with these questions, and surround yourself with people who believe in you and your dreams. Life is too short to live small. God has great plans!
May God bless you on your journey!