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Operation: Harvest (Chicago, July 1986)

by Theodore Wright.


Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest. – John 4:35

It was late in the year 1985, I was a believer in Jesus Christ with a trusting faith for two years. I experienced high-paced and rapid growth in the Lord during that time. I was faithfully going to church, reading the Holy Bible, praying to the Lord, and hearing from God in prayer. I was very active sharing the gospel out on the streets, even in those days, and remain doing so even now. Still, at that time, I felt for some reason that my walk in the Lord was running shallow.

I was single, about to turn 24 years old and living at home with my family. So, with this my burning passion for evangelism and desire to know God more fully, in prayer I asked God in Jesus’ name that He would have me experience the deep things of God. I awaited His reply. God answered me positively and said, “O.K., I am going to send you out, but when you go, go right then and don’t look back”.

I received indications from the Lord where He was going to send me. In a prayer time in church, I saw myself standing on concrete with my blue bag of tracts by a large body of water. I did not know then that I was seeing Chicago on the lake shore. Immediately after I received the vision, a prophesy went forth in church saying, “Thus saith the Lord, I have given you a vision concerning me.” From prayer times on my own I understood from the Lord that He was going to send me to Chicago and some small town in Washington State.

In February of 1986, I was home alone. For some reason I was feeling a form of agitation I did not understand. As I got up, I felt the Lord leading me by my shoulders to view my belongings, including my clothes. He was leading me back and forth with to view my possessions. I realized that the time the Lord wanted me to go was right then. I knew I was either going to be obedient to Him at that moment or God would pass me by. I had to make the decision right then on the spot. So I said to the Lord, “Oh! You want me to go right now!” After thinking it over for less than half a minute, I said to Him, “O.K., Lord. Let’s do it.” I packed up all my belongings in my car within 20 minutes and started driving on Route 80 West from New Jersey to Chicago. I had never been past Pennsylvania before that time.

Having very little pocket money, I entered Chicago, knowing I was to be quite dependent on the Lord for my means. After I settled down in Andersonville on the North side of Chicago, I found out that there was an event to go on in Chicago which I did not know of. A number of churches had agreed together to share the gospel throughout the city in July. They referred to this as “Operation Harvest”. Telling people about the free gift of eternal life and forgiveness of all sins through trusting faith in Jesus Christ was something I was very familiar with doing which came quite easily for me. Thus began my season of full-time ministry unto the Lord.

I worked during different times in the city to get enough cash for what I needed. I had my car with me but I used it very little. That was because, for the greatest part, I did not need it. I needed to be on the streets spreading the Word of God. Various people were coming into the city for the event, including Youth With A Mission (YWAM) as well as a number of others. It was remarkable how a number of people were moving into the apartment building where I was renting and here to share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I made friends with two other young men I had met in my apartment building who were from Seattle to share the gospel in Chicago. Since I knew that at some time the Lord was going to send me on to Washington State, I hung around with them. We shared the word of God together there on a number of occasions. This was a harvest of souls! A special season designated by the Lord.

People were growing more and more receptive to the Lord during that time. The Lord gave me special discernment to speak into people’s needs. I spoke to a diverse numbers of city people including drunks, homeless, druggies, prostitutes, demon possessed, gang members, business people, and a large sort of all kinds of people. The Lord sent me to share the gospel with Latinos during this time also. Yes, this included Spanish speaking persons and people of other languages which I conveniently already had tracts for. Numbers of people received Jesus as their Savior on the spot.

Regarding some matters in the city, certain Christians were telling me I was there too early for the Harvest. Yet, the Lord was instructing me to tell the Christians not to wait for July to share His gospel but to share it now. I was curious to ask the Lord why He sent me to Chicago when He did, months earlier than the event. He told me to open my Bible to John 4:35, which I read aloud saying, “Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.” I then checked my calendar, I had arrived 4 months and 4 days before the kick off day for Operation Harvest on July 1st. God, in fact, sent me to Chicago at a distinct time for His purpose.

I had a large number of opportunities to share the gospel of Jesus during a time when a number of people were ready to receive Jesus as their Savior who did. I joined in with various teams such as together with a couple of guys who came from Seattle, also together with YWAM, as well as a time with Jesus People USA (JPUSA) with Glen Kaiser who was leader of the Resurrection Band (later known as “Rez”). Many times I went just by myself with God’s grace with me. I did get to enjoy fellowship with students from Moody Bible Institute.

Don’t say four months and the harvest comes, reap it now!

Be faithful ahead of time sowing God’s word, sharing the gospel.

By the end of the summer, a number of people received the Lord but a number also hadn’t. The Harvest had to be reaped quickly for it is was perishable. For those who did not receive Jesus then, the saying from Jeremiah 8:20 comes true, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.” Just before the end of the August, the Lord moved me on to Washington State. The testimony of Jesus Christ did not cease in Chicago after Operation Harvest. The event inspired others to get involved.

It was not until over 25 years later that I decided to look up on the internet if anyone had recorded a history to mention Operation Harvest. I found that a woman named Joan Bauer had done this with her book “Take It To The Streets: Chicago’s Operation Harvest – A Bold Innovation in Community Outreach”. I purchased and read this book and found that many of the events mentioned I was actually there to see them. I was a living part of Christian history. So are you, if you are involved in reaping the harvest.

What really counts is what will endure throughout eternity with God. Store your treasures in Heaven for the treasures on earth will not last. While not burning bridges, to take this trip I had things I needed to put behind me so as not to be held back. Count the cost for being a disciple. The unbeliever may seem very determined in his or her unbelief for now but when it comes to facing death and eternity, matters can quickly change.






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