Sunshine Harris



Here is one of the many stories from the Pacific Garden Mission of the marvels of God's saving grace:

"Sunshine Harris," was steeped in sin for seventy-one years and most of that time an infidel. Leaving home because he was such a disgrace to his family, he wandered around in the country. He never went to church except for a funeral, unless to ridicule what took place. For fifty long years he smoked and drank, then became such a slave of tobacco that he picked up stubs in the street to satisfy the craving. Filthy with sin, he wandered often into the Pacific Garden Mission, usually drunk, each time resisting the pleadings of Colonel and Mrs. Clarke with scorn and mockery, and determining never to return.

On August 4, 1899, he bought a New Testament, hardly knowing why. When his eyes fell upon the frank words, "Thou fool, this night thy soul is required of thee," he became furious and closed the book. Later he wanted to reread the passage but he was not able to find the verse. That made him more furious.

In vexation, he began with Matthew's genealogy and kept reading until the words were located. A few nights later he said, "God, tonight I am going to the mission. If you help me, I'll raise my hand for prayer." It was a "never to be forgotten" night for "Sunshine Harris."

"When the invitation was given, I looked at one hand and it was so black and sinful, and then at the other and that was just as bad, so I raised both hands and was assisted by a Christian lady to the altar," he wrote, "and when I called upon the Lord He heard my cry, and the load of sin, mountain high, rolled off, and I rose to my feet and exclaimed: 'Thanks be to God for His unspeakable gift and for Pacific Garden Mission.'"

Harris sponsored an unscheduled housecleaning in his own filthy little room that night. Whiskey and beer bottles, old pipes and tobacco, disgusting pictures, cards and other habiliments of sin went into the furnace, and on the table by his favorite chair he placed instead the New Testament with a slip of paper marking the verse, "Thou fool, this night thy soul is required of thee." Somebody named him "the miracle of the mission."

He served God with such spiritual fervor and delight that the mission workers called him "Sunshine Harris." He loved everybody and everybody loved him, with just one note of exception: During the first weeks of his Christian experience he kept waking during the night and shouting "Glory!" until some of the nearby roomers complained. He moved to other quarters.

Night after night he continued to testify at the mission, eager to tell how the Lord had cleaned his life. When he died, June 10, 1907, he said in his cheerful optimism, "Tell them at the mission I am going home to glory in the good, old-fashioned way."

So clearly had his testimony rung out on Van Buren Street among the drink and tobacco addicts that once were his companions, that when Harris' body was buried at Elburn, Illinois, all the hoboes on the levee knew his soul had gone to God.