A tribute from Pr Bill Vasilakis, National Chairman CRC Churches International Australia
Mrs Belle Harris, wife of CRC founder Leo Harris, went to be with Jesus several days ago. On behalf of the CRC I pass on our deepest condolences to Cherith and David Rodway, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
What an amazing woman Belle Harris was.
Belle’s love for Jesus, her commitment to serving her Lord through the CRC – is legendary. For those of us who had the privilege of knowing both Leo and Belle; we saw a couple who were on fire for Jesus and who had a profound love for His Church and a total commitment to extending the Kingdom of Jesus Christ here on earth. As a young Christian, they both had a huge influence on me and many others of my generation.
Though we eulogise Leo as the great apostle and founder of the CRC, he would not have been able to sustain the relentless pace of ministry in those early pioneering years in the 1940s without the support and commitment of his wife Belle. I lived at Sunrise House (where the Harris’ lived) for several months to do a summer of ministry service during my university years and it afforded me a close view of both of them.
They were very human, and like all of us, they had their imperfections and weaknesses. I was awed by their enthusiasm for serving Jesus and the sheer hard work involved as they outworked the many responsibilities they carried. Belle, like Leo, was born in the pre-depression WW2 era and there is a reason why historians are calling this the greatest generation. This is due to the massive economic depression and most evil war the world has ever seen. It bred a mental toughness and a strength of purpose that has often been misunderstood by my generation (the Boomers).
It was people like Belle and Leo who built the institutions and the prosperity that Australians take for granted today. To birth the CRC and to see it develop took strong warriors, who had a ‘take no prisoners’ mentality. All of us who came under their influence are so grateful for the life lessons they imparted to us.
I encourage all of the Pastors and Leaders who belong to the CRC to pause, and to give thanks to Jesus for the life of Belle Harris. Without her loyalty to Leo’s clear call from God, we would not be the Movement we are today.
Pr Bill Vasilakis
A eulogy from Cherith Rodway, daughter of Belle Harris
Well, Heaven has a new pianist!
My special mum slipped peacefully to be with her Saviour, Lord and Master today, (Sunday, November 19 in the northern hemisphere). At 95, she had given her life since a young child to serving God in many ways. As a teenager, she would ride her bike into the bush near Ballarat Victoria to pick wildflowers and bring them back to her church so that the House of the Lord would be decorated. She volunteered at a couple of different churches to play for their Sunday Schools, and for meetings in the local jail and later became a soloist for her church and for the Melbourne YFC meetings. Her father would not permit her to take piano lessons but having had her grandmother teach her some hymns on the small peddle organ she developed her amazing ability to play by ear until later when she was working and took three months of lessons herself. The teacher was annoyed with her playing it all by ear so that came to an abrupt end!
Her many years serving with dad as they pioneered and saw thousands come to know Jesus in all His power were years when many were ‘encouraged’ to follow the call of God on their lives. The not so subtle encouragements of Auntie Belle have rung in the minds of many as they continued to serve as pastors and missionaries around the world!
As we sang her favourite hymn around her bedside today with Brett and his family before her body was taken to the funeral home, I could see her strong hands enthusiastically pounding the keys in years gone by! Thank you, Jesus, for her unwavering, strong faith in a faithful God. I am a better person today because of her example of spontaneous praying and praising of Jesus. Even in these later years when life was not always easy in a new land with new ways, and the familiar far from her, there was always a prompt amen to the prayers and a song in her heart. Missing you already mum, but there is a day coming when all tears will be wiped away and we will never know separation from all who have gone before us.
A condolence letter from Pr Hans Voortman, SA/NT/WA State Chairman CRC Churches International Australia
Dear Cherith, David and Family,
I received news today of Belle’s passing to be with her Lord.
Even though our paths have not crossed these last years and you are far from our Aussie shores, please know our thoughts and hearts are with you at this time of loss and sadness.
However, “we do not grieve as those who have no hope”! She is home with the Lord, her beloved Leo and the ‘great cloud of witnesses’ that have gone before. You will miss the immediacy of her around you as a family. I honour you for your care and concern of Belle, particularly these last years when she needed your attention so much more. We are glad she’s free of all which so limited the quality of her life recently.
I have many personal memories of Mrs Harris. I remember well the specialness of being invited in for her legendary morning teas on Saturday mornings, after mowing the lawns or playing sets of tennis with Pastor Leo! I recall her coming to share a meal with a bunch of us Bible College guys who lived behind her in Sunnymeade Avenue… through the hole in the fence she and Pr Leo came! What brave souls they were to eat our humble bachelor fare!
I recall her commitment each Saturday to do the amazing flower displays for the Sunday stage… a commitment to creativity few got to see, but I got to observe when often setting up for ‘Young Life’. And of course each Sunday playing the piano in her inimitable style! ‘Great is thy Faithfulness’ never sounded better! Or around the piano on Sunday nights with a bunch of young people back at the old Sunrise House singing endless choruses that are still etched into my soul!
She was a Pentecostal pioneer who through her stoic nature and strength of character helped Pastor Leo forge a path forward for our CRC Movement that we are now privileged to enjoy. Sister Belle together with so many others of her generation have shown us what zeal and commitment to the Lord can achieve. Thank you Cherie and David for you part in this too.
We honour you all as our founder’s family and reflect with much gratitude on her legacy of faith.
God’s strength and comfort be with you all at this time.
Hans Voortman – SA, WA, NT State Chairman