Harald Bredesen: One of a Kind
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Like individual leaves on trees or the distinctiveness of a snowflake, each are unique; no two are alike. Harald Bredesen was the only one of his kind, “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
I met Harald in the late 1960s through Pat Robertson in Portsmouth, Virginia, at the then fledgling Christian Broadcasting Network. I had only known Pat for a short period of time when he hired me as a radio disc jockey and sometime co-host of the daily 700 Club.
I was a dripping wet, newly recovered Christian after spending a number of prodigal years in New York City. I was also recently married to Nedra Talley of the rock and roll group The Ronettes.
As I remember it, my first encounter with Harald was the moment he came bounding into the television studio, with a big smile on his face, arms raised in the air and shouting, “Hallelujah, we love you Lord!” at the top of his lungs.
It didn’t seem to matter to him that we were about to go on the air, and breaking into the preparatory silence and countdown to air time was not the way to do that.
But as I got to know Harald over the years that was par for the course; he seldom played by the rules. However, he wasn’t a rebel, it’s just that he marched to the beat of a different drummer; or to use a Biblical term Harald went where the wind of the Holy Spirit led him: “Just as you can hear the wind but can’t tell where it comes from or where it will go next, so it is with the Spirit.” (John 3.8) So it was with Harald.
This was particularly true if one were traveling with Harald; or out for a walk with him. Harald loved to walk and talk, and that was an adventure in itself.
These spontaneous walks could happen at any time, or anyplace, day or night. Sometimes it would begin with a late night phone call, or leaving a large teaching conference, his booming voice issuing the invitation, “Let’s take a walk brother!” I remember walking up and down many a staircase, or trekking through the woods or down a sandy beach.
Time was of no consequence to Harald, and one had to remind him that the rest of the world adhered to a clock and that he was the next speaker at the conference and we’d better get back before they introduced him. He didn’t always make it.
And the talks on the walks!
Harald had a way of drawing you out into a conversation and you would find yourself sharing with him very personal information that he would listen to with few comments, other than brief exclamations of , “Thank you my Lord.” At the end of a discourse on some of the foibles of life, one would wait for Harald to respond, which he would, but not quite in the way one would expect.
“Brother, let’s pray!” Harald would exclaim. and rather than wait for your consent, off he would go into a language not known to common man. He was known as “Mr.Charisma” for a reason. Harald was praying in “tongues” as described in the New Testament. (Acts 2; 1 Corinthians 12 & 14) If you didn’t, or couldn’t join him, you would find yourself a spectator to a man in a very personal prayerful communion with his God. After an indeterminate period of time, Harald would then exclaim loudly, “Thank you my God,” and then begin to give insight into the personal dilemma you had just shared with him.
This similar dynamic of Harald’s relationship with the “person” (which he emphasized) of the Holy Spirit came into play in large conferences and small groups that Harald addressed. Declaring the reality of the “Baptism in the Holy Spirit,” Harald spoke with authority and humor, often disarming his listeners many theological arguments and questions.
He would then make his bottom line point: “Jesus Christ is the baptizer in the Holy Spirit, and He wants to do that for you now!” And then he would pray, resulting in the few or even hundreds coming into this biblical experience, finding their lives impacted by this man and His message.
That message took that man to the nations of the earth, before literal kings, princes and presidents, as well as paupers. Harald was a catalyst bringing many people and factions together as a minister of reconciliation.
Those who knew him loved to share Harald stories together starting with, “There was the time that Harald...” and off we went on another Harald adventure.
One of those times was when Harald was scheduled to appear on a new CBN radio network we were dedicating in upstate New York. Pat Robertson and I, and a host of others, were waiting for Herald’s arrival. No Harald. Minutes before the program was to air we received a phone call from Harald wondering where we all were. “Why, we are in Ithaca at the radio station where you are supposed to be. Where are you?”
“Oh, I see.” Responded Harald.
“Where are you, I asked?”
“Utica,” Harald replied. He was only off by a hundred miles or so. His contribution to the dedication of the new CBN radio network that day was via telephone.
Then there was the time that we set off on a Mideast tour with a number of folks setting sail from Athens, Greece. Harald was one of the tour guides for the trip. When the ship set sail from Athens, no Harald. Although his always faithful, patient, wife Gen was on board with us, we had no idea where he was, and Gen didn’t seem to be too worried about him. Harald’s disappearances were not new to her. A few days later as we were clambering among some tombs in the Biblical city of Philippi, all of sudden came the shouts of, “Praise God, there you are!” and from among the dead of Philippi popped our very own living tour guide, Harald.
It was not until later that Harald explained that he had met a group of Greeks in the streets of Athens and engaged them in a conversation. He then went about explaining the way of Jesus to this group (very reminiscent of the Apostle Paul) and subsequently praying with them to meet this Christ that had seemingly directed the steps of Harald and his new converts to this sovereign moment. For Harald, this encounter took precedence over being a “tour guide.”
To this day I still don’t know how Harald caught up with us in the tombs of Philippi!
My last personal time with Harald was at a dinner in Hollywood, California, to honor Pat Boone. I had been asked to M.C. the event. I took the opportunity to not only honor Pat Boone, but also Harald who was in attendance due to the fact that he had had a profound spiritual influence in Pat Boone’s life.
Following the gala evening, Harald approached me, and as he was wont to do, linked his arm in mine and invited me “to take a walk.” As we ambled through the glitzy lobby of the Hollywood Hills hotel I asked Harald where we were going. “I don’t know,” he responded, “I thought you might know the way to the restroom!” And he laughed.
It was the last time I could serve him. Harald Bredesen was with Jesus two weeks later.
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