|ABBOTTSFORD, BRITISH COLUMBIA (ANS) -- The evangelical community lost a missionary pioneer, inovative communicator, and Christian leader on January 8, 2005. Rev. David Neil Hartt died in Abbottsford, British Columbia, at the age of 86.
A veteran missionary with World Team, David Hartt pioneered the work in Guadeloupe and founded Radio Lumiere (Radio Light), a network that covers the entire nation of Haiti and also broadcast into Cuba in its early days.
Hartt was born in Silverdale, Washington on February 25, 1919. He was the oldest of seven children born to David and Jenny Hartt.
A 1941 graduate of Prairie Bible Institute in Three Hills, Alberta, Hartt applied to become a missionary with the West Indies Mission, now known as World Team. While at student at PBI, Hartt met Erma Anhorn. They both joined WIM and went to Cuba for orientation. After their engagement, WIM appointed them to serve in Haiti. They arrived in 1942. Because mission policy required them to wait for a year after their arrival to get married, they were married in 1943.
The Hartts continued to minister in Haiti, teaching in WIM’s Haiti Bible Institute until they received a call to establish the work in Guadeloupe, a small island in the French West Indies. Joseph F. Conley writes in Drumbeats That Changed the World (a history of the Regions Beyond Missionary Union and West Indies Mission, William Carey Library, 2000), this was the call “that would shape their future. The mission asked David to survey ministry possibilities in Guadeloupe."
Conley continues: "Acting in mercy, Hartt had left his wife and infant son in Haiti to await completion of the survey [a trip that was only to take one month]...Hartt spent the next ten days visiting towns and pupulation centers. He was well-received, everyone was curious about the contents of the black briefcase that he always carried. The case contained his survival kit--seven hundred dollars and a passport. In three weeks, he had surveyed the island and had developed a list of hundreds of names--mostly people who wanted to buy Bibles...
“...On 23 June 1947, he wrote home: ‘These people are very open to the gospel and I find more open doors for visits than I can possibly fill.’ But by November 10, the picture had changed. Hartt wrote 'This work is not going so fast as I thought it might. The blitzkrieg has already slowed down to hand-to-hand slugging it out with the enemy for a few souls. I have had evening meetings almost every night for two months. Several have professed conversion.”
It had been a long process to establish a local body under the mission’s banner. Hartt technically was an illegal--operating for more than a year on a one-month visitor’s visa. He’d been separated from his wife and young son, who were still in Haiti. Repeated applications for Erma and Paul had been denied. Even a promised tourist visa fell victim to a shipping strike and a breakdown in mail service. But the intervention of the French military commander changed things.
Paul Verdier was commander of a CRS group--French shock troops comprised of former felons who had paid their debt to society. Verdier was a no-nonsense military who had served in Madagascar. The commander rose to Hartt’s defense, and took care of things with the prefect. Thereafter, neither Hartt, nor any WIM missionary had problems with Guadeloupe immigration.
The governor wired Erma’s visa to the French Consul in Haiti. Within days, Erma and Paul flew to Guadeloupe. On May 13, 1948 the Hartt family was reunited. They’d been separated fifteen months.
The Hartts served in Guadeloupe until 1954 when they returned to Haiti where David applied his radio engineering skills to develop the radio network known as Radio Lumiere.
By 1995, WIM had planted 29 churches throughout the island. No hall on the island was large enough to accommodate the crowds at their annual conventions. In 1998, 50 years after Hartt’s arrival in Guadeloupe, the Evangelical Churches of Guadeloupe celebrated their golden anniversary.
Returning to Haiti in 1956, Conley writes that Dave Hartt found the Haitian church had mushroomed. Now with close to 60,000 believers, the WIM church association was stretched to the limits. There were few Haitian pastors and the nation’s communications systems were hopeless. Telephone and mail service couldn’t be counted on and roads were horrible.
Conley writes, “The three hundred churches of the association had no means of interface, since travel was mostly limited to muleback. The Church faced false doctrine from without, and division from within. Radios were few and in the hands of the elite...”
While the mission was searching for a solution, Hartt was busy working on a plan. The transistor was invented in 1947. Within a very short period of time, transistor radios became available. Hartt had the dream of placing pretuned radios in each association church spread throughout Haiti’s southern peninsula. By this means, hundreds, if not thousands of groups could join together via radio and churches without pastors could have biblical teaching brought to their congregations.
David Hartt was so convinced that radio was the answer to the evangelization of Haiti that he was willing to do whatever was necessary to bring a radio station into being. Fluent in French and Creole, he became the natural choice to launch this new effort. An ardent ham operator with a background in electronics, he set out to start a radio station in 1957.
With four twenty-foot long irrigation pipes tied together with two-by-fours, Radio Lumiere went on the air for the first time on Christmas Day 1958. Hartt had initiated what was to become a major broadcasting network serving the evangelical churches and the people of Haiti.
In 1960, 450 Haitian pastors received the first of 450 pre-tuned transitor radios. By 1962, Radio Lumiere was also beaming Spanish programs into Cuba, which was now under communist rule--as David Hartt, too, had predicted.
In 1968, Hartt and newly-named Radio Lumiere director Ed Walker, were granted a personal audience with Haitian President Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier in which WIM received authorization to expand coverage to the whole island.
Hartt continued to work as chief engineer until 1972. After studies at the State University of Haiti and Wheaton College, he returned to Haiti in 1974 as director of research. In 1976, Radio Lumiere began broadcasting in FM stereo.
Hartt retired from Radio Lumiere in 1986 and moved to Abbotsford, B.C. where he remained until his death.
David was predeceased by Erma in August 2003. He is survived by his six sons: Paul Hartt of Bellevue, Washington, Samuel Hartt of Kent, Washington, Joe Hartt of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, Daniel Hartt of Boulder, Colorado, Jonathan Hartt of Pomona, California, and Nathan Hartt of Placerville, California; a sister Charlotte Hartt Griffith of Racine, Wisconsin, brothers Richard Hartt of Pasadena, California, and Bradford Hartt of Renton, Washington; nineteen grandchildren and two great grandchildren.
-- Written by Jim Uttley|
Your kids called today to tell me that your train had left the station and that you were on it. We can't help wishing that your health had been more robust for the last few years, and that you and my friend Erma had a more enjoyable and rewarding period during what the poets call Twilight Time.
Since Jean and I are unable to attend this gathering, perhaps I might have permission to reminisce for a bit about some of your early life--and of some of the events and adventures that we shared. Charlotte has graciously consented to read them.
Brad will remember the Reno period, during which we lived (how could life be sweeter?) next to the Southern Pacific Railroad tracks, where the locomotive engineer (really, it was the fireman, but we didn't know any better) would blow steam from the engine at us. What a thrill!
And the Truckee River nearby, which was filled with all manner of living creatures, some of which were collected and put into the bathroom wash basin for further study, but were then forgotten until the next morning, when our patient Dad tried to shave and was confronted by little crawfish who threatened him with open claws, ready to pinch. Or newly deceased minnows which had expired during the night, due to non-running water.
Then we moved to Sacramento as Sears tried to find some formula or business approach which would minimize the impact of The Depression. That was a fine city for us kids, since we lived right next to a vineyard which grew Muscat grapes, and whose owners allowed constantly-hungry kids to pick some of the grapes which the paid pickers had passed-by. You must understand that those passed-by grapes had a very high sugar content, and were simply the sweetest of all grapes.
And of course, The Delta King and the Delta Queen, stern-wheeler boats which traveled overnight from San Francisco to Sacramento and vice versa. Who could aspire to such grandeur as to be a passenger on either of these noble vessels? It was simply beyond wishing!
Next to San Francisco in about 1933. I'm pretty sure that Dave became interested in radio at this time. I don't remember any earlier indications of interest, but in 1933-34, those interests caused a lot of sleepless hours, since we shared a room, as I recall. I can still remember without pleasure "..da-dit, da-dit, da-da-dit-da...." far into the night, while Dave was attempting to communicate with some other idiot who didn't have enough sense to go to sleep. For crying out loud, that's what nights were invented for!
It was at about this period that Dave got the hots to build a boat...actually a pram...using some left-over wood and canvas from a trailer which our Dad had put together for the semi-constant trips to Seattle and tacoma which our parents seemed to enjoy. This pram of Dave's was painted an olive-spinach green (again, the left-over paint of the afore-mentioned trailer), and while the color was a bilious one, I thought that it was beautiful!
This particular Summer was a Lake Tahoe Summer (our parents alternated between Tahoe and the Northwest, as I recall) and Dave's pram was an honored part of the trailer-load of stuff which was necessary for the week or so at the lake. How I admired that pram with it's club-like oars! One little problem: Dave wouldn't let me use it. (A very wise move on his part, but I thought that his attitude was despicable!)
There was only one course of action left for me and that was to steal the darn boat, even though I knew there would be consequences. Which I did, and which there were.
After my lip healed, our great Dad persuaded Dave (I still don't know how) to let me take the boat out into the lake for a longer row (did I mention that it was a one-person vessel?). Which I did, of course, wearing a swim suit because it was such a hot day. I can still remember that clear, clear water and the large fishes swimming among the logs and stumps at the bottom of the lake. Fascinating! So fascinating, in fact, that I overstayed my allowed time. Dave was not pleased, but that wasn't the worst part: I didn't know about altitude sunburn, and the combination of the boat ride and shirt-off comfort on such warm sand gave me a sunburn that I can remember to this day. I couldn't move my legs for probably two days, and then ever so gingerly. Ah, the joys of Summer!
Then, Spokane. Here, Dave had his own little cabin in which to da-dit all night long and not disturb anyone. He and I (and I think later, Jean) attended Lewis & Clark High School. Our Dad would drive us from our house a couple miles outside of town to school, drop us off, and continue to Sears, at which store he was in charge of the Shipping Dept. After school, we would ride a bus to the edge of town and walk home or--if the weather was simply too cold and rainy for walking--we'd walk to Sears and wait for our Dad to get through work, so that we could ride home with him.
Dave graduated before I did, and went to work for Sears, right away, as I recall. Then, when I graduated from High School, our Dad persuaded Sears Management, against their better judgement, to hire me as well.
At Sears, Dave met Salvador Sigismundo Malo, the radio repairman there. Dave and he used to argue religion (Mr. Malo was Catholic, I believe). Anyway, at about this time, I think that Dave went to PBI, and you all know more about his life from there on than I.
But - you know - I still wonder what happened to the boat, now that my lip has healed.
Submitted by brother Dick Hartt