Paul the Apostle, who himself had been before his conversion anything but weak, said that “not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen…the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty.” (I Cor. 1:26,27)
Had anyone been able to peek into the mid-depression era to get a look at the life of the subject of this post, one would have concluded that of the four sons born to this western Pennsylvania wife and her alcoholic husband, none of them would stand anything but the slimmest of possibilities in amounting to anything that would contribute much to the needy world into which they had been born.
The years were deep depression years. Poverty, abject poverty, characterized the situation this little family found itself in. Whatever few nickels and dimes the father of the four boys and their sister, was able to scrape together, he spent propping up his addiction to alcohol. His sweet wife and children felt the harsh blows of his beatings when he came home drunk. There was often no heat in the house, no food and little possibility of getting help except when a kind relative, knowing of the critical needs, would drop by with whatever assistance could be rendered.
Dr. Larry Hufhand, born in 1934 into that sin broken family circle, is the “weak” thing, along with another older brother, the late Rev. Leland Hufhand, that God reached down and with His mighty hand, lifting up two brothers out of the dire depression that had swallowed up a nation leaving hardly any household unscathed, to make of them, along with their two other brothers and eventually their mother and one-time drunkard dad, trophies of His grace.
Whenever rent came due, it seemed the family had to move again. The children were in so many different schools they lost track of the number. Some were in Pennsylvania and some in New York State where their dad had moved them into a tin shed shanty to spend a cold winter while he returned to Pennsylvania to live in warmth with some of his family, with food and shelter.
It was a childhood with memories etched forever into one’s mind, soul and upon the body itself. But God! In His merciful grace, a loving heavenly Father built a hedge around those boys, and to a great extent, their sweet mother, so that they were able to reach adulthood in time to enlist in the armed forces as drumbeats of World War II, followed by the Korean War, were sounding through the nations.
Larry, as a high school student, in the summer of 1952, at the invitation of his older brother, Lee, who had come to know Christ as Savior and was, on a GI bill, living in a trailer court with his bride just off the campus of Bob Jones University where he was studying in preparation for ministry, accepted Lee’s invitation to pay them a visit. Armed with maps of several states on the eastern seaboard, Larry set out to hitch-hike from western PA to Greenville, SC, where he would spend a few weeks with his brother before entering school for his senior year. It was during that visit that Larry heard clearly for the first time the claims of Christ upon his life and the gospel invitation that “whosoever will may come.” He was gloriously converted and has never gotten over it. Finishing his senior year, he had enlisted in the Air Force, and while waiting on a call from them was employed at the Ford Stamping Plant in Buffalo, NY. Someone suggested to Larry that he consider attending Bob Jones College, whereupon, without any means and nothing much more that a heart full of faith, he applied, was accepted and made his way to BJU in time for the opening revival services. While Dr. Bob Jones, Sr., preached as only he could, the Holy Spirit was speaking softly yet earnestly to Larry, and when the invitation for full-time service was given, from his seat in the back row of the balcony in Rodeheaver Auditorium the 18-year-old young man, whose life had been in large part a living night-mare, made his way as fast as he could to the front of the auditorium to surrender to God’s will whatever it would be. That life-changing night made the difference not only in Larry’s life, but in thousands of lives his life would impact over the next 69 years to this present day.
Dr. Hufhand graduated from BJU, then attended Grace Seminary in Winona Lake, but not before marrying his sweetheart and life’s helpmeet, Marion Dinus. The Hufhands would in time be the proud parents of four sons, all who know and serve their Lord and Savior.
Larry Hufhand, as a student at BJU, struggled with a severe speech impediment, that of stuttering. He was tutored in special speech classes by professors who were the best available, but after years of trying to help this handicapped would-be preacher, they advised him that his case was hopeless and that they could not help him. That did not deter a man who had the call of God upon his life, and Larry continued on with his ministerial training in Winona Lake, where, in a barber shop located across from the famed Billy Sunday tabernacle, Larry would hone his barbering skills on many of the well-known preachers attending the summer Bible conferences, including Myron Cedarholm, Alva McClain, John Whitcomb, Walter Wilson, Vance Havner and others. He was able to support his family through this work, and, upon graduation, the Hufhands would move to Freeport, IL, to begin a church plant mothered by the historic First Baptist Church of Freeport in 1960. Five years later, accepting a call to pastor another historic church, First Baptist Church of Tipton, Indiana, Larry, Marion and family tearfully bid farewell to the thriving congregation of Calvary Baptist Church in Freeport to assume duties in Tipton where, on the Sunday that Pastor Hufhand candidated, Palm Sunday, 1965, tornadoes ripped across central Indiana leaving 350 people dead in their wake.
Pastor Hufhand, with Marion and the boys, accepted the new challenges before them and it was not until 41 years later that Dr. Larry Hufhand, known to most everyone in Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio as the pastor of a vibrant, soul-winning church where revival was on-going, where young people went away to Christian colleges, such as the newly constituted Maranatha Baptist Bible College, founded by Dr. Myron Cedarholm in 1968, and where children could attend summer camp at Michiana Baptist Camp in Shipshewana, Indiana, where they would enjoy fun, food and friends for a wonderful week. This writer volunteered to speak at one of those junior camp weeks and it was not yet lunch-time on Monday when I was assigned the job of counsellor in a cabin of eight-year-old boys. When Larry Hufhand stepped onto the Michiana Camp grounds, it was as if a personality transformation had taken place. He was all kids, all camp, all Christ all week and when it was over, everyone went home exhausted but exhilarated for having spent a week on a lake in northern Indiana with scores of other kids, all the while loved, fed, bedded and coached by a dedicated team of volunteers from First Baptist Church in Tipton.
Dr. Hufhand has been “retired” now since 2008, but in his retirement, he has accepted another call to pastor the Pleasant View Baptist Church in Noblesville, IN. He also publishes a weekly blog, the Hufhand Report, that reaches thousands with timely truths. At age 87 he is still promoting world missions and evangelism. When pastoring in Tipton, he was vitally involved in the forming of the Indiana Fundamental Baptist Fellowship of Churches, and often served as its president and later as its state representative.
All who have known this “weak thing” of this world have marveled at the grace of God and His ability to shape a once-stuttering young preacher-boy, who by the way was instantly and miraculously delivered by God from that affliction, into an under shepherd whose life would be used in the mentoring and molding of scores of others, young and old, into men and women who would in turn impact multitudes for Christ’s kingdom.
(Larry’s life story has been featured on Moody Radio’s “Unshackled” where this story of God’s amazing grace can be heard in a dramatized two-part version)
“But by the grace of God I am what I am…and His grace was not bestowed upon me in vain….” (I Cor. 15:10)