When He Reached Down His Hand for Me

In the spring of 1973, double bypass heart surgery had been performed on A. T. Humphries, but his future certainly did not look bright. He actually hung between life and death for nearly forty days. The endotracheal tube that had been a part of the wonderful medical equipment that had kept him alive had also damaged his vocal cords. The ministry of music had been the focus of his life. He had served as a minister of music, as the Dean of Music at Lee College, as a music evangelist, and now that wonderful part of his life was probably gone forever. In his despair, he wondered if it would not have been the best thing to have died and gone to be with the Lord. He even questioned why God had not reached down and just taken him home. God was definitely reaching down, but just not in the manner that A. T. was pondering.

In spite of hospital rules about the age of visitors, his wife Bobbie brought his children to visit their father.  His prognosis had been very guarded, and with no assurances of his survival, she was determined to let them see him. It was during one of these visits that his 2 ½ year old son Amos patted his father’s stomach and said, “I wuv you daddy.” With the words of that little child, a deeply spiritual work began in the heart of this gravely ill man.
In his younger and healthier days he had served the Lord with his talent and strength, but now both were gone with his broken voice and weakened body. Realizing the important and yet incomplete work of raising his family, he asked the Lord to allow him to live long enough to see his young son grow up to be a man. That would require him to function for almost twenty years with a damaged heart. In the remaining days of his life he surrendered himself to serve his sovereign Lord within the limitations of his new physical weaknesses.

One year after his heart surgery, he still could barely speak above a whisper. He had a throat specialist re-examine his damaged voice. The doctor told him that there was nothing more that could be done and that in his opinion, the damage was permanent. As A. T. drove from that appointment he began worshiping the Lord by humming and then suddenly sang Amazing Grace in full voice. He was thrilled, but puzzled about what God was doing in his life.

That summer A. T. returned to his beloved music on a limited basis. His voice was not what it used to be, but God was blessing his life and ministry. He had been a dear friend of my grandfather for many years, but it was not until this time in his life that I realized who he was and became aware of what a wonderful history he had in musical ministry. Now that his son Amos had been enrolled in our school, a life-long friendship was established.

We had started Baptist Park Christian School in 1974 and God was blessing us with many students. This meant that I was constantly looking to hire additional teaching staff for our growing student body. In the summer of 1975, I realized that as the school administrator it would be necessary for me to leave Michigan and visit college campuses in search of teachers. In the fall I attended a conference at Liberty Baptist College in Lynchburg, Virginia, with a twofold purpose in mind. I wanted to see what God was doing there so I could confidently recommend this school to my graduating students and I also wanted to know if I could recruit quality teacher candidates in the future. Little did I know that three of my own children would one day be blessed by and graduate from Liberty University, on a Liberty mountain campus that did not even exist when I was there in 1975.

I certainly did not consciously expect to see anyone I knew at the conference, least of all Dr. A. T. Humphries. He had come to the conference to see first hand a ministry that his old friend, evangelist B. R. Lakin, had mentioned to him on several occasions. A. T. had ministered with Dr. Lakin in numerous evangelistic meetings over many years. When he arrived in Lynchburg he registered at the same hotel where Dr. Lakin was staying and was soon introduced to Dr. Jerry Falwell. The two of them seemed to hit it off right from the first moment they met.
Dr. Falwell asked A. T. to sing at the conference and that is where I come back into the story. I was walking into the Thomas Road Baptist Church for the evening service and in front of me stood A. T. Humphries. He told me that Jerry had asked him to sing that night and was glad that someone from Gilead was in attendance.

I found a seat two rows behind the center aisle and waited for the service to begin. I watched as young talents Robbie Hiner, and Mack Evans sang in the earlier portion of the service. I began to pray for A. T. because I knew his weakened voice tone could not match up with the wonderful vocalists who had preceded him. His widow, Bobbie Humphries, later told me that A. T. was worried about that as well.

Finally it was his turn to sing and when he did, he introduced Dr. Falwell and all in attendance, to a song that would become the most recognized theme of the rest of his life. The song was When He Reached Down His Hand for Me. That song worked powerfully in my heart and I watched with tears in my eyes as the preachers in that audience got fired up. It seems that we could all identify with the line “I was lost and undone, without God and His Son, when He reached down His hand for me.” Preachers began to shout and some stood up and slapped their Bibles over their heads. Even as God was reminding me of the pit He pulled me out of, I couldn’t help wondering what many Baptist congregations across the country would think if they saw their preacher so physically involved in a worship session. I believe we have come a long way since then in our freedom to worship with enthusiasm.
Dr. A. T. Humphries singing “When He Reached Down His Hand for Me”
When A. T. Humphries had come out of that hospital alive several years earlier, he had made a special commitment to God. He gave Him all that he had left and God blessed his weakness with grace. Dr. Humphries was able to use those damaged vocal cords to minister to more hearts in his latter years as he traveled across the entire country, than in all of his previous years of service combined. God also allowed his wounded heart to beat long enough to see his son reach his senior year at Liberty University.
Today God is still seeking people who will give Him all that they are and all the time they have left. When they make that commitment like A. T. Humphries did, God’s strength is perfected in their weakness. God will reach down and bless your life beyond your highest expectations. I was privileged to see it happen with my own eyes in the life of my friend, Dr. A. T. Humphries.

Isn’t God’s Grace a wonderful thing?

Roger Allen Cook

I love to write stories about God’s grace.  If you have a story I should consider, please contact me at:    roger.cook@southsidefamily.com

Other stories can be viewed at Southside.church/grace