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Ernest C. Reisinger – A Biography


Geoffrey Thomas


Banner of Truth

I was enjoying this book sufficiently when I wrote the review for last month – that I put a note on that review to say how much I was appreciating it. It is one of those heart warming and challenging Christian biographies that are a challenge and an encouragement to the reader. There are numerous times that the book records the incidents of his life in a moving fashion and it is a delight to see the Christian grace with which he set about his life and walk. I guess for me another factor has been that it is set in modern times and is talking about witnessing to the sort of people that we see around us on a regular basis.


Reisinger was born in Carlisle, Pennsylvania and the book begins with a fascinating resume of the history of that town. Set deep in Amish country it was the site for the rebellious continental army’s arsenal and school. It was also the town that Jim Thorpe (athlete) came from and it had always had several churches, some of which saw ministries like that of George Duffield, T.V. Moore (Commentator) and Robert S. Marsden (father of George – the noted historian).


Reisinger was born in 1919 to relatively poor parents. His father who worked on the railroad (and was not a Christian) transferred to being a salesman, and sold stocks and shares. It was just prior to the Wall Street Crash and not only did his father lose everything but a circle of friends who trusted him also lost vast sums. One of his closest friends even lost his farm. This was more than Ernest’s father could bear and he lost his sanity and his health – needing 24 hour a day care in an institution until his death thirty years later. His mother put the two oldest boys in a children’s home, the youngest boy went to his uncle’s farm and the baby sister stayed with the mother.

At the age of 18 he began working on the Pennsylvania Railroad and one of his work colleagues was Elmer Albright. Many of the other workmen had little time for Elmer as he ‘had a bug on religion’, and they warned Ernie not to get too close to him as all he would do is talk about religion. Yet, Ernie found that Elmer did not speak about religion, he spoke about the Lord Jesus Christ and did so in such a way that Ernie thought ‘he really knows this person’. Eventually, Elmer got Ernie into a Sunday school class but he struggle to understand what was going on… when the class stood to sing ‘What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear’, Ernie could not sing because he knew it would be untrue. Shortly afterwards he was invited to Elmer’s home for a meal and was met by his wife Evie. She said ‘so, you are Ernie Reisinger?’ I didn’t know who Ernie Reisinger was, but I was hoping that he would soon move or get converted. All this was new language for Ernie and he looked perplexed at Evie Albright. She explained that on many occasions Elmer came home from work, before supper, he would go to his bedroom, close the door, and begin to pray. Evie would watch the dinner getting cold and then walk quietly to the door behind which her husband was crying to God for someone named ‘Ernie Reisinger’.

How our contemporary Church needs its Elmer Albright’s. His prayers were answered, Ernie was converted. Then the Second World War happened and he moved into the Navy and suffered the mockery of some of the crew for his new-found faith. After the war he had a real concern for the members of his immediate family and despite his mother’s council that he should stop reading his Bible or he would lose his mind, he persevered. His brother Donald who when he first spoke to him asked him never to broach the subject again, was the first to be saved. The youngest brother John was still in the Navy and got letters from his mother saying ‘I think your brother Ernie has had a nervous breakdown. He goes to church every Sunday – Sunday nights too, and also every Wednesday night. He’s always handing out pieces of paper to people’.

Eventually, all the family became Christians. In 1946, John and Ernie went into business together and formed Reisinger brothers…

If you want to know the rest of the story, with the successful business. His work for Westminister Seminary and his involvement with the Banner of Truth trust. The tireless work he put into several churches and saw real reformation in several areas. The backsliding son that he prayed faithfully for… and eventually saw restored… This book has it all…. It is quite simply superb…. A must buy!

A few years ago, a good friend in the United States lent me a DVD on American Christianity – a line in that documentary stuck in my head about the Southern Baptist Denomination being the only major American Christian body in the last two hundred years that throughout the nineteen eighties became more and not less reformed. A church were the liberals went into retreat and the Calvinists took control. Once I read this book I could see the wonderfully generous hand of Ernie Reisinger in the midst of that change – this is a life that should be studied and learnt from… Our church needs its Ernie Reisinger’s as well as its Elmer Albrights