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Life on the family farm under an open heaven: What a way to go

Tom Heck for Progressive Dairy Published on 12 March 2021

There are many, many voices crying out in our world today, telling us which way we should go. These voices come from our schools, universities, governments and news sources, as well as many other places.

Who are we to listen to? Who’s right? One thing is for sure: When we close our eyes in death, we will want to have lived our lives right so we can look forward to a blessed eternity with God.

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My great-grandfather, John P. Elbert, knew the right way and lived it all his life. His Bible was his daily guide, and he walked in fellowship with God daily. And what a legacy he left, especially on his dying day.

John Elbert was born in southern Wisconsin on Feb. 23, 1860. Being born and raised on a farm, farming was his life’s work. As a young man, he married Emilie Opperman, and together they raised seven children. They had a godly home and taught their children to work on the farm alongside of them. And work they had to because as John got older, he was very limited in what he could do. You see, John was born with a bad heart condition. As he got older, his heart kept getting worse. So Emilie and the children all pitched in to keep the farm going and to put food on the table.

But John never neglected his responsibilities as a husband and father. He was a man of the word of God and prayer. In his later years, he couldn’t do much farm work, but he spent a lot of time in prayer and the word of God. John was a man who heard from God. His wife and seven children all testified to this. There were times when John would tell his family that God told him of something that was going to happen in the future. And it always happened exactly as he said. When he told them something like that, they never doubted him.

And so it was on the morning of May 16, 1914. John, having been bedridden for some time already, waited for his family to get in the house for breakfast after milking the cows. Once they got into the house, he called them around his bedside and told them, “The Lord told me that I’m going home to be with Him today. I want you to eat breakfast and go back out and finish up the chores you need to do. Then this afternoon, I want you all to gather around me, and I want to speak to each of you individually and pray for you.” They did exactly what he told them to do, with no doubts whatsoever about what he said. They knew by the life he had lived he was a real man of God.

Afternoon came, and they all gathered around his bed. He spoke to, prayed for and blessed each of his family members. When he was all done, he said, “I’m going home now.” With that, he shut his eyes and was gone. What a blessed way to go. What a legacy he left.

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As a young child, John came to Jesus and followed Him the rest of his life. When it was time to step over into eternity, John was fully ready to do so. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6 KJV). When you know Jesus as John did, then you’re ready to meet God face to face.

Some of us have lived a much more sinful life than what John did – I certainly did – but there’s room at the foot of the cross for all of us. We must come there with godly sorrow and true repentance, and give ourselves fully to Jesus. If we do, Jesus will take the heavy burden of sin we carry, and we won’t have to carry it anymore. Furthermore, we can walk with God daily in fellowship with Him. I call it “walking under an open heaven.” It’s the most wonderful thing in all the world. I know that for a fact.  end mark

om Heck, his wife, Joanne, and their two children own and operate a 35-cow dairy farm in Wisconsin. Email Tom Heck at  or order his book at Tom Heck.

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