R.G. LeTourneau, the inventor of most of the earthmoving equipment we use today, was popularly known as “God’s businessman”. LeTourneau’s story is a powerful example of what God can do through us when we follow His call.
Call? Not only for men of God. Also for Engineers, Lawyers, Teachers, Doctors, Traders, Transporters, etc.
In LeTourneau’s case, it was to move mountains – in order that God might move men. As you read this story, we pray that you too will be moved…and dare to follow where God is leading.
Robert Gilmore LeTourneau was a man who knew how to clear obstacles. When he met his wife Evelyn, she was but twelve, he was in his twenties. Almost at once she fell in love and began to pray, “Oh God, please have him wait for me.” Bob did wait for her. When she turned seventeen he asked for her hand. His father, Oscar Peterson, forbade marriage until Evelyn was twenty-one. So R. G. eloped with her to Tijuana.
Life was tough for the young couple. Often they did without necessities. For years they did not even have running water. The death of their first child forced them to realise they had neglected God in their marriage. They committed themselves fully to the Lord and began to tithe. By 1920 R. G. opened his first garage. The year of the stock market crash he formed his Peoria earth-moving business. Despite the times, Le Tourneau succeeded.
R. G. became the greatest obstacle-mover in history, building huge earth-moving machines. During World War II he produced 70% of all the army’s earth-moving machinery. He spoke of God as the Chairman of his Board. A lay pastor in the Christian and Missionary Alliance, R. G. shared his faith with millions during his life. Additionally he started two agricultural missions in Liberia and established the LeTourneau foundation to channel 90% of his personal salary to Christian endeavors, especially the training of Christian workers in practical skills (such as house-building) which are needed on mission fields. He also gave of his time to Christian business associations and Christian colleges.
R. G. maintained a close partnership with Evelyn. She could move obstacles, too. Once, at Bob’s request, she baked his favorite hot Tamale pie – for eight thousand people! As active as he was in spiritual affairs, she was more so. She mothered the young men who worked for LeTourneau, even going so far as to rent a house that many could live in so they would not become prey to the vices of Chicago. Many became Christians.
On May 30, 1937, Evelyn and R.G. LeTourneau were in a serious car accident. R. G. was on crutches when their twentieth wedding anniversary rolled around. Despite that, Evelyn coaxed him into the car on August 27, 1937. She had something she wanted him to look at it with her. That day they drove to Winona Lake, Indiana, and she bought Camp Bethel. Using help from students of Wheaton College, she turned the camp into an evangelistic and recreational centre. Numbers of people became Christians in its “Victory Circle”.
As a multi-millionaire, LeTourneau gave 90% of his profit to God’s work and kept only 10% for himself. A special friend of Billy Graham, in his early days, LeTourneau designed a portable dome building intended for Graham crusades. He also founded a university that is thriving to this day. LeTourneau said that the money came in faster than he could give it away. LeTourneau was convinced that he could not out-give God. “I shovel it out,” he would say, “and God shovels it back, but God has a bigger shovel.”
Many people see LeTourneau as one of the most influential people of the past hundred years. As the father of the modern earthmoving industry, he was responsible for 299 inventions. These inventions included the bulldozer, scrapers of all sorts, dredgers, portable cranes, rollers, dump wagons, bridge spans, logging equipment, mobile sea platforms for oil exploration, the electric wheel and many others.
He introduced into the earthmoving and material handling industry the rubber tyre, which today is almost universally accepted. He invented and developed the Electric Wheel. His life’s verse was “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.”
LeTourneau’s example reminds us that we too can be Mountain Movers. As the Great Physician, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” R.G. LeTourneau once said: “You will never know what you can accomplish until you say a great big yes to the Lord.”
R. G. LeTourneau died on 1st June1969 at the age of 88, and life is a testimony to the big things God can do, through people with big ideas. He learned to give unstintingly to God.
May God raise us up as creative leaders who, like LeTourneau, will be movers of mountains and people.