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The Life Of Sam Rankin

By Marshall Uretzky, January 18, 1997 Printer Friendly Version

Salvation was the best thing that ever happened to him.
We would like to share with you today a testimony from a gentleman from the Los Angeles area named Sam Rankin.  A Jew who accepted the LORD.  Wherever he went, Rankin, a Jew liked to tell others how YESHUA the Messiah meant to him.  One day he picked up a hitchhiking sailor, who remarked that the world was in a terrible mess.  He wondered what the trouble was.  Rankin replied, I know what the trouble is.  The people in this world have forgotten GOD.  Tell me, are you a Christian?  Oh yes, replied the sailor.  Some day, Rankin said, I may write a book on the answers I get to this question: what is your definition of a Christian?

The sailor’s halting reply was unsatisfactory, even to himself.  Now, may I give you mine? asked Rankin.  Then he had the sailor open the glove compartment and take the Bible always kept there.  Ranking helped him find a number of Scripture passages which showed that being a Christian involves a personal saving relationship with Messiah.  Again the businessman asked his question, Are you a Christian?  No, not like the Book describes it.  Would you like to be?  Yes sir!

Rankin then showed him the way to a living faith in Messiah.  For the third time Rankin asked, Are you a Christian?  Yes sir! the sailor answered, a new assurance in his voice.  When he finally got out he told Rankin, Don’t ever stop preaching to us guys.  This is the best thing that has ever happened to me.

Sam Rankin can smile at that.  Salvation was the best thing that ever happened to him too.  His own salvation had cost him much because of his Jewish heritage.  Born in 1910, the oldest son in an Orthodox Jewish family, Sam soon assumed much of the responsibility for his invalid father and five brothers and sisters.  As a student in Freemont High School in Los Angeles, he spent 47 hours a week in classes, and 49 hours a week working.  But Sam still found time to attend a Jewish social club regularly.

Through this group he came to know and fall in love with Ethel Weinstein.  They were married November 11, 1933.  This was in the middle of the financial depression and Sam was selling magazine subscriptions to earn a living.  He remembers especially calling on one woman who couldn’t afford a subscription.  We have nothing in the house but a bowl of beans, she said, but we aren’t worried because we are Christians, and we know GOD will take care of us.  We are going to have our neighbours over to eat with us tonight, because they don’t even have a bowl of beans.

The young salesman left that house without a magazine subscription.  But he couldn’t forget the faith and love of those Christians.  Sam came into contact with a number of other Christians about this time.  Through them he received and began reading a New Testament.  Then one day in 1935, Elmer Pearson, a student at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, persuaded Sam and Ethel to attend a meeting at the Church of the Open Door in downtown L.A.  As Sam heard Dr. Irwin Moon speak, he became convinced that YESHUA was indeed the Messiah, Son of GOD.  At home that night he told Ethel.  She was furious.  If Sam became a Believer, that was the end of their marriage. 

Sam had little sleep or peace the rest of that week.  He knew he must openly confess Messiah, yet he loved Ethel and didn’t want to break up their home. The following Sunday he went to an afternoon meeting at the Church of the Open Door.  He hurried up to the top balcony of the huge auditorium just in time to hear the speaker close his message and give an invitation to come forward and publicly acknowledge faith in Messiah.  Comments Rankin, Those people in the top balcony probably thought I acted rather strangely.  I came in just as the invitation was given and I responded to it without having heard the message.  GOD had already done His work in Rankin’s heart.  He made his way down the stairs to the front of the auditorium.  There, before the audience, he acknowledged YESHUA the Messiah as the Saviour and LORD of his life.  He went home that afternoon and told Ethel what he had done. 

She did not leave him.  Instead she saw the wonderful change in her husband’s life.  She was impressed and convicted.  At the end of six weeks, she too became a Believer.  Together the young couple became members of the Echo Park Mission Church in L.A.  Dr. James A. Vavs, a  pastor, was also the Director of the Jewish Department of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles.

Rankin had begun work as a garage door installer about a year before his salvation.  In 1939 he felt he had had enough experience to launch a firm of his own.  But although Rankin was long on experience, he was short on cash.  Total on hand: one dollar and forty-five cents.  He knew he had to land a contract quickly.  He heard of attractive houses being built in nearby Compton.  When he interviewed the general contractor, he found that the original garage subcontractor had just that moment been fired.  Rankin was given the opportunity to install a trial door to show what kind of work he could do.

The following day as he faced the doorless garage, he knew this installation had to be perfect.  He put every bit of his five years’ experience into the installation of this one door.  When he had finished, the general contractor came out and inspected the job.  He put his hand on the handle and swung the door up, then lowered it again.  Finally he turned to Rankin.  You know, I never knew a garage door could work so perfectly.  Thus Sam Rankin landed his first contract.  No wonder he says, My first day in business is a miracle of GOD.

Rankin got the necessary financial credit, bought materials, hired men, and saw his business begin to grow.  Rankin always kept GOD first in his business, as well as in his personal life. 

Ever since his salvation, Rankin has maintained a vital interest in the salvation of the Jewish people.  For many years he was the President of the Watchmen on the Walls Club in Los Angeles.  This was sponsored by the Los Angeles Hebrew Mission, of which Dr. Vavs was Executive Secretary.  According to Dr. Vavs, it was a sort of half-way house between Church and Synagogue.  Jews were welcome to come there and meet their Christian neighbours.  Rankin, who attended this Club almost from the time of his conversion, found many opportunities there to speak to Jewish people about his Messiah.  At home, the Rankins had the joy of seeing three children grow up to love and serve the LORD.  Claire, a school teacher; Donald, a Westmont College student seeking GOD’s plan for his life, and Nelda, a high schooler active in her Church youth group.

If Sam Rankin was happy with the blessings of life, he was not complacent.  He sought more opportunities to witness for his Crucified and Resurrected Messiah.  Whether installing garage doors, or showing people to Messiah, the Door to heaven, he was a builder for GOD.

For more information on Zion Messianic Fellowship
email us at info@tsion.org, or call (604) 800-3663.