Jesus Loves Me

The Latest Word from John Ed Mathison

One of the great joys of my ministry at Frazer was working with Reverend Earl Andrews for 19 years. While he had a tremendous ministry at Frazer in Congregational Care, he made a huge contribution to our nation and Christendom when he was persistent about giving historical significance to Anna Warner who wrote “Jesus Loves Me.”

Anna and Susan Bartlett Warner lived on a little island, now called Constitution Island, jutting out into the Hudson River just across from the United States Military Academy at West Point. For a number of years the Warner sisters taught Sunday School classes for the young Cadets.

They made their living by writing books and they were very successful as writers. Over the years developers in New York City tried to buy their island, but it was the wish of Anna and Susan Warner that, at their death, Constitution Island would be given to the United States Government to become a permanent part of the United States Military Academy.

Susan died in 1885. Anna, who actually wrote the words to “Jesus Loves Me”, lived until 1915. She made final arrangements for the transfer of this valuable, historic and strategic piece of property, a gift that inspired a personal letter of thanks from President Theodore Roosevelt. In accepting the property, President Roosevelt decreed that the sisters would be buried, with military honors, in the West Point cemetery at a place overlooking Constitution Island.

This was a special tribute to these two Christian ladies because of their influence and the spiritual growth of the cadets and the generous gift of their island. It is even more special because West Point regulations stipulate that only West Point graduates, or those who are not graduates but who die while assigned to the faculty and staff, can be buried there.

So today, buried among the military warriors of our nation, are two gentle Christian ladies who gave to Christendom one of its most beloved songs, “Jesus Loves Me.”

In 1974 Chaplain J. Earl Andrews was assigned to the Military Academy as the Senior Military Chaplain. He was there for five years. He was Senior Chaplain when Bobby Knight was the basketball coach and Mike Krzyzewski was his assistant.

During his tenure at West Point he visited the gravesite of the two ladies many, many times. Only people who were most intimately associated with the Academy knew the location of the graves. There was nothing on the granite markers that pointed out the enormous contribution of the Warner sister to West Point and Christendom.

General Andrew Goodpaster was Superintendent of the Academy during that time. He served as Supreme Commander of NATO, as Military Assistant to President Eisenhower and retired as a four star general. He was called back on active duty during the academic and ethics turbulence of 1977-78 for the purpose of getting the Academy back on a steady course.

Chaplain Earl Andrews felt that something must be done to point out prominently the contributions and gravesites of the Warner sisters. He discussed this with General Goodpaster. He proposed that a marker be placed at the graves indicating the sisters’ contribution to Christendom. The General agreed, and three weeks before Chaplain Andrews left for his next assignment in Germany a marker was put on the grave that read:

Anna B. Warner

Author of Words to hymn, Jesus Loves Me
“Jesus Love Me this I know

For the Bible tells me so

Little ones to him belong

They are weak, but He is strong.”

Earl recognized a need, and was persistent to see that the need was met. This is just one of the little “behind the scenes ministries” that Earl performed both as a military Chaplain and as a Pastor at Frazer. Thank you, Earl!

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