A song in the jungle …

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It was miserable with the heat, humidity, and incredible fatigue. We’d been walking through jungle since before dawn, attempting to do a 35 mile trek in one day. For some of the men, their legs had already given out and we had to hoist them onto the few mules we had used to carry supplies. Most of us were close to exhaustion.

I was 19 and was in the midst of a summer at Wycliffe’s jungle training program near the Mexico/Guatamala border. Teams from five university ministries, all with the Navigators, were participating.

It was tough. Yet God met me in an unusual way on that trail. He did it through music and it wasn’t the popular stuff of the 60s and 70s. It was actually through lyrics and a melody that I had learned from a hymnbook in my childhood. “I will sing of my redeemer, and of his wondrous love for me …”

The song is actually Galatians 3:13 put to music and was penned by Philip Bliss in 1876. He was a major figure in the aftermath of the Great Awakening of 1858 in America (which lasted into subsequent decades). Sometimes called the “Charles Wesley of the 19th century,” he labored tirelessly alongside Dwight L. Moody. Bliss and his wife died in a tragic train accident in December 1876. Bliss initially survived the wreck but plunged back into the burning car to rescue his wife where they both perished. The words to this hymn were discovered in their charred belongings. It was the last thing he wrote. Later, it was one of the first songs ever recorded on a phonograph.

Yesterday, I happened to hear the tune on a CD and it triggered all these thoughts …it is remarkable how the words of a 19th century writer could be imbedded in the soul of young college student plodding through the jungles of Central America in the middle of the 20th century , and then in the present day the same tune turns my heart and spirit toward my Redeemer as I am driving along a Southern California freeway.
Photos above are actual pics from 1971: heading off into the jungle, base camp, and navigating a river in a dugout.

One Response to “A song in the jungle …”

  1. Steve Hoke Says:

    Again, good stuff.

    Thanks for taking the time to put this to paper. This is legacy stuff.

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