Have you ever heard of a bride standing in her wedding dress, facing up a staircase, and leading a choir?
Now you have because that’s what I did the afternoon I got married.
In those days, in the fifties and sixties, overseas missions had almost no high schools on the field, so most teenagers had to attend boarding schools in their home countries. To help meet that need, for ten years my parents made a home for our mission’s teenagers in Wheaton, Illinois. Because of all the maple trees on the two and a half-acre property and because our mission was Mid-Missions, we named the home Mid-Maples. Many years, we had twenty or so around our two large dining tables for every meal. During the early years, I was attending college there in town, so I was part of that large family.
We were a mission operation, and the imagination of many folks and churches was captured by those young people who were separated from their parents, at least for one year and some for as many as four. The year my parents furnished the home, before the arrival of the teens, churches got the vision to supply the mountain of linens that would be needed, and each year at Christmas they asked for sizes and wish lists and sent boxes and boxes of gifts.
When we had an invitation to visit one of these interested churches, we decided to put together a program. The young people from different countries dressed in typical clothing of their countries and sang in the languages they had grown up with. We wanted to use our theme song, “It Will Be Worth It All,” so we prepared it as a group number with the young people singing parts. I became the designated choir director, and we ended up many Sunday evenings traveling to churches within driving distance to present our program. In time, we added other musical numbers. One of those was a song fairly new to America in the 1950s—“How Great Thou Art.” My dad would close the meetings with a meditation on godly young people.
I was a senior in college the year serious romance and a diamond ring came into my life. Because most of the young people stayed right through the summer, our August wedding became a huge family affair—especially since we decided to hold it right there in the large Mid-Maples house. In my wedding dress I came down the front stairs with my Daddy, and Fred and I said our vows said in front of the big picture window with the bamboo-print curtains. Some of the guys served as ushers, other directed traffic outside the house, two of them lit the candles, and three of the girls served the cake and refreshments in the big side yard afterwards.
I don’t remember whose idea it was to use “How Great Thou Art” as one of the music numbers for the service. The kids gathered in the front hall at the top of the stairs, and I stood in my wedding dress facing up the stairs, unseen from the seventy-five people in the living room and dining room below. From there I led them in singing, and it turned out pretty well.
That hymn would probably have meant a lot to me all these years even if we hadn’t used it like that in our wedding, but because we did, it has meant even more. It is a great song with great truth and has become an icon of music for many in our Christian faith.