Three-year-old Eda crawled up on her father’s lap. “Papa, when I grow up, I’m going to be a missionary!”
“Oh, Eda, you can talk really good,” Papa said, “but it has always been music that touches my heart. And, Eda, you can’t sing!”
It was sad but true. Eda was absolutely tone deaf. Her Papa’s verdict could have sent Eda into despondency. But, she knew his words were true. Instead, as she told her grandchildren many years later, “I made up my mind I would marry a man who could sing, and we would raise missionaries!”
“The Lord had to go clear to Texas to find your Grandpa Walter,” she continued, “and when he opened his mouth, he was a goner!”
Over the years, details of that story fell into place. After a time in Texas, where they had buried Walter’s little sister, Olivia, his family returned to Minnesota. Walter went to work at the small town hardware store. And, that was the place where Eda met him. Since Walter’s family was Lutheran, and Eda’s Mission Covenant, they would have had to cross denominational lines to attend youth functions at one or the other church. With Eda’s sister Alice as chaperone, one evening after such a program, Walter and Eda went walking.
“I like that recitation you gave, tonight,” Walter began. “Did you know that it is a song?”
Eda did not know that.
“Would you like me to sing it for you?” That was Walter’s fateful question, because, as Eda said, “When he opened his mouth, he was a goner!” (How I would love to have been there, to hear Grandpa’s voice, and to see Grandma’s face!)
Eda decided, then and there, that this was the man for whom she had long prayed. Her children were destined to be the missionaries that Eda yearned for them to be. It never crossed her mind that the children would take after her monotone rather than inherit their father’s singing voice. She trusted that God was bringing her dream to fulfillment.
When Walter and Eda had their three little ones, Eda tried singing to them as she rocked them to sleep. What a thrill to her soul when each of the children told her, “Off da tune, Mama, off da tune!”
When we grandchildren were little, we loved to have Grandpa and Grandma come for a visit. We took special delight in bringing them to church with us. It happened every time. Grandpa’s beautiful, booming voice rang out over the heads of the congregation. And, nearly everyone sitting forward of our pew turned around to see who was singing!
In case you wonder if Eda “raised missionaries,” her daughter married a pastor, her elder son entered the ministry, and her younger son, the carpenter and World War II veteran, with a voice like his father’s (a rich baritone-bass with a timbre similar to that of Tennessee Ernie Ford) was in high demand as soloist for weddings and funerals for as long as he lived.
Today, I think of our grandparent’s legacy whenever I hear my brother Joel singing in his church choir, as well as when my brothers and sisters and I get together and harmonize. Of course, before we go our separate ways, we have to sing the family hymn we learned in devotions at the grandfolk’s house. It is the same hymn we sing together in farewell at the graveside of each family member who goes on ahead of the rest of us.
O Shepherd, abide with us, care for us still,
And feed us and lead us and teach us Thy will:
And when in Thy heavenly home we shall be,
Our thanks and our praises, our thanks and our praises,
Our thanks and our praises we’ll render to Thee. Amen. *
“Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” (Psalm 37:4 KJV) That promise is in the Bible for us. We have no reason not to trust God to fulfill it!
* Carl Olof Rosenius (1816-1868) stanza five of “With God and His mercy....”
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