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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Winter (the season) (08/13/09)

TITLE: Thy Word Have I Hid In My Heart
By Mariane Holbrook


Joe listened as his mother sat close by him on his bed.
“My son, each Bible verse you’ve learned, each story that you’ve read
Is deeply rooted in your heart to keep you free from sin
And make it a fit dwelling place for Christ to enter in.”

For years this boy would memorize the verses that he’d read,
Not knowing what was facing him in years that lie ahead.
The day Joe finished high school in the class of ’44,
He put away his mortar board and headed off to war.

He shipped off to the Philippines, the coldest day he’d known;
It was the dead of winter; he felt frozen to the bone.
The night that Joe arrived a bayonet plunged in his back.
The enemy could barely wait to launch a new attack.

In snow and ice he marched, enduring weather cold and damp;
Four hundred men were locked up in that concentration camp.
Joe huddled in a corner; there was neither heat nor light.
The Japanese who guarded them sneered at their awful plight.

They slept upon the concrete floor, no covering from the cold.
No bathrooms were provided, walls were covered with slime mold.
The only meal was served at night, without a candle’s glow.
What vermin lived within the rice, ‘twas best they didn’t know.

The longest winter Joe had known just grew from bad to worse.
If Joe had not known better, he’d have thought God sent a curse.
Pneumonia deaths were common now, conditions were so bad,
The temperature reached 12 below; worst winter that they’d had.

Some GIs soon became so weak that many of them died.
The guards refused to bury them; the snow was deep outside.
Removing clothing from the dead, they kept what they could use,
Then tossed the bodies in the snow and walked off in their shoes.

As Joe lay huddled in the dark, his mother’s voice he’d hear.
“Be sure to learn your verses for you’ll need them some day, dear.”
As arctic winds ripped through the camp, to seek and to destroy,
Joe started to recite each verse he’d learned when just a boy.

Soon other soldiers learned the verses Joe’d recite each day.
And dozens placed their faith in Christ as Joe taught them to pray.
One day a guard was list’ning as the GIs prayed to God
And everyone was beaten with a heavy metal rod.

Joe taught them how to “whisper sing” the hymns about the cross
And how the suffering Christ endured was not considered loss.
For many this became their hold on stark reality;
As winter dragged its feet, men faced their own mortality.

One day the door flew open and a chaplain could be heard.
The GIs ran to meet him so they wouldn’t miss a word.
“Your cold and bitter winter night is almost over, men.
Sing ‘Hallelujah!’ Shout for joy! We’re going home! Amen!”

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This article has been read 748 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Deborah Engle 08/20/09
This is wonderfully done. The meter was so perfect, reading it was very smooth.

The only problem I found was making the connection between the bayonet in the back and the marching. It bwecame clear later that it was a forced march to the concentration camp, but I didn't get it at first.

Other than tht, It was a very readable story. In fact, I went back and read it a secand time.

Good job!
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/20/09
This gave me chills as I was reading it; then I was thrilled when the good news came at the end. There are so many wonderful messages tucked within the lines of this beautiful poem. I'm thankful for our soldiers who endured such hardships on behalf of freedom. I'm thankful for the Word and for every mother who teaches her child the value of learning verses, as did my own.I'm thankful, too, for the joy that comes from sharing God's Word and how lives are changed from hearing it. Your well written poem really did make me think.
Deborah Ann Belka08/21/09
What a powerful, moving, imploding poem. I felt these men out there, dealing with the effects of war, death, and new life in Jesus. Gave me shivers and right now it is about 80 degrees!
Helen Dowd08/22/09
Wow! What a story! I read it twice, not for clarity. It was clear the first time. I read it twice because it stabbed me in the heart. The word picture was so clear. What awful things the men went through to make it so that we could live in a "free" world, a world where we need not be afraid to worship where and when we like, and to be able to pray without fear. I really don't know what to say about this poem. It leaves a lasting memory, and makes us thankful for all that the service men and women went through(then and now) to make our country free...And what a mother the soldier had, to teach him to hide God's word in his heart...What a story...Amen...Helen
Edy T Johnson 08/22/09
The message of this beautiful ballad is needed now more than ever. I'm always delighted to hear of youngsters memorizing God's Word, whether at AWANA or at the knees of their parents. This story gives good reason, preparation for life's journey.

I'm just a bit perplexed at the cold being suffered in the Philippines. Perhaps during monsoons it gets more chilly. (I found Manila to be the hottest place I've ever been :)
Mona Purvis08/23/09
I like poems that tell a story as this one does. So many suffered the atrocities mentioned here.
To know scripture is such a blessing when fighting any battle and certainly worked well for many prisoners.
great writing.
Bryan Ridenour08/24/09
Wonderful poem and an incredible reminder for us to be thankful to all who have sacrificed so much to keep us free. Well done!
Jan Ackerson 08/24/09
Awesome poem--the meter perfect, the message so important.

The bayonet threw me a bit--if it was plunged in his back, how did he survive that? Unless it was just a metaphor for the icy cold?

Loved the images of the men quietly whispering hymns and scriptures...very moving.
Mariane Holbrook 08/24/09
The bayonet was used to prod the soldier in this forced march. I could have/should have used a different word but I meant to convey that the soldiers were brow-beaten and forced to march as prisoners to the concentration camp. This is a true story about the atrocities the Japanese visited upon the soldiers and civilians in World War 2.
Colin Swann08/24/09
Wow - what suffering, and surviving all that, and with a bayonet wound in the back. Enjoyed or should I say, very interesting!
william price08/24/09
Wish I could write poetry. The heart is the battle ground and the Word of God is the strength we need and have if we use it. Thank you. God bless.
Cherie B.08/24/09
This was an amazing poem. I loved the message and the impact scripture had on these men's lives. Beautifully done!
Carol Slider 08/24/09
What an incredible story--a reminder of the price of freedom! Your poem brought the story alive so vividly. Well done!
Ada Nett08/24/09
That was quite a journey you took us on...from a little boy to a man. It was encouraging to see that his mom's faithfulness in teaching him the scriptures bore such fruit later in his life and in the lives of others. You writing is very skillful. It was well worth reading. Thank you!
Dee Yoder 08/25/09
It's heart breaking to read how so many soldiers were treated during WW2. So amazing that they were able to survive at all! I wonder how they endured. I know I learned a lot of scripture as a child--hope I never have to remember it this way.
Karlene Jacobsen08/25/09
Karlene Jacobsen08/25/09
Oops, i hit the comment button too soon.

By the end I wanted to stand and cheer for the soldiers and their perseverence through that winter. It made me cry!
Charla Diehl 08/25/09
Excellent--inspiring--sad--perfection in meter and rhyme--great imagery which left me so thankful for those who died for our freedoms and for the King who died for us all.