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
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“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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