It was no surprise when members of HIS MEN sang at the bedside of one of their own yesterday. It just goes to show how they---humbly, yet proudly---carry the name HIS MEN!
As the founder/director of this fine singing group exactly 44 years ago, I had a vision that we would not be participating in, what I called “the church hit parade,” performing in worship services throughout the area. We weren’t interested in getting on the charts, making powerful videos, and recording hits for the religious radio stations. They still aren’t. Our goal, from the very beginning, was simply to reach out. And so, for the next four decades, their voices would be heard in hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, assisted living centers, rescue missions, county jails, and state and federal prisons.
The group is larger now (we started with just 13 men). There’s a different director now (I stepped down after serving the first 21 years). And there are only three charter members still in the chorus. One of the three is seriously ill.
Fred Groen’s heart problems required serious surgery…a procedure that took 12 hours. Now, more than 30 days later, his wife Bev and his family, are still anxiously waiting for him to regain consciousness. So yesterday, just as Fred had done with HIS MEN so many times in the group’s past, the ensemble paid a visit to the hospital. This time for his benefit.
No one could be certain that Fred heard those beautiful melodies and reassuring words, but personally I don’t think there’s even any doubt.
The music led the staff to request that the men sing in another hospital room.
Then the family member of another patient asked that they sing in still another room. That’s just the way things have gone in the past 44 years.
As I said at the beginning of this piece, it was no surprise when HIS MEN went to the hospital yesterday. Just as it was no surprise when they sang a whole program to a single ailing missionary on the Haitian island of La Gonave. Just as it was no surprise when, after a stubborn VA Hospital refused to publicize our program, the men sang a whole concert for 5 men sitting in the back of that giant auditorium. Just as it was no surprise when they sang at the funeral of Rev. Ron Smeenge, a man who had orchestrated two overseas tours for the group. Just as it was no surprise when they sang at the wedding of their beloved accompanist, Sherry Veenema Merz.
Today I pay tribute to HIS MEN, their exceptional director John Mattson, and their talented accompanist Sherry Merz. And today Marcia and I join all of the bands of people who are now praying for recovery and healing for Fred, as well as patience and comfort for Bev and the family.
HIS MEN has a rich history, and the tradition of caring and compassion shows no sign of waning.