December 12, 2017

The Song of a Faithful Man

Chris Kundert

Not far from my childhood home of Onekama, Michigan is a lonely, snow covered road which quietly passes by a dilapidated old farmhouse. The house looked as if it was at any moment willing to give itself over to the constant urging of gravity. Anyone driving by could only assume the derelict is abandoned. How could any human live there with its old worn clapboard siding, rotten single pane windows, no insulation and only a pot belly stove to heat the two story burden. Yet, in this home lived a remarkable man who has left a permanent dent in my heart, and helped shape me into the man I am today.

This man who kindly and softly referred to himself as Bill Brown, resided with a distasteful, and unappreciative woman to which he was yoked to until death. There was also an unmotivated, disrespectful grown man who came and went based on a claim of being his son, if but in name only. They owned no vehicle, and lived on an imagined income provided by social security. He would often trudge several miles to the store in the snow to purchase a meager number of rations, which often left stomachs in want. His clothing always seemed to be the same dirty jeans, worn and tattered sport jacket which resembled burlap, a button down shirt whose original color could not be determined. On his head, mashed down over his stringy, oily hair was a threadbare stocking cap, bringing emphasis to his deeply wrinkled brow.

I met Bill Brown, because my family would pick him up every Sunday morning and evening for church. We didn’t have the best vehicle for hitch hikers. My dad owned a 1976 Jeep CJ-7 complete with a soft top and an inadequate heater, which just managed to keep the driver’s feet from turning to a block of ice. My younger brother and I would bundle up on cold winter days huddling in the small back seat dreading the moment when Bill Brown would join us. He would voluntarily squeeze into the backseat while my brother and I would sit up on the bare metal rear fenders hugging the cold roll bar. This uneducated, smelly old man with few teeth left in his constant smile would then begin to sing the only song he cared to know.

I have found a friend in Jesus, He’s everything to me
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul
He’s the Lily of the Valley, in Him alone I see
All I need to cleanse and make me fully whole

He’s the Lily of the Valley, the Bright and Morning Star,
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul.

In sorrow He’s my comfort, in trouble He’s my stay
And He tells me every care on Him to roll
He’s the lily of the valley, the bright and morning star
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul

He will never, never leave me nor yet forsake me here
While I live by faith and do His blessed will
There’s a wall of fire about me and I’ve nothing now to fear
With His manna He my hungry soul shall fill

And then sweeping up to glory to see His blessed face
Where rivers of delight shall ever roll
He’s the lily of the valley, the bright and morning star
He’s the fairest of ten thousand to my soul

Two years, week in and week out this routine continued, this poor man continued to endure the hunger of extreme poverty, bitter cold, spousal contempt for his beliefs, and disrespect from his son, and yet he sang on. I was only 7 years old but could see there was something special occurring in my life, because of this elderly man. The impact still reverberates in my heart today as a middle aged man.

As a young child I did share something in common with this seemingly unloved forgotten man. We shared a love for this Jesus to whom we both referred to as our savior. We couldn’t have been further apart in those years, but as I reminisce about this time in my life I have fond memories and often choke up whenever I hear this beautiful song. Even today when it is sung I hear his old wavering scratchy voice. The greatest memory isn’t his inability to carry a tune, but the living fire in his eyes. This man who had no worldly reason to be joyful had shown me to be content in the love of Jesus no matter our lot in life. I sometimes catch myself feeling sorry for myself and complaining about how things don’t seem fair in this world. Then embarrassment sets in and I remember this great joy from a man who truly understood the promise of Jesus to never leave us nor forsake us. He may have been hungry and cold, and unloved by mankind and yet he thrived on all he needed from his first love Jesus.

We moved away from that town after two years, and I never learned what became of Bill Brown. I often think what it will be like to arrive in heaven at the end of my days to have him meet me. I wish to tell him how much impact he had on a young boy, and how I hope to mimic him in my old age. I know that Jesus has given him back his health, and his youth with a new improved physique. I will not recognize this man by his looks, but I know I will find my friend by following the song he surely still sings: The Lily of the Valley

Christopher C. Kundert is an active member of Tabernacle Baptist church, and firefighter for the city of Virginia Beach. Worked as a volunteer youth Pastor for Evergreen Baptist in Kalkaska Michigan from 1996 through 2006.

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