No history lesson today, just my favorite story about one of the hymns we’re singing. The LDS poet Emma Lou Thayne relates this story about her friend, Jan Cook, who moved from Salt Lake City to a remote part of Africa:
“[Her husband’s] work had taken them and their three small children there, and any meetings attended were in their own living room with only themselves as participants. By their third Christmas, Jan was very homesick. She confessed this to a good friend, a Mennonite; Jan told her how she missed her own people, their traditions, even snow. Her friend sympathized and invited her to go with her in a month to the Christmas services being held in the only Protestant church in the area, saying that there would be a reunion there of all the Mennonite missionaries on the continent.
It took some talking for Jan to persuade her husband, but there they were being swept genially to the front of the small chapel. It felt good, being in on Christmas in a church again. The minister gave a valuable sermon on Christ; the congregation sang familiar carols with great vitality. Then, at the very end of the meeting, a choir of Mennonite missionaries from all over Africa rose from their benches and made their way to stand just in front of Jan and her family. Without a word, they began singing. Without music, without printed text, they sang “Come, Come Ye Saints.” Every verse.
Disbelieving, totally taken by surprise, Jan and her husband drenched the fronts of their Sunday best with being carried home on Christmas…. When they finished, Jan’s friend said simply, “For you. Our gift.”
Jan’s friend had sent to Salt Lake City for the music to the hymn she knew Jan loved, had had it duplicated and distributed to every Mennonite missionary in Africa; they in turn had learned it very carefully to bring the spirit of Christ to their own reunion, where foreigners to their faith would be waiting to hear. (“The Gift,” Exponent II, Fall 1986, reprinted in Eugene England, _The Quality of Mercy_)