Don, the second oldest of the four children of Morris and Marjorie Moen, was born in Duluth, Minnesota in 1950. Mrs. Moen was a church pianist, so she saw to it that her children be involved in church and Sunday school activities, especially the music programs. She started each of them in piano lessons in the second grade. Don reports that he, his older brother and two younger sisters, went “kicking and screaming for six years.”
Don started playing the violin in the third grade, and it was to be his major instrument in the coming years. With it he was able to win a scholarship to the University of Southern Mississippi. He was soon playing in seven orchestras that were in a radius of about 100 miles from his school. Even with that kind of success, the violin was not his first love. His ultimate goal was to be a navy pilot, but his glasses kept him from that ambition. Don said, “Being a violinist was what I thought I would do for the rest of my life.”
Moen, presently the President of Integrity Music, related to me the following earthshaking story of tragedy and death, which led to the writing of one of Christendom’s most meaningful songs. Don’s sister-in-law, Susan Phelps, and her husband Craig, were involved in a car accident during a ski trip from their Oklahoma home to a resort in Colorado. Far out in the Texas panhandle their van was hit by an eighteen wheeler. A rear panel of the van was hit with such force that all four of the Phelps’ children were thrown out.
In the darkness they were able to locate all of their injured children by their crying — all except one. Craig, who was a physician, finally located him beside a nearby fence. He was already dead. His neck had been broken.
As Craig picked up his son and tried to revive him, God said to him, “Jeremy is with me. You deal with those who are living.” They sat for forty-five minutes out in the wilderness waiting for an ambulance.
Don had been asked to sing for the funeral, so the next day while traveling by plane to Oklahoma, he began to read in Isaiah chapter 43 where God says, I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” He picked up his legal pad and sketched a song that the Lord was giving him He planned to sing it at the memorial service. When he arrived he found that the Phelps had already selected Henry Smith’s song, Give Thanks, for him to sing.
After the funeral Don, while holding Susan and Craig in his arms, said, “The Lord gave me a song for you,” and he began to sing God will make a way, where there seems to be no way. He later made a taped copy of the song for Susan to play on her small cassette player just above her kitchen sink. He knew that when all of the people had gone, and everything was said and done, that there would be days when she needed to hear that God was working in ways that she couldn’t see.
Don continued, “About two years later I was called to sing in a small church in Dothan, Alabama. Although I had never intended to sing God Will Make a Way in a public service — I had written it just for that grieving family — somehow I felt impressed of the Lord to share the song with those people. I did so, and it had a tremendous impact on them.”
“The following week I was leading worship during the Wednesday staff devotional period at Integrity Music, and again the Lord laid it upon my heart to sing that song. I pulled out my legal pad, looked at the words, and sang it for them. It seemed as if almost everyone there needed to hear the words, He works in ways we cannot see.”
Following the devotional period F. G. Baldwin approached me and asked, ‘Don, have you ever thought of recording that song?’ I said, ‘Oh no, I would never record that song. It is much too simple.’ Baldwin protested, ‘That song has a tremendous message and I think it needs to be recorded.’ After discussing it with some of the staff, we decided to put the song on a project entitled, ‘Eternal God.’”
In times of trial, and especially in times of extreme trial, we need to be assured that we have a God who loves us and who will provide for our every need, whether it be physical, emotional, or spiritual. During those times see if you, too, are not encouraged and helped by singing Don’s song.
Lindsay Terry, Ph.D has directed the music ministries for several leading churches in the United States. He has 38 published works, eight of which are books of song stories, including the best-selling Stories Behind Popular Songs and Hymns. Four of his books became college texts. His sixteen tracts — some based on famous song stories — have sold fifteen million copies. He has written for several national periodicals and leading newspapers, and has spoken in numerous conferences. Visit http://www.lindsayandmarilynterry.com