Listen: A Central African Worship Song

By Eric McLaughlin on June 22, 2015

Several years ago, I was given a book by Chuck Jacob which was based on a Burundian hymn (of all things).  The hymn was written in the early 20th century in Kirundi by a man named Emmanuel Sibomana.  An Anglican missionary translated it into English, and this was used as the structure for this book on the subject of the grace of God.  I enjoyed the text and the meter, but not knowing the tune, I wrote one for it.

 

We’ve sung it as a team from time to time in worship, and when we got to Burundi, we procured a few Burundian songbooks.  As soon as I learned a bit of vocabulary, I found a hymn titled Ubuntu bg’ Imana (The Grace of God) which had the right number of stanzas.

 

Later on, I asked some of the medical students in our Bible study if they knew the tune. Several did, and they agreed to let me record them one night after Bible study.

 

Then, this past month during a visit to Nashville, my brother-in-law Jonathan and I did a recording of it, first in English, with several stanzas of the medical students singing the original in Kirundi at the end.

 

 

 

Ubuntu bg’ Imana (The Grace of God)

O how the grace of God amazes me

It loosed me from my bonds and set me free

What made it happen so?

His own will, this much I know,

Set me, as now I show

At liberty.

 

My God has chosen me, though one of nought,

to sit beside my King in heaven’s court.

Hear what my Lord has done

O, the love that made him run

to meet his erring son!

This God has wrought.

 

Not for my righteousness, for I have none.

But for his mercy’s sake, Jesus, God’s Son,

suffered on Calvary’s tree-

Crucified with thieves was he-

Great was his grace to me,

His wayward one.

 

And when I think of how, at Calvary,

He bore sin’s penalty instead of me.

Amazed, I wonder why

He, the sinless One, should die

For one so vile as I;

My Savior he!

 

Now all my heart’s desire is to abide

In him, my Savior dear, in him to hide.

My shield and buckler he

Covering and protecting me;

From Satan’s darts I’ll be

safe at his side

 

Lord Jesus, hear my prayer, your grace impart;

When evil thoughts arise through Satan’s art,

O, drive them all away

And do you, from day to day,

keep me beneath your sway,

King of my heart.

 

Come now, the whole of me, eyes, ears, and voice

Join me, creation all with joyful noise:

Praise him who broke the chain

Holding me in sin’s domain

And set me free again

Sing and rejoice…

 

 

Eric McLaughlin

About Eric McLaughlin

In 2007, while Eric's wife Rachel was completing her residency in OB-GYN and Eric in Family Practice in Ann Arbor, MI, they joined up with two other medical families from their church and decided to pursue medical missions as a community. This community (informally known as the "McCropders”) serves with Serge in Burundi at Kibuye Hope Hospital where they practice medicine and train Burundi's future doctors. Eric and Rachel have 3 children, each born on a different continent.