In the summer of 1934 a thirty four year old British missionary, serving in a remote part of Eastern Europe, set out by bicycle to preach and distribute Bibles high up in the Carpathian Mountains. His name was Stuart K. Hine.
As Stuart later wrote, ‘the thoughts of the first three verses of How Great Thou Art! were born, line by line, amid my unforgettable experiences in those mountains.’
The first and second verses were inspired partly by
the Russian words of Prokhanoff’s hymn and partly by the ‘awesome
beauty of God’s creation.
Verse three was written as a consequence of villagers expressing their amazement at hearing for the first time the revelation of God's love.
In 1948, the grief and sorrow of refugees from Eastern Europe, separated from their loved ones, inspired Stuart to write verse four; a verse of hope for a future reunion in Heaven.
As Kenneth Osbeck, the distinguished American hymnologist, said:
“this great hymn teaches us three essential truths:
the greatness of God’s creation,
the greatness of Christ’s redemption and
the greatness of our future inheritance.”