Updated: Feb 4, 2022
There are some songs in our Christian heritage that are forever connected with the first person I heard lead them. When it comes to my “Songs of the Church” memories (Red Edition), I associate specific songs with those who led them in worship growing up in our congregation. Higher Ground will always be connected to Coach Hale. Master the Tempest is Raging will always be led by Bill Witt. And when I think of Hilltops of Glory, Our God He is Alive, and Encamped Along the Hills of Light (#97 in Songs of the Church); I will always think of Denton Wiggains.
Denton and Beth Wiggains stepped into my life as a young boy, and to use the phrase from “A Knight’s Tale”, they changed my stars. My earliest memories of the Hooker congregation were sitting in a class with three of my dearest friends led by Denton and Beth. For over a decade they were a core part of my spiritual development. Now that I am grown, I am able to appreciate the countless hours he and Beth shared with us. I realize how many weary hours were offered to us after days and weeks filled with harvest and farming. I can still see a moment where Denton was getting out of a farm truck at the Church building on a Wednesday evening. It was harvest. His truck was covered in dirt. He was so tired. And he showed up to teach class. Again.
I remember learning to lead singing by holding up a coke bottle and keeping time. I remember sitting in the upstairs jr high/high school Bible class for many, many, many hours studying the Bible, and learning to think about God. I remember going to Denton and Beth’s home - both in the country and then in Hooker - after football games and school activities. I still have the first copy of the NIV Bible I ever owned. It was a gift from Denton and Beth given to me in their home.
Denton and Beth took us under their wing as boys and gave us love, confidence, and empowerment. He entered us in a singing contest as a four-part acapella group. He encouraged us to try and sing together at youth rallies, camps and events. He sat with us for HOURS while we learned and practiced songs and then tried to record and present them. One of my favorite quiet memories is seeing him sitting in the middle of an empty auditorium behind a soundboard cheering and encouraging each of us.
He took us snow skiing along with his family many times. We crammed into his family’s van and made the trip to Colorado. He took us to Kansas City, MO to sing at a youth event. I remember this trip because he asked me to drive his Recreational Vehicle so he could sleep. At night. In construction. I was terrified. But he trusted me and gave me the wheel.
When I was in college and had turned to behavior and decisions that made me disappointed and unproud of my life - it was Denton Wiggains who sat with me and visited while we sat on tires in his farm shop. That’s probably the moment in my life where I first understood what James meant when he wrote “confess your sins to each other so that you may be healed”.
Years later, Jenny and I were gathered in Red River, NM for a church gathering. We had rented a cabin in a camping ground. As I was checking in when I heard a voice behind me. Denton Wiggins was sitting on a bench. Jenny and I were able to visit with Beth and Denton and I will always be humbled at how quickly time stood still and the love and bonds of my childhood remained. I looked at Jenny, I thought about my children, I saw the many students that I have had an opportunity to share life with. And I realized that God had changed my stars because of Denton and Beth Wiggains.
Encamped along the hills of light,
Ye Christian soldiers, rise,
And press the battle ere the night
Shall veil the glowing skies
Against the foe invales below
Let all our strengths be hurled;
Faith is the victory, we know, that overcomes the world!