Behind the Song: Follow Me

In 1953, two young missionaries, Charles and Mary Greenaway attended the Grand Paririe conference in Texas .

a young Ira Stanphill

The couple shared their journey and experience as missionaries to Africa. They shared that they felt Africa was not for them in the beginning. They had gone their as medical missionaries, yet Mary was very sick in those early years.

Poverty was so great that there seemed no room to provide spiritual food, as they struggle to meet the ever increasing demand of physical needs.

With Mary very sick, Charles was overwhelmed, stressed and heartbroken. He called out ‘Lord, send us somewhere else!’ He sensed God’s answer, a gentle but firm reminder that Jesus had likewise felt the sting of apathy and rejection. Do as He did, they sensed, and leave the rest to Him.

After years of planting, the Greenaways slowly began to see the harvest they longed for.

This was the story the Greenaways shared at the 1953 conference. One of those in the audience, and probably on the schedule, was the well known singer and evangelist Ira Stanphill.

The missionaries words stayed with him and he could not forget all they had shared. The next morning, Stanphill sat at his piano and poured out his own emotions in the song Follow Me.

Follow Me is a combination of the Greenaway’s and Stanphill’s journey in ministry as they dealt with pain, illness, loss, faith and service.

Five years earlier, in 1948, Stanphill’s life and ministry was turned upside down when his wife decided to leave him. They were eventually divorced, but Stanphill still remained true to their marriage vows. Only after her tragic death in a car accident in 1951, did Stanphill begin to pick up the pieces and move on.

Two years later, this pain and heartache had to be fresh on his heart and mind as he listened to the Greenaways share their own faith and missionary journey.

Stanphill would have drawn on their experiences and those of his own as he sat at the piano that morning to write Follow Me.

Stanphill would write more than 500 songs and preach all over the United States and in 40 other countries over the course of his ministry.  Some of his songs include I Know Who Holds Tomorrow, Mansion Over the Hilltop and Take Up Thy Cross and Follow Me.




Sometimes we plant for years before we see the harvest. That inspired the song Follow Me #songstory #hymnstory Share on X


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.