‘How Great Thou Art’: The story behind the message at the Vicksburg National Military Park

Published 7:30 am Sunday, January 15, 2023

Martin Kittrell has thousands of social media followers. More than 16,000 people admire his photography around Vicksburg and various places in Mississippi. Posts usually have an inspiring or devotional message for encouragement. Some scenes are familiar while others are a unique perspective not seen by others.

It was when he posted a video of him singing “How Great Thou Art” inside the Illinois Memorial at the Vicksburg National Military Park that his reach jumped up to nearly 40,000 views within a couple of days.

“The thing is to not focus so much on the messenger, but on the message,” Kittrell said. “That is one of the greatest and most powerful prayers I know!

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‘O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder consider all the worlds your hands have made! I see the stars! I hear the rolling thunder! Your power throughout the universe is displayed! Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to you! How great you are!’”

A former newspaper editor, Kittrell now works for the Corps of Engineers as a communications specialist in the ERDC Strategic Integration Office in the Executive Office of the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC). Although out of the newspaper business since 2009, photography is still his passion.

“I help tell the story of how ERDC is discovering, developing and delivering trusted engineering and scientific solutions for the warfighter and the nation,” he said. “I have been posting photographs of the surrounding area and little snippets of encouragement for many years now on this page, which is my ministry. The page has close to 17,000 followers now. I have the spiritual gift of encouragement and the photos and words bring comfort to some and they have shared what it means to them. Therefore, they encourage me!”

Monday’s video of Kittrell wasn’t planned to gain so much attention.

“I walk quite often in the Vicksburg National Military Park,” he explained. “I have sung in the Illinois Memorial many times over the years, but the Lord told me to put myself out there, thus the video. The Lord is certainly blessing me with the response it has had! Many, many people are also expressing their own memories of how majestic the Illinois Memorial is and I have to agree with them!”

Many of Kittrell’s photos and messages are posted to the “How Great Thou Art” Facebook page, a page with intentional purpose.

“The purpose of the ‘How Great Thou Art’ Facebook page is fourfold, he explained:

I want people to know that God is all around them through nature. I want to bring glory to God by posting photos of His handiwork.

I want people to know that we live in a beautiful area that has an abundance of beauty. So many people fill up their lives with ‘busyness’ they never experience the beauty around them. Vicksburg and the Delta are truly magnificent!

— Through my short messages, I want people to know that God loves them and that Jesus has a purpose for their life. I seek to encourage people, and God has been so gracious to fill my heart with what to say. All I have to do is write it down.

— I want this page, this ministry, to be a light in the darkness that is social media. And that light is Jesus Christ.”

Besides the Facebook page, more than 20,000 photos and more information about Kittrell can be found at his personal website: www.martykittrell.com

Click here to see the video of the post from earlier this week.