One simple song can influence people in incredible ways.

That’s the message in MercyMe’s new book “I Can Only Imagine: Stories of Eternal Hope.”

After its song about meeting God in heaven exploded onto mainstream radio last year, the rock/worship band decided to compile some of the messages it had received from fans. The resulting book is packed with emotional tales of how “I Can Only Imagine” encouraged listeners struggling to cope with devastating loss.

It also includes a copy of the song on CD.

Bart Millard, MercyMe’s frontman, wrote the Dove Award-winning song while coping with the loss of his father to cancer. As he mentions in the book: “I think the song has evolved. The first few years were for me, to help me heal. Now it’s for everyone else.”

The messages generally are brief, one-page items. However, two pages are devoted to one correspondent: Lt. Col. Joseph Piek, public affairs officer for the 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, currently in Mosul, Iraq.

In a message from February, Piek tells of comforting a soldier whose friend was the first member of the Stryker Brigade Combat Team killed by enemy action. For his own comfort, Piek then turned to “I Can Only Imagine,” listening to the song “until the batteries ran out in my CD player.”

Members of MercyMe — who are known for their support of servicemembers — sent boxes of CDs to be distributed to the soldiers in Mosul.

Piek recently said he got hooked on the song while listening to KCMS Spirit 105.3 in Seattle with his family.

“‘Will I dance for You Jesus? Or in awe of You be still. Will I stand in Your presence? Or to my knees will I fall.’ What awesome words,” he said via e-mail from Mosul.

“But the song took on a whole new meaning for me when I deployed to Iraq. I have wonderful friends here, but I needed to feel close to Jesus in order to see through to the end of some very long days. ‘I Can Only Imagine’ helped me focus on Jesus, and I imagined myself in His presence … He walks with me as I walk across our compound at night, and I talk to Him as though He were walking beside me.”

The song continues to have a presence on Piek’s base. “We have a young private first class named David Chovan, who sings for all he’s worth. He sings ‘I Can Only Imagine’ at church with such conviction it’ as though Bart Millard were there himself,” he said.

On the Web:

— Today's Praise is a roundup of news and reviews from the contemporary Christian music industry. It appears twice a month on the Religion page.

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