Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Mission Trips and Blood Loss

Certainly a lot has been going on in my life since my last entry. Preparing to lead this wonderful team (pictured above) to Cape Town, South Africa has occupied most of my time, energy, and resource. In spite of my physical condition (more on that later), I would go back again very, very soon - probably……

God assembled this amazing team of individuals and allowed Karla and myself to lead them. This whole adventure began in February 2004 when we first met John and Avril Thomas. As they shared their hearts for developing Christian musicians in Cape Town and working in conjunction with their Christian radio station, we knew we had to do something - not because they necessarily needed what we had to offer, but because they wholeheartedly welcomed anyone who would offer themselves to encourage and help them develop their own gifts and talents.

We began making plans to bring a team of (for lack of a better term) “music specialists” to them to offer workshops and other training opportunities. In March 2005, we took our first team, and they evidently were pleased enough to invite us back this March.

Another part of this story began to unfold in the summer of 2004 when Karla and I made our first trip to Cape Town to simply “check things out”. During that visit, I met with the leadership of the Masiphulmelele Baptist Church Choir. This tiny church is in the middle of a township of severe poverty and HIV. This church is simply amazing, and the choir - well, they astound me. I have never met (22) young people more passionate, more committed, and make as much sound unto the Lord as these folks do. We were thrilled at the possibility of making a new recording for these wonderful people. So, part of our most recent trip was to do just that, and oh what a recording they made!

Let me back up to last year to tell this story because it just shows you once again how God works and how it connects back to the Masi Choir. I invited Jeromy Deibler (lead singer for the group, FFH) to go on last year’s trip. He agreed, and just before we left, he introduced me to his friend, Robert Beeson (who grew up in South Africa) and he was about to leave Essential Records to form his own label. As I began telling Robert about the Masi Choir, he began to express interest in them, and then asked his good friend, Steve Hindalong (producer of the award-winning, best-selling “City On A Hill” CD) to get involved. Steve was initially reluctant, but wanted to go to Cape Town to see what this whole thing was about. (Steve is the one in the red shirt - 5th from the right in the photo). I wish you could have watched this man work with this choir. What a blessing to sit and behold the producer allowing the creation to unfold and happen before him and “let it be”! He was encourager, cheer-leader, prompter, listener, teacher, player (he played his drum with them), and even the dancer!

So, now we return to America with this recording of this choir, and we wait to see what God wants next. We promised this choir we would make a recording of them, and we have done that, so if we only assemble the songs and moments onto a master CD and give it to them to duplicate and manufacture, then that would be OK. Somehow, we all believe there is more to it than that. Because of Robert Beeson’s vision and that of John Thomas, and now with Steve Hindalong on board, we believe there might be other artists who capture this same vision for raising the awareness of the work of this wonderful Masi Choir + the work of John and Avril through their Living Hope Ministries, and make this CD something much bigger and grander than any of us might have imagined.

I must admit that I have never had the honor and privilege of being a part of something that is substantially bigger than all of the people involved in it, but this might be it. I pray that it would be it. I have so loved being involved in my own very small way in something that I am absolutely convinced does not depend on my opinion and my input in order for God to accomplish something incredible in and through this project. In fact, everyone involved (at least to my knowledge) wants the same thing, and tell me how rare that is in this day of music business-driven egos, politics, and maneuvering!

I have tons of video footage to review, label, and give to Robert and Steve so they can see what took place two weeks ago 10,000 miles from here as we connected in deep and extraordinary ways with these (22) people.

In the midst of this uncontainable joy, I hate to admit this, but I had a horrible week when I returned from South Africa. Karla tried to warn all of the team that “re-entering” into our regular worlds and routines would be difficult. I agreed, but ignored the warning signs. I blistered back into a ruthless pace, and crashed and burned big-time last Thursday night. When will I learn? Ulcers, kidney stones, heart and other stomach issues……all of these things resulting in way too regular trips to the ER and days spent in a hospital bed are becoming all too familiar, and I know I must do something about it.

I have lost blood in my system since December. I have more tests next week to determine why. In the meantime, I am doing this week what I should have done last week - rest, take things much more easily and slowly - function at a more reasonable pace - and I am finding this is more about my mental/emotional state than my physical state……and it is refreshing, but hard. Why is that?

People have asked me if the trip to South Africa did this to me. My answer is without question, “no way”. If anything, returning did this to me. I love South Africa. I was at total peace in every situation while I was there - no, we did not go there to intentionally win souls to Jesus, build homes, offer medical relief, or any of the other very important and most popular reasons people go on mission trips, but we did encourage and inspire fellow believers to use their gifts to help bring more glory to God through their music - we brought hope to (22) young people whose lives are often more hopeless than hopeful…….. I got to be a part of that, and I wonder what is so different about ministry in Cape Town from ministry in Brentwood or Franklin?

I will ponder that in these days ahead and months ahead as I determine where God wants me to be so that I can be most effective for His Kingdom - I know this - I am of little use to Him and His Kingdom with a weak and weary body and a worry-filled mind…….