FREEDOM CHILDREN’S CHOIR CAMP PROJECT
My heart is full, my mind is blown (not as in completely shot- at least not yet, but blown in the 70’s sort of “blows my mind” way minus the drugs of course). I cannot quite come up with adequate words to describe events of last week’s Freedom Children’s Choir/Camp project, and I know many who read this blog have known nothing about it anyway. It was not an official TBC event, but rather a ministry project envisioned by a few leaders and embraced by others who prayed, got sufficient support to put things together, and pull off a weeklong camp making music with children and youth with full-on international implications and flavor, and participation. Within one-and-a-half miles of host church Tusculum Hills Baptist there are people who have come to Nashville literally from all around the world. At least seven languages were the primary language of children involved in the camp. I do not have room to describe the whole event, but do want to say the kind of ministry that took place here may well be the wave of future ministry and mission in many churches and areas, and I am a proponent and want to be a catalyst of such.
When I heard about the Freedom Children’s Choir/Camp project from Terry Taylor (fellow church choir member and Growing in Grace children’s music curriculum editor), Wayne Causey (Forest Hills Worship Pastor), and others, I was immediately drawn to get involved for a number of reasons. A primary motivation was that several TBC churches were involved in the effort using music as ministry. The style of worship music of these congregations is quite different, one church from another, so I was attracted to the spirit of cooperation that overcomes stylistic differences in order to serve the purpose of Great Commission ministry. It is the heart of what we experience among our Tennessee Baptist Ladies Chorus and Mens Chorale, as well as events like Youth Project and MMLC, and I wanted to see that spirit at work among those leading children in music, and wanted to see it from the inside, close up. From the beginning I felt this could be a model for other churches and communities in our state. Sharing resources and getting at the mission where God has brought the world to us needs to be a big priority for Tennessee Baptists, including music ministry. Often called the “universal language,” music has a powerful effect, and that was certainly demonstrated in dramatic fashion last week. As blest as so many of our churches are with musicians and music, it only makes sense that we would employ these resources to proclaim the Gospel. I believe the blessing is enhanced when churches of different stylistic bents overcome those differences to prioritize witness and discover unity in the spirit of mission.
Tusculum Hills Pastor Paul Gunn and volunteers from that church, a host of music leaders from Forest Hills, The People’s Church, First Baptist Nashville, and several other churches were phenomenal at demonstrating the love of Jesus as the children learned songs and motions, and heard the Gospel story.
On the first day two young boys were assigned to my group, whose family had gotten out of Iraq, and had only been in the U.S. for six days. They did not speak English, nor did I speak Arabic. I wondered how this would work, but felt sure God had brought them here and I cared about them in His Name from the first moment. The grandfather in me reached out to them. When the ever-resourceful Tusculum Hills pastor brought an Arabic interpreter to us I was greatly relieved. For the first hours of the event all I could do was smile at these boys, put a hand on their shoulder or head, guide them from one activity to the next, and try to stay up with them when they would dart off to the hah-mem, which because Abdulrahman (the younger of the two) rubbed his hands together as if washing them when he said the word, I figured out meant bathroom. I could not begin to imagine how confusing all of this must be to a nine and eleven-year-old. I so wanted to communicate with them, kid around, find ways to help them feel at ease. I could only point, or physically guide, or draw in some instances. My translation app on the iPhone seemed to just confuse them. When the whole group was singing, moving, listening to stories, they were just observing and occasionally mimicking the song movements. I was praying every minute, “Lord, help them know You through us – through me – through Your Spirit.” That prayer mantra never ceased.
Thank God for Maged, the interpreter from Murfreesboro. He is an Egyptian believer who has his own business translating for dental and medical offices. He spent time sitting with us and talking to the two boys in their language. I could not wait to hear from him what he was learning about their experience and also to know more about them and their family. Two older brothers and a sister were participating in the camp as well. When I heard their story I was even more deeply moved, especially when I heard that their own grandfather was killed before their eyes in Iraq before they got out. My heart broke, yet was even more grateful that they were here where they could hear the Gospel. Time to reach toward them in the name of Jesus was now.
I wondered, “was the music and dancing and playing together communicating? As the interpreter, Maged confirmed, “we are planting seeds. They are happy.” What a blessing to help sow seeds of freedom.