Thursday, May 16, 2013

Life in the Promise Choir Community

When there is so much support and so much sharing across a quarter century, there is an epiphany when that existence seems threatened. I'm talking about the cohesiveness of a choir in existence without much change for that long period of time. By that I mean that the core group of approximately 60 singers remained the same. We saw each other more than we saw our spouses so our spouses decided to sing, too. We expanded and contracted across those years to about 120 voices but essentially maintained the same headcount of about sixty. But in that time, over nine hundred people sang for some time with this Choir.

We grew from singing in small churches in the region to singing abroad. That story is one of a journey of faith led by a woman whose eyes remained fixed on God and mission. For the first ten years or so we were the morning choir in our own church, and singing concerts in the afternoons or early evening in other churches. We sang in prisons and for other facilities where people were down on their luck. We sang impromptu in local malls. We sang the Trees of Hope program at our local hospital, performing for cancer survivors celebrating their victories, and finally, a quarter of a century later I had to choose where I would be in that place: singing or being sung to. Cancer provided another place for personal victory. We sang three- night concerts in our own church. For nearly 25 years.In the singing we spoke the written Word in song and knew the Holy Spirit came down with some frequency to use us mightily, not because we were gifted singers, but because we were gifted and tasked to share our faith.

We sang in Russia, visiting the Ukraine and missioning with our own in-built medical team. We sang later in Hungary and Romania, treating those who were ill. We sang in the world, taking with us the clear and present message of the love of the Lord for his people. One often wonders, who benefitted more? We think it is us. To give is the greatest gift. To minister to the sick and the helpless, the victims of oppression and the hope of others struggling to serve their Lord brings with it such great reward that we came to know it was the cement that held us in community together. Out of that was such amazing grace given to each other, such a picture of what it means to give oneself away. Such a tremendous sense of how it feels to know beyond doubt that we were an instrument of the Lord, weak but willing servants in His army. And we followed a woman possessed. Her vision never waivered. Her energy was boundless. Her purpose was so beguiling that we all wanted to be aboard her train. She knew the route to the Feet of Jesus. She was fearless. She was driven to spend her waking hours in that service. The choir and its triumphs were the visible picture of her faith. She knew how to get there. We were desperate to follow.

Contrary to words out of  mouths that knew better, we did not worship her. We worshipped Him.We admired her. Believed in her. Followed her faithfully. She took us to heights we would otherwise not have attained. She was the dynamic. We know there is no other like her.Those who would fault this faithfulness on the part of the humble misunderstand. We followed her because she followed Him Simple concept, that.

Are we fabulous singers? No, indeed. We are faith driven and trusting that the Lord who called us to this forum is working His will through the instrument He built. We are envied, not for our glorious singing, but for our sense of community, the natural result of praying and caring for each other. We know full well how to lead worship. An attitude of praise and prayer in singing, the highest form of praise, is what God has given us.

We are a flawed people. Our gift is that we know it. We are, none of us, movers and shakers in our church. We simply love God and show it. We love each other and let it be known. We are the microchosm of the congregational body. with the face of the unsucsessful, the needy, the helpless, the average. We are just people, trying. Our focus is in two places: to praise God in song and to bring the congregation with us. And God has for a quarter of a century, held us up to His calling.

We don't do prison outreach anymore or visit other churches. We are waiting until God provides another with some of the previous talents we have enjoyed embodied in three directors who knew what they were about in His name. They are the ones who have blessed us, shaped us, nurtured us, loved us through thick and thin. Our prayer is that we might again be led by one who is called to the work with a heart for outreach.We are so far from international effort. Age does that. A less strenuous schedule might be a better answer in today's world where demands are way too high on everyone. That we wear the face of God in our music for the community around us is testament to how little it is about us and how much about Him.

It is no small thing when God raises up a leader. He prepares that one without their knowing, until it is time to know. God's hand upon a shoulder, His voice nestled in an ear, is no small thing. But it is insistent. He leans on a heart. He is persistent. The chosen just KNOWS.  God has been faithful to bless us with selfless directors who place Him first. So I leave this to Him who called us in the first place. He has led us clearly and with insistence across an impressive length of time. We trust Him. We know Him. Looking back, we see His face and feel His hand upon us. And so we wait for that next one who is designated, to realize what his or her desire means. And go.

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