As politicians and peacekeepers from around the world took their lunch break in the United Nations office in Geneva, Switzerland, they didn’t know what they were in for. Many were in mid-chew when sixty or so Americans stood up and began singing, “I will never be afraid. God is my rock.”
This is just a snapshot from one of the many international tours that The Master’s Chorale has taken over the years. They have also been to Israel (many times), Spain, and England to name a few. But this year they will do two big things they have never done before. For the first time they will be joining with Global Outreach under the label of a summer missions trip travelling for the first time to the Balkans, an area in southeast Europe, specifically Albania and Croatia.
Dr. Lisa LaGeorge, director of Global Outreach for The Master’s College, and Dr. Paul Plew, director of The Master’s Chorale, will be working together to make sure the students are fully equipped for this unique expedition. While Plew trains them to be the best musically that they can be, LaGeorge will be training them in other ways.
“Dr. Plew and I have been talking about this for a few years,” LaGeorge said. “We are becoming more and more convinced that we need to provide the students with additional tools both be more effective on the field when they get there and to utilize the experience for the benefit of the church and the students’ growth when they return.”
Chorale has always been taught that each music performance is a unique platform into people’s lives. The work doesn’t end when the students are done singing. As soon as Plew’s hand drops to begin the piano postlude, the singers step out into the audience to introduce themselves.
Then in each debrief, Plew asks the students about any significant conversations they had. For an international trip, it is even more crucial that the students be prepared to work with the cultural barriers and exhaustion they will face.
That’s where Global Outreach come in.
“We prepare students logistically, spiritually, mentally, and vocationally to travel,” LaGeorge said. “The goal behind our trips is the glorification of God in our vocations and in our interactions with people whether they be here in the states or overseas. So we’ve tried to produce trips that will be significant for the host’s ministry or for the individuals that the students meet. As a side benefit to the gospel going out our students grow in the process.”
This trip is an opportunity for the students that are unable to go on other ministry teams because of Chorale. Sara Owinyo, a senior vocal performance major, was never able to go on a foreign missions trip because of the commitments she had towards Chorale and Majesty, another singing group, in the summer.
But now that Chorale is a GO trip, she has a lot to look forward to. “It’s exciting to hear about all of the opportunities we’re going to have. I’m excited to see how many doors are opened because of music because music is such a relatable thing around the world,” she said.
For some people, this trip may sound like a vacation. After all, they are travelling to a little-known jewel of the earth, and their main line of work will be singing, not building houses, not teaching English to little Albanian children. But it’s much more than that.
“Much of what the chorale does is to sew seeds for the people who are there,” Plew said. “It’s going to be a mouth-dropping situation when we get off the bus and start singing Tap-Tap [a song in Haitian Creole]. They’ve never heard anything like it. Then we sing something they can understand or we sing something about God. If you’re really good, then people will say, ‘Wow, I really have to check that out.’ . . . We’re not building houses. We’re building into people’s lives.”
The music itself is critical, not just the ministry beyond the music.
“Music is a way that we can preach principles of Scripture. It’s a way that we can preach the Word. It’s a way that we can sing something that has beauty, many times way beyond what people have heard and there’s no question: God is a God of beauty. Just creating beauty through instruments—that represents a measure of who God is,” Plew said.
The concerts hosted by the churches are important—that’s where the church people have a chance to make contacts in the community. They are the ones who will continue to pour into the lives of the people of the country long after the chorale is gone.
But those aren’t the only concerts that happen. Chorale often holds spontaneous concerts in shopping malls or other random locations along their way as they did at the United Nations office in Geneva.
The Master’s College has poured a great deal into Albania previous to any plans for the chorale’s trip. The Academic Dean, Dr. John Stead wrote a book about education that is familiar to and read by the educators of Albania. Missions teams have been sent out by Global Outreach to Albania before, specifically sent to help graduates of The Master’s College who work there.
It was a graduate of TMC who invited chorale to come in the first place.
“He said that the time has come. This is the time for the chorale to come,” Plew recalled.
This is another chance for TMC to pour into Albania and into the people who live there. It’s a unique opportunity, a singing group sixty-five strong who can open doors that otherwise might remain untouched. This is why they must be properly prepared, a goal that both Plew and LaGeorge will help to fulfill.
By Jennifer Gibb