Over and back again

Over and back again

Our time overseas has drawn to an end with one final beautiful Greek sunset.
Over the last few days we continued to travel through Greece ministering through music and learning about the country’s culture and history.
We drove through the hills of Meteora and witnessed the beauty of its hilltop monasteries.
We sailed to Corfu Island, where we performed at the Free Evangelical Church of Patras.
We travelled to Corinth, where we learned about Paul’s experience with its ancient church, and dived into the cultural implications within his words in Biblical texts. After performing at The American College of Greece, we spent the night at the CosmoVision Center, thanks to the gracious hospitality of AMG International.
Our final day in Greece began with a trip to the Parthenon and involved us running down the slippery Parthenon steps after a surprise rainstorm in order to get to our next concert. The day ended with our concert at the Town Theater of Markopoulo, where we had the chance to sing and meet people before hurrying out so the movie theatre could return to its scheduled showtimes.
While spending one last wonderful night at the CosmoVision center, we had time to reflect on our trip, give thanks to our guides who made this trip possible, and learn a handful of traditional Greek dances.
This trip has opened our eyes to be able to witness the power of music as a real tool for God’s kingdom. Music has served as our bridge to men and women who we would have never gotten the chance to meet before. Music has helped us bridge the gap between the evangelical, Catholic, and Greek Orthodox churches during our time here.
While music has served as a reason for being here, our journey would not have been possible without the prayer and encouragement from all of the people who supported our trip. Your thoughts and words have made more of an impact than you know, not only on the 47 members of the chorale, but on the people we’ve had the pleasure of reaching out to across the Atlantic Ocean.
It has been a packed, sometimes difficult journey, but every step of the way taught us more about God and His children on earth. As we return to the cornfields for the remainder of the year, we will not forget the joy we found and friendships we made in Greece.image

In Paul’s footsteps

In Paul’s footsteps

Day 4:
“Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing.”

image.jpgOur second full day in Greece began with a bus ride through the hills to Philippi. While in the city we had the opportunity to visit a river referred to as the “Jordan of Egypt,” because it was where Lydia, the first convert to Christianity in Europe, is said to have been baptized.

Before heading to our next stop, the Chorale gathered in the baptistery, a small round chapel near the river. In awe of the powerful artwork and acoustics, we spontaneously began to sing one of our songs, “Bogoroditse,” without an audience or set formation. The notes rising through the chapel meant more to us than just a performance- it was a special moment of impromptu worship.

After climbing back into the bus, we drove to the ruins of Philippi, where we toured one of the first theatres in Greece, as well as the ancient city and acropolis of Philippi. Standing directly in the spot where the apostle Paul once stood so many years ago, we read from the book of Acts.

After the tour, we set up for our concert performance at the City Music School of Drama in Philippi.
When the show ended and we were able to greet more of our audience, we learned that we had the opportunity to visit a Syrian refugee camp a few minutes away.

With a simple plan of walking into the camp to perform a few songs and hand out a couple snacks, we had no idea what to expect. All we could do was pray for God to use us to bring some sort of comfort and some sort of love to these people who have lost so much.

When we got to the camp we were shocked by what we found. Genuine joy. Smiling faces and warm greetings. Open arms welcoming us in and beckoning us to share our music. After we sang a couple songs we were able to play with the children while having conversations with some of the adults.

Although we were only able to stay for a short time, our fifteen minutes in the camp will be imprinted on our hearts and minds for years to come. We could not fix the situation for the refugees we met, or end their hurting, but we were able to give and partake in their joy. We may have only been able to see a tiny fraction of their experience, but we will never forget it.

From Thessaloniki to Alexandroupolis

From Thessaloniki to Alexandroupolis

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Day 3: “Who’ll be a witness for my lord?”

Fourteen airborne hours and three in-flight meals later, the team has touched down in Thessaloniki, Greece.

After a full Saturday of traveling, the chorale was more than ready to get up and stretch our legs in front of our first Greek audience. On Sunday we had the opportunity to perform twice in two different cities.

In the morning, we began by getting in our concert attire and packing our bus. As we drove through the city to our first tour stop, the Evangelical Church of Thessaloniki, we learned about the historical and biblical significance of the city.

At 11, we were able to play a part in the Evangelical church’s service, singing most of our repertoire before the congregation between prayers in Greek. The church brought in an American missionary to speak, with the pastor translating his words into Greek, so both we and the congregation could understand the message.

After singing a benediction we were able to go into the crowd to meet people. Although we were only able to communicate through smiling handshakes with many of the church members, others spoke English and were able to share their stories with us.

Once we had finished eating a lunch graciously provided by the church, we grabbed our garment bags and piled back into the bus. Our next stop was a theatre a few hours away in Alexandroupolis, where we performed for the city’s Orthodox Church.

When we finished performing, the bishop of the church, stood and welcomed us to Greece. After reading our concert program, he discussed his amazement with how many places and hometowns each member of our chorale comes from- united by an affinity for music and a desire to worship the same God. He explained how this same need to praise unites believers all across the world- from Greece to America. The bishop then requested an encore of one of our songs, “Witness,” to which we gladly complied.

Returning to the hotel, we were able to process the hectic events of the day with our toes in the Aegean Sea- preparing for the next day of praise and new experiences that the sunrise will bring.

To O’Hare and beyond

To O’Hare and beyond

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Day 1:

Our bags are tagged, our wheels are moving, and we are waving goodbye to the Upland cornfields.

After spending the last few months studying every individual note of our music, the Taylor Chorale and Sounds vocal ensembles are finally headed to the O’Hare airport to begin our spring break missions trip to Greece.

While overseas we will perform almost every night at a variety of churches and organizations across the country- touring many locations of great spiritual significance mentioned in the Bible. Although we are aware that our trip revolves around our voices, this trip is much more than just a string of concerts to us.

It is a mission. It is a chance to serve. It is a chance to connect with people who are joyful, as well as those who are hurting beyond belief. It is a chance to step out of our cultural comfort zone and engage new perspectives. It is a chance to reach out to others, with only the language of song.

While we know every note and phrase in our repertoire by heart, we have no idea what effect these songs may have on our journey. Only God can communicate through our sound.

It may not be much, but these melodies are what we have to offer the people of Greece. It is our gift and we are ready to give it away.

 

The Taylor Chorale and Sounds would greatly appreciate prayers as we embark on this journey.