The Choir & Orchestra at Houston's First Baptist Church has a long tradition of venturing overseas to use their gift of music to share the Gospel and show the joy of following Christ.
Most recently, the group travelled to the Philippines in 2012 and performed in numerous settings throughout the island nation. Now, nearly 150 vocalists and instrumentalists are headed to Africa for their next musical mission trip.
"We are excited beyond words about taking our music to the people of Africa," says John Bolin, Minister of Worship & Arts at Houston's First. "The Lord has gone before us every step of the way and — with great expectations — we have faith that He will continue to move on our behalf with every logistical detail."
Regarding those logistical details, we cannot disclose the group's destination or their itinerary due to safety precautions. We'll share all of that when they return home, and provide some glimpses into their trip here on this blog as they provide updates along the way.
What we can tell you is that their nearly 2-week journey will provide the Choir & Orchestra with opportunities to communicate the Good News with thousands at several different venues. The team will also take time to demonstrate God's love through acts of service as they partner with local orphanages in the region.
"The opportunity for an eternal impact is tremendous and we hope to bring glory to the Lord in whatever we do and wherever we go," said Bolin. "We are proud and honored to go on behalf of Houston’s First Baptist Church to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the people of Africa.”
We'll post updates from the team here on this blog as we receive them, so bookmark the page or return often to see what God is doing as our Choir & Orchestra share their music and God's love in Africa!
Today, we headed out early to our eighth and final concert destination. We loaded up 24 safari jeeps and drove 7 hours out to the Masai Mara region for an experience of a lifetime. We were awed by the countryside of the Great Rift Valley and observed the life of a Masai tribe member. Every mile revealed mud huts built by the women and herds of sheep and goats watched over by their shepherd. Villages called kraals, built by the men, circled around the cattle similar to a corral, and are covered in acacia thorns to keep the lions away from the herd. All over the region these kraals spot the land. Along the roadside you see many of the people of the region, primarily kids, who run out to wave at us traveling by, their smiles big and welcoming. Women selling handmade items while they carry their small children on their backs while men are watching the herds and walking to work, some in Masai attire and some in slacks and jackets.
We safaried up to our hotel, which was an adventure of it’s own: stunning and quite a treat. We had local food like none other of the entire trip, devoured it, then headed back to our jeeps for the concert.
We pulled up to a Masai school where the children were ready to greet us with tribal dancing, singing and attire. It was remarkable and so much the African experience everyone wants to have. The Choir and Orchestra sang and played for the children. John introduced all the instrument sections to the children and they LOVED it! Some said the tuba sounded like a simba (lion) and the trombone sounded like a ng’ombe (cow).
After we sang a few selections and Jerrell Altic shared the gospel (these kids shared the gospel with us, too!), the team separated out by age group and was able to bless each child present with school uniforms and school supplies provided by Houston’s First and our group. It was a moment we had been waiting for since plans began for the trip, what a blessing for each of us.
William Taylor, Houston’s First Missions Pastor, along with our production team, Nick Rosenbaum, Yoshi Haddad, Dallas King and Josh Spires, blessed the school and a local church by providing multiple musical instruments we brought along with us and a complete video and sound system set up that would allow the people of the region to hear the gospel through the movie The Hope. The film was shown in Swahili to over 300 Masai people after our group left that evening. It was the first time the people of this region viewed any sort of movie.
There really are no words for what a blessing this opportunity was for us and for the people of this region. When it boils down to it, we are all the same. We live in communities, we worship the one true God, we keep our cultural traditions and we all need a Savior. When you look in the face of a child in Africa or the U.S.A., the smile and the need are the same: unconditional love from an unconditional Father.
Next, our group will begin our 37 hour trip back to Houston, Texas. Please pray for our group, our stamina, customs clearance, no flight delays and rest as we return.
A Father to the Fatherless
Today we had the opportunity to serve at a local orphanage. Our full team split down the middle, headed to two different areas of the site and got to work. One side weeded, replaced windows, created fences, varnished benches and ceilings, painted, and planted rose bushes and trees. The other side replaced bed linens, washed and folded clothes, pruned plants, weeded flowerbeds and chopped firewood. We can all go on record in saying that the men here can chop firewood like no other. We may have done more loading of firewood than chopping. Add in a bit of fun playing soccer and other sports with some of kids.
150 people + 3 hours = the hands and feet of Jesus
What did we get in return? Fabulous samosas hand made by the workers at the orphanage! They were little pockets of heaven in your mouth after a hard day’s work.
Not one person complained.
Not one person asked when we would be finished.
Not one person was lacking a job to do.
Not one of us wanted to leave.
It was humbling to stand back, look across a courtyard surrounded by grazing sheep and see our Choir & Orchestra hard at work for these kids. They were covered head to toe in paint, varnish, dirt and smiles.
We will never be the same as a group. We did that together. We can go back to this place and say, “We contributed to that.” We can say we made a difference. We left something in Africa.
What a gift, not only to the orphanage, but to us, to leave a piece of yourself for others so that place is made better. To be an example of Christ’s love for others. We were a sort of tired we had not encountered the entire trip and we wore that tired like a badge of honor. Bodies hurt. We fair-complected folks woke up sun-kissed, or maybe blistered. We are on the equator! We wore it all with pride. We are thankful to be the team sent for this moment of ministry in Africa.
I had a girl from one of the schools we visited ask me why I would leave my kids in Texas to come to Africa. Days like today, that’s why.
God resides in Africa.
He resides in the people.
He resides in the scenery.
He resides in the animals and the fruits of the land.
He resides in the children.
Today we had the privilege of visiting 3 different schools and orphanages in the area.
It was fantastic.
It was blessed.
It was a gift.
It was life at the crossroads of abandonment and redemption.
It was scared empty faces breaking out in smiles and belly laughs at us while we were being the hands and feet of Jesus.
At the first stop we had the honor of dedicating a new building.
At the second we visited the kids.
At the third, we played with the kids. The choir and orchestra played and sang over each group and they loved it. We showed them all of God’s instruments – vocal and instrumental. They sang and danced for us.
It was an awesome day, but the best part was the play, the laughter and the smiles. We shared photos of the children with the children, some for the first time in their lives. They told us the pictures were beautiful. Yes, they certainly were beautiful. We ran, we sang and danced, we sat on the ground with children all around. They talked with us and shared with us, each having a story of hope. We are the same. We are all orphaned until the one true God opens the door to us and we step through. Each of these children has one Abba Father and they are learning about Him and it is so evident. They praise Him in songs in Swahili and English, the best singing of the week. We have so much to learn from the people of Africa who love the Lord.
Thank you so much for your prayers. We believe fully that The Lord is hearing and answering yours and our prayers from all over the world as we continue our journey of singing and playing for the people of Africa.
Today the choir and orchestra played outside, underneath a tent with about 10,000+ in attendance. Minds. Blown. It was beautiful to watch as people continued to trickle in and join us under the tent even into an hour after the service had begun. Some people we talked to said they were just passing by, heard sounds and wanted to see what was going on. It's amazing how Jesus drew people into Himself by His spirit through the people gathered together under a large tent to worship.
John felt The Lord leading Him to pray Psalm 27 over the team in the months prior to us journeying to the other side of the world. Early in the morning of July 27th, in his time with The Lord, John made the connection of the day's date and that psalm, and felt led to share that with the congregation. It is a psalm of protection and praise to our Father - exactly where we are this week. We have been asking God for protection and praising His name with instruments and singing. It was beautiful to see and hear that psalm come to life today.
Jerrell preached from Ezekiel 27 about the dry bones coming to life. He preached that sometimes we are in a valley but that is hopeful because God is in the valley and He brings order to chaos, life in the dead places, and His breath into our souls. He invited people to come forward at the end for prayer. Many came forward to receive Jesus as their savior for the first time and many others received prayer for various situations they are in.
It was most incredible to watch over 10,000 people as the nations came together in praise to Jesus. There really is nothing like it. We thank God for this moment in time to be His vessel and join Him in the work He is doing in Africa at such a time as this.
Again, we cannot thank you enough for your prayers, your support, and love. We truly sense your prayers being lifted up and fully believe that is what is sustaining us and advancing us throughout this journey. It is powerful here. Please pray tonight for our rest to be multiplied in the spirit and for everyone to answer the call of tomorrow - a new day to love, laugh, serve, move and grow in the Spirit.
God is on the move in Africa!
In the past 48 hours the Choir and Orchestra has had the pleasure of leading 2 crusades and 1 conference combined with ministry and worship to encourage other ministers in Africa.
Our first crusade primarily consisted of church leaders and their families along with some of the community. The people of Africa love the Lord, it is so evident. They sang along to almost every choir anthem and worship song we shared. It was incredible – and they can sing! There was such joy and community. Raised voices and shouts to the Lord all over the building. They didn’t want the evening to end. Attendance reached over 3000 people with 186 prayer request and commitment cards, 25 of which accepted Christ that night! Praise God! The leadership of this church is convicted to reach their church body and project them from membership to fellowship. The Holy Spirit moved over the group and sent them out different than they arrived. They even blessed us with a song of their own in Swahili! That moment will go down as a treasured memory of this trip.
The following day we had the opportunity to encourage other ministers in the area. This group was smaller, about 1000, but the experience was equally as impactful. We anticipated big things and God showed up. We were able to love on, teach, learn and speak life-giving words into this special group of people who give their hearts to the community.
Following a fantastic lunch catered by one of the locals, we loaded up and headed to our second venue for our next crusade of the day, where we helped top off a music week they were hosting! If you could compare it to something we do at Houston’s First, it would be similar to Summer Week of Choir. The most God-sized part of the day was being able to minister to 60 young girls who were rescued the night before from the slums. We were able to share the gospel with these children, most are orphaned, and show them the love of Jesus. It was the second most memorable moment since the beginning of the trip. We were prepared and able to give some of these young children Bibles in Swahili, what a blessing! They loved the concert and the music and, again, knew almost all the songs we sang. They shouted for us to sing and play more – there was one request for 11 more songs! At the invitation time, Jerrell Altic lead the group of over 2000 children, ministers and teachers through the plan of salvation. The choir and orchestra prayed over church members and kids. There were 97 prayer and commitment cards, 37 of which were salvation decisions. On our way out, the choir from the venue sang over us.
God is moving in Africa in a mighty way. The people of Africa are using our time here to spread the gospel and we are more than willing to partner with them. What a day!
Houston's First Baptist Church's Choir and Orchestra has arrived in Africa!
Here are some quick behind-the-scenes facts:
We've spent our first night here already — which for the group that left Houston last was only a few hours — and we enjoyed a lovely breakfast the following morning. After breakfast our group loaded up on buses and departed for our next hotel where we'll have the opportunity to stay for the majority of the trip and recover from some serious jet lag!
The people of Africa have the corner on the hospitality market. They are amazing hostesses! We have people on the ground that have been involved in the planning process for our group every step of the way. They are warm and welcoming and have thought of every little thing that we could possibly need to be comfortable here. They are beyond accommodating. We are so grateful and thankful for them. And oh, the coffee is FANTASTIC!
Africa is beautiful. Green everywhere. The trees bend in a different way here. The colors of flowers pop out between the green of the grass and the bark of the trees in a different way than at home. Reds, yellows, and purple sneak up on you and yet, you can't get enough of them. Serene. Creation reaching up to praise it's Maker. A perfect combination of cultivated and rough edges in the scenery. Native love and nature's own perfect imperfections. If one were to envision the Garden of Eden, this could be it. A sanctuary.
We praise the Lord today for safe travels, no baggage claim/customs issues with our gear, and healthy passengers. Everyone is tired, but in great spirits — and we continue to remain FLEXIBLE!
Tonight we plan to have a group worship time and pray together for our next 8 days of concerts and crusades reaching people for Christ.
You can pray with us! Pray for the harvest. Pray for the Lord to heal the brokenhearted, those in bondage to be set free, for redemption for the people of Africa. Pray for encouragement for believers and for fellow ministers in the area. Pray for our team. Pray for rest and health and words from the Lord to speak to whom we may encounter. Pray for safety and ease with logistics.