Each summer the youth choir of Vinton Baptist church has taken a mission tour (a choir tour with mission projects woven throughout the stops). This year our regular week included July 4th. I had never done a patriotic style program with the group and thought it might be fun. We planned to visit veteran’s hospital and rehab centers. We would perform our concerts and thank the vets for their service while attempting to instill some patriotism in our youth.
This summer marks my 25th anniversary in full time music ministry and 20 years of service at Vinton Baptist Church. I wanted to do something extra special to celebrate. I prayed about an international trip but traveling with youth internationally had been a hard sell to our parents and congregation in the past. The participation just hasn’t been there. I have offered opportunities to go to India but the expense and difficulty of that journey is well known. A trip out of the country would need a sugar coated shell to wrap it in.
Last spring, an article came across my desk about the poverty just “over the hill” from the tourist areas in Nassau, the Bahamas. The article reported that the island is home to the second largest slum in the Caribbean second to Haiti. A few mission organizations were mentioned as accepting volunteers. A children’s home was highlighted in the article. I sent a few emails and overnight the director of the home responded. She sent me information about the home, a list of items they need and concert ideas we might undertake if we chose to visit.
I started to figure the costs of flying a group, the hotel and food costs and it was astounding. While doing the travel research an internet advertisement boasting great cruise rates to Nassau popped up. I inquired and discovered that we could indeed visit the island via cruise ship and possibly sing onboard for under half the cost of flying there. Our visit would be brief, one day, but the exposure to an international project would be achieved and I had and instant “sugar coated shell.”
I shared the idea with my pastor Bill Booth and a few parents in the choir leadership and asked them to pray with me about it. We contacted a local travel agent who secured the reservations below the afore mentioned advertised price. The students responded enthusiastically, as did their parents. I had no problem recruiting chaperones. As a matter of fact, for the first time in 25 years, I had a waiting list. We have 61 youth and 30 adults going on the tour. The adults include our accompanist, sound crew, director and support staff. We do not normally take so many adults on our tours but traveling on a ship and internationally, my wife suggested- “the more the merrier. “
We have 5 concerts planned at various venues on the way to Port Canaveral, Fl. We will be singing at a local church in Nassau and taking some supplies to the children’s home and a local nursing home that is in close proximity. After the project is done this summer, we hope to arrange a series of smaller groups to return and work with the children’s home and nursing home. The children’s home had been assisted in the past by a series of Methodist churches and government organizations.
However, in recent days, their funding has been drastically reduced and is reflected in their ability to obtain supplies. The children and senior adult’s physical needs are great and their spirits are hungry. My wife and I already have plans to return next spring. We hope that exposing these needs to such a large group from our church will ignite a passion to return within our youth while easing the fear such projects have held in the minds of some of our parents.