I am writing this article from the beautiful city of Arequipa, Peru situated high in the Andes near the border of Chile. The views are beautiful, the food amazing, and the people, though much shorter and struggle mightily to pronounce my wife Shawn’s name, are very warm and welcoming. While lying awake this morning listening to bustling streets and strange birdcalls outside my South American version of a window I began to think about how much these musical missions trips have positively affected the life of our ministry.
Mission trips are not just to bless the people where you are going, but as much or more the journey is really one of incredible personal discovery and change. Preconceived notions are challenged by what are often stark differences in the realities faced by much of the world’s population and the life we live in the U.S.
As much as we have taught the people on our trips we have learned far more. Did you know you do not need monitors? It doesn’t really strike you as possible until you go to a place where the equipment is so expensive that they just don’t have them. You take a moment to geek/freak out about it, and then it’s time to learn something new. Guess what? It works really well. You put one speaker behind you and the other in front of you. Keep the gain down on the microphones and everyone is listening to the same mix.
Similarly, when equipment is either not available or ridiculously expensive (like $24,000 in Argentina for a $1,000 soundboard in the U.S.) it forces you to not rely on technology. You have to learn how to get the best sound possible out of what you have. You simply just can’t buy your way out. It also makes you work harder as musicians to play together as a team. If I can’t hear myself or someone else then we have to work on the parts not construct a cage or get more gear. We’ve taken these newfound skills back to the U.S. and on a regular basis don’t use monitors or cages even with our amps on the stage and a full drum set (with real sticks) no matter the size of the room.
Mission trips can even further blow your mind when you find out that many people (most all Latin countries for sure) don’t talk about music the same way we do. They don’t use the alphabet or numbers but rather solfege (do, re, mi like The Sound of Music) oh yeah, except it doesn’t change keys as ‘do’ is always ‘C’. So a chord chart would go Do, Sol, Re menor, and so on. Stuff you’ll never know unless you go.
Beyond the music, you will experience something I have come to cherish, which is people worshiping in their native language. Experience the presence of God with people that are not like you is an amazing revelation of how God is able to do the same miraculous works in the lives of people around the world and down the street. That alone is worth the trip.
We go on trips because we believe we are called to reach the nations and have a strange call to the Spanish-speaking populations of the world. I say strange because we are really tall and really white. However, God has a habit of choosing people who are the least likely, which is where we fit in. If you have ever felt led to go on a trip I would encourage you to go even if you don’t fell über qualified. Every trip is unique and there are something you may just not realize would be a blessing. Here are a few thoughts.
People that are different attract a crowd You can be a blessing to missionaries and pastors simply by being the catalyst for gathering a lot of people. Many countries love people from the U.S. and you are a celebrity as a result. You showing up makes others show up.
You know how to do something they don’t If you know how to play the guitar then you can help someone who doesn’t know how. You don’t have to be, or need to try and be, the expert. Just show people what you know and inspire them.
Bring Your Old Gear When we were in Argentina we used a six-channel “mixer” from Radio Shack that cost several hundreds of dollars there. By “mixer” I mean a small box with 6 volume knobs. My guitar cost more than a car, and I could have paid for my trip with some effect pedals. So all that gear that is cluttering up your storage closets would be a major blessing to people who just don’t have much.
Help Them Not Yourself It’s important to help churches be who God has called them to be and not try to “Americanize” them. Every church needs to reach their people in their culture. They know what will help them. Our first trip to Peru was all about gathering a crowd, so they wanted us to sing in English and in Spanish. This trip is way more about training. Serve to be a blessing instead of completing your preconceived ideas.
Steve and his wife, Shawn, travel full time to serve the body of Christ in the area of worship. They lead worship, compose and record, provide personalized on-site training for teams and churches, and teach on the subject of worship in English and Spanish.