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Musical Missions



Author: Steven Reed
Worship Category: , ,

Posted January 13, 2016 by

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.

peru-3Mission 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.peru-1

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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

I hope this inspires you. Now go do it.peru-5

Want to follow along on our trip? Go to steveandshawn.com/peru.

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.

www.steveandshawn.com   – English

www.steveandshawn.com/es  – Español





    Members of our praise team are traveling to Cuba this Spring and I’m excited to see how this “plays out” (pun intended)! Thanks for the encouraging words!


    I experienced many of the same things as conductor of the Ambassador Choir during three one month ministry trips to Ukraine (1999, 2004, 2008) Prairie Bible College, Canada. Videos of the five trips can be viewed at http://www.jamesjanzen.com/videos.html

    Five goals were met:
    ENCOURAGED believers in Ukraine by our presence, by model ling ministry, ministering musically in Russian and Ukrainian
    ASSISTED in evangelistic efforts using the tool of great choral music and Ukrainians’ interest in North Americans.
    PROVIDED SPECIAL TRAINING for pastors, church leaders, worship leaders as well as youth and college age musicians.
    PROVIDED our students with a cross-cultural experience in music ministry exposing them to some of the joys and challenges of serving in cross-cultural missions work.
    INFORMED family, friends and believers in North America about the incredible things God was doing in Ukraine

    Preparation is key but that is another story.


    Great article bro. I minister in that area also Limatambo ,SW of Cuzco. I love to come down and play their indigenous songs and instruments like Charango and bombo etc. We’ve visited some churches way up in the mountains that have no PA and it is awesome . Pure acoustic worship … love it!

    Chip Paulson

    Our church is in a very ethnically diverse community and we have several ethnic ministries (African, Hispanic, Filipino, Korean, Arab-speaking) that use our building and with which we do multi-ethnic worship events. So for us, a musical mission trip can be as simple as sharing worship leaders and musicians with the different ministries that use our building. We have gained a tremendous amount of respect and appreciation for the different musical cultures – for example, you haven’t really done an Israel Houghton song until it’s been led by an African brother. In our setting, a musical mission trip may just involve going across the hall, but in most metropolitan areas it may be no harder than going across the street. Increasingly the nations are coming to us, and music can be a wonderful bridge between culturally different worshiping congregations.


    We’ve done a little bit of this in India and parts of Asia – mostly as an in-house venture with our church and our overseas mission partners. Are you aware of any organizations that act as intermediaries between music teams interested in doing something like this and local missions/churches that are requesting music teams?


      A slightly different reply to the information requested is to know about Heart Sounds International (HSI), a ministry of Operation Mobilization (OM). HSI connects with worship musicians and recording engineers and forms teams to work with churches in marginalized and impoverished places to help them release indigenous worship recordings. HSI has done more than 70 projects on every continent over the last 15 years. These recordings often released the very first worship songs in various regions of the world. HSI and the music ministry of OM can make connections with those desiring to do ministry where OM and the HSI teams have served. See http://www.heart-sounds.org for more information. Frank Fortunato, co-founder.


      We had great success with SEND International. Their preparation and care for short term missions teams is excellent.

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