Youth chorus “makes change”

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Pasadena Tabernacle Youth Chorus travels to New Zealand and Australia.

by Barbara Allen –

The Pasadena Tabernacle Youth Chorus

“Make Change” was the title of the New Zealand/ Australia Territorial Youth Congress held in New Zealand January 20-26, 2008, and it was to this event that 45 members of the Pasadena Tabernacle Youth Chorus, led by Barbara and Steve Allen and accompanied by Captain Edward Hill (corps officer, Pasadena Tab) and Kevin Larsson (divisional music director, Southern California Division), journeyed, armed with energy and enthusiasm. They also visited Melbourne, Australia, where they met General Eva Burrows (Ret.).

On the Sunday morning of their departure, the Pasadena Tabernacle congregation embraced the opportunity to randomly select a name of a chorus member, committing to uphold them in prayer. Commissioners Philip and Pat Swyers and Colonels Paul and Ronda Bollwhan met with the chorus for prayer and challenged the group to minister, be ministered to, and represent the Lord Jesus well as they shared the gospel through music with the 700 young delegates in Hamilton, New Zealand.

New Zealand
On arrival, the group was escorted to the congress venue at the University of Hamilton by way of the Waitomo Caves. Awed by the cavernous rock formations and darkened caves lit only by a myriad of glowworms, one member said, “This is just like Disneyland, but this is the real thing!”

When invited by the tour guide to sing at the center of the caves—an area called “The Cathedral” with an 80-foot ceiling of limestone—the chorus readily complied with a rendition of “Let Ev’ry Breath I Breathe…Lift You Higher” (Condon) to the appreciative applause of two other tour groups passing by. On hearing that such celebrities as Sting and Andrea Bocelli had sung in this exact same spot, the group couldn’t resist the request for an encore with “There Is A Fountain” (Jernigan). All this 200 feet below ground!

Later, at the evening session, the youth chorus sang “Reign” (Carr) and introduced their own “Dreamgirls” (Sarai Henry-John, Thandiwe Gregory and Shalini Henry-John) to the delight of the crowd, in the knockout number, “He Made a Difference”(Bignon).

On Wednesday morning, small discussion groups examined ways to grow our Army, uniting the delegates from New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Tonga and USA in one common purpose. Michael Collins was the speaker on Wednesday and had everyone laughing one minute and poised on the edge of their seats the next as he talked about making a real change in our lives and impacting the communities in which we live. In addition to presenting their own music to the enthusiastic crowd, the youth chorus joined with the praise and worship team, leading the delegates in a time of worship.

“Inspirational, exciting and dynamic” were some of the words used to describe the Thursday evening concert given by the youth chorus, according to Hill. The atmosphere was electrifying in the Performing Arts Center with a capacity crowd on hand, and more than100 others who could not gain admittance to the venue watching on a large screen outside the theatre. “I would have to say that the Tab youth chorus never sounded better,” Hill wrote on the youth chorus blog. “Every song seemed to add to the last in raising the level of excitement and worship.”

Following a 3 a.m. wake-up call on Friday morning, the youth chorus boarded a bus to the airport for the flight to Melbourne.

Upon arrival in Melbourne, they enjoyed lunch at the 614 Corps, so called because its work is based on Isaiah 6:14, “They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated.” General Eva Burrows (Ret.) joined them for lunch and some one-on-one time with the young people, encouraging them as they sang for her.

Friday evening’s concert was at the Southbank beside the river in Melbourne. About 800 people stopped, stared and listened as the youth chorus sang with heart and soul to the glory of God. Upon conclusion of the concert, the group members prayed with and spent time in conversation with those whose paths crossed theirs for a brief moment.

On Saturday the group had an opportunity to experience Australian wildlife—feeding kangaroos and cuddling koalas at a wildlife park. After a stop at a local bakery and ice cream parlor, courtesy of bus driver, Rob Beasey (Boxhill Corps), the youth chorus made their way to Waverley Temple. The bus was just about to depart when Brian, the owner of the ice cream parlor, leaped on board and expressed his disappointment at not being able to attend the concert that evening. He requested a private performance, so the youth chorus obliged. Seeing Brian’s eyes fill with tears as he listened was a moving moment for everyone and a reminder that we can minister wherever we are—even on a bus!

Saturday evening’s concert at Waverley Temple on Australia Day was well attended and greatly appreciated, especially when the youth chorus broke into a gospel rendition of “Advance Australia Fair.” General Burrows (Ret.) was front and center in the audience, standing up along with other members of the audience and exuberantly joining in “I’m Not Ashamed” (Walker) as the youth chorus left the platform and danced among the people. The oldest participant? A 90-year-old woman whom one member called “so cool!”

Heading home
As the group headed home to Los Angeles early the next morning, we agreed that we had had a wonderful time, made new friends, forged stronger bonds with each other, seen change within our own lives, and felt challenged to be better, more forthright Christians. We experienced the change the Holy Spirit can bring to others through us when we allow the Lord to use us.

“Make Change” is in the present tense, the here and now, a continuous process and one which is ever evolving. The Pasadena Tabernacle Youth Chorus caught a glimpse of that challenge in New Zealand and Australia, and our prayer is that God will equip us to continue to do just that here at home.

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