July 13th, 2017 I stood in the Bogota airport in Colombia with tears falling down my face. I think it was my first time crying in an airport. But how could I not when I had to part ways from my wonderfully loving, warm, and caring Youth for Christ host family that I had spent over 3 weeks with? Those weeks I spent in Colombia were organized by CTI Music Ministries in partnership with Youth for Christ Colombia. CTI trains musicians and sends them out to different countries to serve and spread the gospel through music, so I was sent to Bogota, Colombia after two weeks of training in the US with my band.
Those weeks of training were really intense. We would be out training for 12 hours a day consisting of devos, sectionals, band practices, song studies, gospel training, workshops, and seminars. I definitely learned a lot, especially on how to take any situation, any sin in my life and apply the gospel to it, to show my extreme need for the gospel in every aspect of my life. For example, I have a tendency to be critical of myself and others. I will let my my mood, thoughts and actions be dictated by what others do or what I do. It’s frustrating and uncomfortable to keep living this way because making your purpose to criticize people is meaningless and harmful. That’s why Jesus came down from heaven to break me from this cycle of being enslaved by others. He gave me freedom, and with this freedom I chose to live for him, to serve him with this life he has graced me with. Therefore I no longer have to judge or feel judged, because I am living to serve and please a worthy God.
This short blurb would be coined a ‘gospelmony.’ A combination of the gospel and my testimony. During training we learned how to take these areas of our life and give them to God. Yes, sometimes they are things we still struggle with, but every time I shared my story with people it reminded me of the truth I spoke about. I believed it and acted upon this belief more and more with every time I repeated this to myself or to a crowd of people. It really helped me to see not only my need for redemption, but how God’s provision has proven to be the ultimate and only redemption I need to overcome my struggles.
While in Colombia we shared the gospel this way, either through gospelmonies, or just the traditional gospel, or through explaining a song we sang. When our band played at different venues we would have an endgame or theme message that we wanted to get across. Our leader would organize a set list of our song repetoire based on this goal and place people to talk in between each song. We had a few minutes in between each song to speak but that time was also cut in half too since we had someone translating our words from English to Spanish. I honestly really believe this ministry done in this fashion is effective. I didn’t expect people to be so intrigued and interested in not only our music but our words. From my own experience, captivating and engaging an audience can be pretty difficult. That’s why during training we learned to tailor our verbals (in between song sharings) based on different audiences whether they be captive or transient, christians or nonbelievers, young kids or adults.
We played on the streets quite a lot, and they were supposed to be transient audiences, people that could leave anytime they got bored to get on with their life. However, a lot of people would stay for our entire concert, which would sometimes be an hour. Surprisingly even after we finished a song and started talking people still weren’t leaving. This was quite an encouragement for me because I felt empowered when I had the mic. I could share what God was putting on my heart and I could be his mouthpiece. Sometimes I felt called by God to share stories I had never shared with anyone, sometimes I had words or thoughts pop into my head that even caught me off guard because I never would’ve thought about that something in that way. I really felt God working through me when I shared the gospel to the audiences. At the same time I learned so many things about the gospel, being able to see it through so many different perspectives and under new lights, I realized I need to preach the gospel to myself every day because something as profound as the gospel is powerful and new every day. Of course, my main role in the band was being a keyboardist and through this I was still able to convey the gospel. Being in a country where most people didn’t speak or understand English, I learned how many different ways you can still convey the gospel message because God will not be hindered by an unspoken language. Our team learned two dramas during training and they were silent skits done to background music that conveyed the gospel message through a physical portrayal and these were extremely powerful because they were so relatable. It really helps, I find, to be able to see yourself through someone else’s representation of their struggle of being controlled by sin or running away from God.
We played in many different settings throughout our trip including on the streets, at schools, a radio station, a camp, drug rehab centers, churches, youth fellowships, and prisons. One of my favorite venues to play at were prisons, in particular the last one out of the three we went to. At this prison I went in with my keyboard and an apprehensive heart, but I came out, one fingerprint check later, teary-eyed with a full heart and pockets stuffed with a candy bar, a tomato-like fruit, and a handmade beaded bracelet. This particular prison we went to, we were heeded with warnings to be careful, especially us girls, in our interactions with the prisoners, since it was an all men prison. I looked down at the ground the whole time because from my experience at the other prisons, if I made eye contact or smiled it could come off as flirting or taken as my response to their interest in me. Once we started playing though, some people were crying the whole time, others were singing or humming along, and God just removed this stumbling block from in front of my eyes. This was a prison, yes. Although it usually connotates evil malice, hopelessness, and disgrace, I slowly began to see the other side with God’s help. There were warm and loving people here who wanted to offer us food and drink and show their hospitality even in a prison because we had blessed them with our music and message.There was hope in those confined walls because we brought a living message and song that could ring for years in the hearts of these prisoners. There was something genuine about their gratefulness towards us and the respect they had for us. It shattered all waryness and stereotypes I had gathered and my tears started breaking out. God had replaced the judgement I harbored in my heart towards them with love. I really wanted to love them, show them God’s love, and I desperately prayed in my heart that they would be able to feel God’s endless and limitless love.
I can confidently say that God has his purpose in bringing us to all the different places we went to and meeting all the various kinds of people we came across. We dedicate all 32 concerts we played into God’s hand because we have no control of what happens in the people’s hearts after we leave, but we trust in his calling and will. Sometimes people would come to Christ right then and there, and other times not that many people would come up to talk to us after, but we have no authority or power to judge how fruitful those experiences were. Those that accepted Christ right there could’ve never followed up on what they said (although I really hope this is not the case), and those that didn’t say anything to us on the scene could’ve gone on with life but then remember this encounter and have their lives completely transformed. We cannot gauge with our own eyes how successful we were and we cannot assess our worth from the supposed fruitfulness we gathered. Only God knows the depths of our heart, and our hope is safest when its entrusted to him.
Similarly when people come up to us asking for autographs, it didn’t necessarily mean they loved our message. On the surface it shows that we really hit it off with the audience, and to any other normal band, this would be considered a success. But for us, we are ambassadors of Christ, the Carpenter’s tools; the fame gathered around us is not what we are seeking because instead it’s all about Christ and his message. On the other hand when people frown and cross their arms for the entire concert it doesn’t necessarily mean they didn’t love our message. Some people who looked like they were offended the entire time came up afterewards and gave me the most genuine smile and hug, thanking us for being faithful deliverers of the message. Funny how God works in a different way from the world. Therefore we are in no position to be disappointed, discouraged, or upset based on people’s reactions. It’s a learning curve for us all, but I know that we were faithful to his call, so he will carry it to completion.
“Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6 (NIV)
More photos can be found on the CTI blog page https://ctimusic.org/teams/colombia-2017/ or the photos under the Facebook page JPC Colombia.
This is my story, This is HIS story,
Michelle Yin | JESUS | August 8, 2017 | 2:16 am |