All-State choir ministers with voices, hands
    July 22 2010 by Eric Nusbaum, Special to the Recorder

    Buckets of soapy water and frozen candy bars are not the usual tools of a touring youth choir that more typically ministers with their voices.

    But on July 21, 68 choir members and 11 adult leaders of the North Carolina Baptist All-State Youth Choir literally washed the feet of street people in sweltering downtown Raleigh, distributed hygiene kits, free shoes, new socks, bottled water and frozen chocolate bars before their evening concert.

    BR photo by Norman Jameson

    With 600 pairs of donated shoes sorted on the bus, students and coordinator Phil Campbell found the right shoes for runners who were going between the bus and the foot washers during a ministry day among street people in Raleigh. See photo gallery.

    In just three days choir members memorized 13 songs, several of which they performed for grateful loiterers at Moore Park on an afternoon that reached 98 degrees. Choir members each brought six pairs of new or gently used shoes when they came to their first practice July 18 at Campbell University, where they practiced and stayed each night.

    Their first concert was July 20 at Campbell’s Butler Chapel.

    “We have been working hard since we arrived,” said Phil Campbell, this year’s tour coordinator, from First Baptist Church in Lincolnton. “All of us are very excited about our tour.”

    “We have kids from the mountains to Wilmington,” said Campbell. “That is why this group is so fantastic to work with.”

    The choir learned their diverse 13-song program with ease. Songs include classic hymns, current hits and even an African language song of encouragement.

    “The group has a lot of different types of singers, which makes it tougher to get them on the same page than ‘normal’ choir, but this group has done a wonderful job,” said Clif Harris, choir director.

    Harris is associate pastor of music at Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington. Even though he has been involved with church music for 20 years he still gets excited whenever he directs.

    BR photo by Norman Jameson

    The North Carolina Baptist All State Youth Choir took time out from “hands and feet of Jesus” service to ministry through song at a popular park in downtown Raleigh, where street people and homeless pass the time in the shadow of several social service ministries. See photo gallery.

    “Music is a great way to spread God’s word, and that’s what we are trying to do on our tour,” said Harris. “It is even more special and exciting when I get to direct the best singers from around the state, so I am very blessed.”

    “I have been doing service projects with the choir for a few years, but this year when they told us to bring three pairs of shoes I was prepared for anything,” said singer Charles Parker from Snyder Memorial Baptist Church in Fayetteville.

    In addition to distributing shoes and socks, students gave out “survival kits” containing hand wipes, band aids, toothpaste and other essential items. The group toured and learned about the ministry of the Raleigh Rescue Mission, just across the street from the park.

    “I love being a part of the choir. The singing and the friendships are great, but what I love the most are our ministry projects,” said singer Carter Benge from Snyder Memorial. “It is just great to go out and help the less fortunate and spread God’s word. Anything that we can do to help, we will.” 

    When asked earlier if the idea of handling other’s feet bothered him, choir member Zachary Barham of Greensboro said, “I don’t think so, but I guess I’ll see tomorrow. It is all for God, so I’m sure I’ll be able to handle it.”

    Karen Hoffman, church and community relations director for the Raleigh Rescue Mission, oriented students on each of two buses before they disembarked in Raleigh.

    “We don’t wash people’s feet just because they’re dirty,” she told apprehensive, but excited choir members. “We wash them because we are the hands and feet of Jesus. Your faith compels you to do as Jesus did.”

    Under the watchful, expectant eyes of park regulars, choir members set up distribution stations and ate a white bread sandwich much like the lunch of most of their audience.

    Once they started washing feet the line quickly formed, men on the right, women on the left. They were not bashful to doff their shoes and dip their toes in the soapy water.

    “We’re doing what Jesus would do,” said fourth year choir member Emily Johnson, from Woodlawn Baptist Church in Conover. “This is putting away your own pride, realizing there are people out there for whom this is the best thing we could do for them … they won’t remember my face or my name, but I made a difference.”

    After a concert that night at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Raleigh, the choir was to perform on succeeding nights in Lumberton, Durham and Wilmington.

    “I think it will be hectic and crazy with all the traveling, but I am really having fun,” said veteran member Shelby Ludlum of Scotland Neck. “I just want to spread God’s love in any way I can.”

    “Any way I can” now includes for North Carolina Baptist Youth Choir members washing the feet of others — just as Jesus did.

    (EDITOR’S NOTE — Nussbaum is a communications student at Campbell University. BR Editor Norman Jameson contributed to this story from Moore Square. Follow the blog.)

    Raleigh Rescue Mission from NC Baptist All-State Youth Choir on Vimeo.

    7/22/2010 3:27:00 AM by Eric Nusbaum, Special to the Recorder | with 0 comments

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