You might be surprised at how varied the ministry of the New America Singers (California Southern Baptists’ student choir) can be. We sing, dance, use puppetry, gymnastics, basketball and cheerleader routines, drama and goofy skits. But our primary focus is on schools and the military, because that is where the unsaved young people are.
This summer we packed 37 school assemblies into 18 school days, sharing His love with more than 20,000 students. In addition to schools, we sang for six churches, in two public auditoriums, at the American Country Club (July 4), a youth camp, two youth rallies, two seminaries, seven senior citizen rallies, a banquet, 21 street performing areas, a children’s home and an orphanage – all within 28 days of overseas ministry; plus 10 church services, a Marine base, a VBS service and a youth prison, before flying overseas, for a total of 30,000-plus people.
But that’s just singing, which included singing in Mandarin, Cantonese, a little Tagalog (for the thousands of Filipinos who flock to the city streets on Sunday, and in their churches) and even singing in Thai and working with Hmong and Karen tribal groups, with the help of Baptist missionaries.
How about teaching conversational English in schools in Thailand, or chaperoning 200 senior citizens to a theme park in Hong Kong, or handing out food and other items 11 times to poor people in Hong Kong. We spent a lot of time playing with children, assisting senior citizens and in one-on-one conversations, witnessing with students and people on the streets, and handing out tens of thousands of gospel tracts.
That’s WHAT we do.
HOW is basically a matter of commitment, training and constant attention to keeping focused on the mission, on loving Jesus and each other. Morning and night we have devotional and study time. Both focus on loving the Lord and making sure any relational problems within the team are scripturally ironed out immediately. We are also constantly improving performance, communication and spiritual growth skills, especially focusing on positive biblical character qualities.
WHY is easy – we go because the Lord is changing lives by the thousands all over the world, every day, and we want to be part of the massive revival going on. If you could only see the faces of the children. Many are passive, with a faraway look, but they come alive during our programs. As they respond to the love of Jesus (about whom many of them know nothing), you would remember forever the earnestness of their faces as they pray. Then, as the light of Jesus sparkles in their eyes, it’s almost like you can see the love of Jesus being poured into their very being.
In Christian homes and orphanages it’s a different program. Here, where the children have been bathed in Christian love and discipline, we walk away closer to the Lord than when we came. These children glow with love of Jesus and for each other. When they sing praises to the Lord we feel lifted up and are embarrassed at how lukewarm or even cold our churches seem by comparison.
We’ll never know the hardships some of the senior citizens have known, in Communist China, or because of economic difficulties or mental issues. But we do know how the warmth of His love wrinkles the corners of their faces and sparkles in their eyes as they greet us on the streets and clap for joy that we have returned to Hong Kong.
We work with the top schools in this part of the world. Many of the students will become business and factory owners in China. How exciting to know that many of them will be sharing the love of the Lord with their businesses, hiring chaplains to meet the spiritual needs of their people and inviting groups like ours to share entertainment and the gospel with their workers.
They are followed up on by local Christians, and many maintain communication with our Singers over the years.
It’s true that not only will folks listen to us sing or stop to read our gospel tracts: each year our group has the joy of leading people to the Lord right on the streets.
People are the main reason we go. Of course we also experience so much growth ourselves, as we learn so much about ourselves, what the Lord is doing, about other cultures and types of ministry, and come home prepared to be so much more valuable to our own churches and so much better prepared for our college years.
Hard work, exhausting schedule, 30,000-plus (mostly non-Christians) in the audiences … How many got saved? Good question. Which leads us to the GOK Factor (God Only Knows). We know of 860 students and adults who prayed to receive Jesus, signed cards, came to the front of their schools. Most of them will have follow-up from local believers.
What we really don’t know is about the 3,000-plus elementary students who raised their hands to accept Jesus. And the one-third of the schools in Hong Kong where we clearly presented the plan of salvation and showed them how and why to pray, but weren’t allowed to give an altar call? And what about the 5,000-plus students in Thailand, where we again clearly presented the gospel and were warmly received, but not allowed to give an altar call? Or the senior citizens who stood by the hundreds? God only knows.
We did see 860 saved (including 40 Marines at Camp Pendleton and 11 young men in a youth prison in California) – or were there a couple of thousand? Perhaps thousands more? God only knows.
This we do know: we experienced the joy and overwhelming privilege of sharing His love with a world that is dying to know Him. And we fully expect to spend time with many of those in the GOK column in Heaven.
We did take off time to ride elephants in the jungles of Thailand, visit a mountain tribe by ox cart, float down a jungle river on bamboo rafts, watch a cultural show in Thailand and visit a theme park in Hong Kong – and we had a good team of great kids who should turn out to be great leaders for our churches in the years to come.
(Campbell is long-time director of the New America Singers. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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