Published Sep 02, 2014
As I scroll through more than 1,000 photos from this year’s New America Singers (California’s Baptist student choir) mission tour, these pictures stick in my mind; it’s like the Lord is saying, “Share these thoughts with the people.”
- School Assemblies. Dozens of pictures of high school, middle-school and primary school programs. Hundreds of students, laughing, listening intently, bowed in prayer or standing by the dozens, giving their lives to the Lord. School after school. Our Singers, talking one-on-one or in small groups to students eager to practice English, taking “selfies” or praying with students who need spiritual help. Walking outside and looking up at the 40-plus story apartment complexes where the students live. Thousands of such complexes … each filled with thousands of families … and most of them need Jesus.
- Feeding the Hungry. Almost daily, we help pack, carry and hand out food, clothing and other useful articles to older people living on the ragged edge of life. We’ve come to love them, feel compassion for them … and some of the “repeats” greet us on the streets as if we were longtime friends. Many have mental or physical problems, but they come to our concerts. They are also people who will face the Lord soon … and they need Jesus. And many of them come to know Him.
- Teaching English. Schools in both Hong Kong and Thailand are eager for us to visit classrooms, teach conversational English or just engage in conversation. Of course there are opportunities to teach Christian songs and turn the teaching to spiritual matters.
- Prep Time. Each day we spend valuable time in Bible study, focusing on the essentials of Christian leadership, interpersonal relations and developing a servant heart. We spend time rehearsing, looking at our schedule of programs (in several languages), praying, learning how to handle complex situations better the next time.
- The Children. Primary school children inhabit a different world than those in secondary school. In addition to a normal gospel program and presentation, we play with them, teach them “action songs” and simplify the message. They are so earnest in their desire to have Jesus in their hearts. Nearly 600 pray to accept Christ. Oh that our people would come with their childlike faith, and with their attitude of, “Of course I want Jesus … who wouldn’t?” We don’t count most of those decisions, even though we know they mean it … because we assume they may have prayed similar prayers before in other gospel programs. But we are humbled and challenged by their simple and profound faith.
- People on the Streets. We sing in performing areas throughout the city. Hong Kong … 6 million-plus busy people, who never seem to sleep. Even in the middle of the night the streets are crowded. As we sing and dance, thousands stop to watch and listen to a gospel message in their own language. We have handed out tens of thousands of tracts in Hong Kong, and the people stop and read them. Many ask questions. And some pray to accept Jesus right on the spot. They are working hard to achieve their economic dream, but they are also looking for answers that will make their lives worth living.
- The Churches. We sing for churches, and for church retreats at the Youth for Christ building where we stay in Hong Kong. Some come for renewal, but all bring non-believers and those who need encouragement. Some are leaders from Mainland China, who come in for a week to study and train and fellowship without being persecuted by the Communist authorities. All of them soon become brothers in the faith, as we sing for them, mix and eat with them, and share ideas.
- Children’s Homes. We help out in three children’s homes in Thailand. They don’t call them orphanages (although some of the children are orphans) – they call them “home” because that is their “safe place” where they go to school, live in a caring, Christ-centered environment, learn English, learn academic and job skills, and become prepared to live successfully as Christians in a totally Buddhist world. Some of their stories are heartbreaking, but we’ve never seen a more joyous, positive group of young people, some of whom have received scholarships to major universities and won national awards. And their worship, their joy and earnestness put us to shame. What a joy to help, work and play with them.
- The American Club. Each July 4th, we are invited to share a patriotic program with the exclusive American Country Club. Rich people, good food and certainly a contrast with the very poor people and students with whom we mostly work. But they need Jesus, too. They are a long way from home, and enjoy our little bit of Americana. Some are believers, and doing their best to share their faith with fellow ex-patriots.
- Thailand Schools. Thailand is not like Hong Kong. It is a Buddhist country and it is illegal for Christians to sing in public schools. We sing in Northern Thailand, where the administrators are so eager to have their students mix with, listen to and be taught English by Americans, they welcome us, year after year. While this is mostly “seed planting,” rather than the harvest we see in Hong Kong, they do allow us to sing and talk about Jesus, and wrap up with a short sermon by a local Thai minister. We distributed more than 4,000 gospel books, and we pray that each book will be read by at least five family members. Lovely, welcoming people, with a growing number of believers and churches.
- California and the Marines. Before beginning the June 21-July 21 tour we spent a few days singing for California churches, encouraging them to live the life and find a new zeal for reaching their communities for Jesus. We also had the privilege of once more singing for Marines at Camp Pendleton, where 60 young men prayed to receive Jesus.
- Decisions. Mostly, these fall under the GOK (God Only Knows) category. We count very few children or older people as they make decisions; in many venues we are not allowed to give an altar call, and there are no altar calls in Thailand (one of their high schools had 2,200 students who were very attentive). We do have records of 1,650, mostly students, who prayed to receive Jesus. The Lord is at work in Asia, and is certainly raising up a new generation of committed young leaders.
(Campbell has directed the New America Singers for more than 30 years. The group, which tours every summer, this year performed for more than 26,000 people. For more information about the choir contact Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 951-369-9616.)