This morning at 7:30 a.m. everyone arrived back at the church. It’s very unusual for us to have breakfast as a group, but our hosts, with their wonderful southern hospitality, offered to serve us breakfast! It rarely happens that a host church serves us BOTH dinner and breakfast too! We were grateful and honored by their generosity. One gentleman who was cooking in the kitchen was celebrating his birthday today, so our youth sang “Happy Birthday” to him as a thank you. A generous buffet was set out consisting of pancakes, sausage, bacon, cut up fresh fruit and juice. Polly was asked by a member if we would sing Randall Thompson’s “Alleluia” before we left. Their choir director had been trying to convince the choir to sing that exact same song, but they always viewed it as too complicated. She wanted to show them that if a youth choir could sing it, they could too! Polly obliged by pulling the music folders out of the van and had the youth sing the song right around the breakfast tables. The lady recorded them to show at their next choir rehearsal! Another “WitnesSing” opportunity!
Today was our long bus ride, a six hour drive to Charlotte, NC. Polly gave the kids a quiz to see if they remembered their history tour at Tryon Palace two days ago. There was a painting of Queen Carlotta hanging on the wall and our tour guide had told us that the city of Charlotte was named after Queen Carlotta. She was also originally from Macklinberg (hence the name Macklinberg County.) A few of the kids actually remembered!
A quick reminder about “graciousness” was also in order when a few kids were overheard grumbling about having to eat fried chicken for two days in a row. It brought back memories of a tour from long ago when ham was served at almost every meal. No matter how many times it was served, everyone was expected to smile graciously and say thank you. We had the kids practice saying “thank you” as a group, especially to Mama Bowe who had sent the sun burned children to their host homes last night with their own personal tiny packs of aloe gel to apply to their skin before going to bed!
Our morning Greeters were Katie Elliott and Connor Dennie. Once again I was able to formally meet someone I didn’t know before, thanks to our greeting session. Awesome! We were given another Brutally Honest Zack Fact by our one and only Zack Callis. Did you know that lifeguards don’t really want to go into the water to save you? They would much rather hand out band-aids for scraped knees and such. So don’t put yourself in a situation where you are drowning and they have to save you! We also had an ice cream report from last night (since we couldn’t do our normal breakfast report. We all ate the same thing!) Many of the hosts took our youth out for ice cream. A popular location was “The Happy Cow,” located down by the riverfront. Popular flavors purchased included Brownie Batter, Chocolate Extreme, Salted Caramel and Cookie Dough. A refreshing way to beat the heat!Katie Elliott reported that there is an elusive “Thing 2” (remember the Dr. Seuss story?) running around leaving notes in people’s suitcases. She found one in the bottom of her suitcase this morning. It said that he was so happy that she is on tour this year and that she is a sweet girl. No one knows who this mysterious Thing 2 is, but whoever it is, I like him (or her!)
Since Tom Baldridge and Ben Con were driving the instrument van today, Connie Morella graciously took over as our mistress of ceremonies for the morning and “owned” the microphone. The first thing on the agenda was fork stories! Thomas Hulcher told a story of how he and Ben Con were walking up the stairs to the second floor of their host home. A cat was lounging on the second floor railing, watching them. As the boys got nearer, the cat became frightened and spun around on the railing, losing its balance and crashing through potted trees and plants as it fell down to the first floor, while the daughter was screaming. (Luckily, the cat promptly got up and ran behind the piano.) Matthew Baldridge told a story how he and David Hembrough were riding an elevator to the upper level in their host home (it must have been a huge home!) David decided to see if the elevator would still move if the doors were forced open. (He found out that it wouldn’t.) Then the elevator stopped and they were stuck! All’s well that ends well because they got out and made it to the bus this morning.
In spite of the fabulous previous stories, the winner of today’s fork story went to Bethany Maczka. She went into the bathroom in her host home and was stuck in there when the door would not open. Even her host could not get the door open! As a comfort to Bethany, she yelled through the door not to worry, they would get her out even if they had to chop or burn the door down. Did I say comforting? It took three people to get her out, but again, all’s well that ends well. Plus she won a fork!
Our faithful Connie Morella had more superlative awards to pass out. Scott Hembrough won the “Build the Hype” award, although I’m not really sure what that means. Keely Bautista won the “Best Laugh” award. The final award of the morning went to the “Future Dream Team,” a group of youth who Connie guarantees will keep the meaning and dream of choir tour alive: Jack Hembrough, Bryce Taylor, Helena Colborn, Annie Elliott, and Charlotte Bowe.
Around noon we stopped in Raleigh for lunch. There were a few lunch options for the youth to choose from, including Subway and Cook-Out, a southern chain that is famous for their creamy milk shakes. Once again, the heat was oppressive and we worked up a healthy sweat just walking from the bus to the restaurants.
After returning to the bus, Connie chose our afternoon Greeters – Zach Callis and Maddy Marshall. It took a while for them to greet everyone on the bus but they did a good job. Zach surprised Connie with a special decorated spoon in honor of her microphone skills. Everyone was ready for a nap after that and there was a lot of snoozing taking place for several hours. Some kids stretched out right on the floor! It was a quiet afternoon ride, except for a few things that mysteriously started falling out of the overhead compartments. Paul was hit with a bag of apples (luckily they were sliced and not whole or we would have had to get a new bus driver!) Polly was hit in the head with a falling roll of paper towels and Jonathan Colborn had a backpack fall on him. Maybe our bus is haunted!
As we neared Charlotte, Connie woke everyone up to pass out more superlative awards. Julia Bratburd won “Most Likely to Appear on Broadway.” Reid Taylor won the “Longest Napper” award because he apparently is always asleep on the bus. The “True Tour Squad” award (given to three buddies who can always be found together): Julia Beall, Maddy Marshall and Lydia Little-Turner. The final award went to “The ORIGINAL Dream Team” (of choir tour): Jessie Marshall, Bethany Maczka, Julia Bratburd, Connie Morella, Austin Mollard, Quil Kibak, Madison Bowe and Micah Tsoi (even though he isn’t here on this trip.)
Walking through the bus and checking on the kids made me realize that six hours on a bus is plenty of time for kids to find things to do to entertain themselves. Some girls had cornered Scott Hembrough and started applying make up to his face. Being the good sport that he is, he allowed it to happen. By the time I saw him, he looked like a flawless skin Chanel model. Jonathan Works and Emma Baldridge were also applying make up to Julia Bratburd, who by the way, always looks like a model.
When we arrived at Park Road Baptist church, we had just enough time for a short rehearsal before we were invited to the Fellowship Hall for a dinner of spaghetti casserole, salad and cupcakes for dessert. Then it was time to change and get ready for the concert. As I was sitting there in the waiting room, who should walk through the door but Nathan and Tanya Cappeluti, Taylor’s parents! They had driven all the way down from Maryland on their motorcycle and got here just in time for the concert. (They said “it only rained for an hour”) You could have knocked me over with a feather I was so surprised! And have I mentioned our bus driver, Paul? He has faithfully attended every single concert, which is NOT a usual thing for bus drivers to do. In fact, he had parked the bus at his hotel and then got a ride back to the church using UBER! That’s how moved he has been watching our kids sing. If you see him at the Welcome Home concert, shake his hand!
We were a little concerned during the first half of the concert. Everyone seemed so formal and there was no clapping. I guess we had gotten used to a boisterous audience in other places. But by the second half, they had relaxed and began to freely give applause. They couldn’t believe the size of our youth choir and they loved the variety of songs. During our last song, “Till We Meet Again,” Nathan Cappeluti was invited up to sing with the choir (after all, he is a CWS alumnus!) It is such a perfect ending song for our concert and I never tire of hearing it. Steve was invited to play some improvisation while the choir and audience left to greet one another and match up with host homes.
I would like to leave you with a thought from a sign that I saw during dinner tonight. It was hanging in their fellowship hall and it touched me when I saw it as being so appropriate for how I have been feeling all throughout this tour.
It said: There is no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth. III John 1:4. Thank you for the gift of your children on this tour.