(I need to start my post today with a correction about yesterday’s post. We are NOT on a ten day tour! I must have been over zealous in my excitement yesterday. I’ll blame it on the heat.)
Everyone met up this morning on time and ready for our next adventure. Some were bleary eyed and tired, some were cheerful and happy (thank you Connie Morella!) and some had been up for hours (Ben Con and Annie Elliott had gotten up at the crack of dawn to go running!) As we drove toward North Carolina, a breakfast report was shared (cereal for some, a fruit and egg feast for others.) David Hembrough told a fork story about a creepy home he stayed in, complete with a “Chuckie” type doll. The lights were mysteriously going off by themselves and the boys thought the house was haunted. (The host finally told them that the lights were on a timer!) Great story, but the winner of the fork went to Cecelia Hembrough and Torie Brooks after telling us about the elusive bug in their room. Appropriately, their prize fork had stickers of bugs all over it. Katie Elliott, who also turned 12 years old today, was called to the front so that everyone could sing Happy Birthday to her. She and Reid were both presented with birthday gifts – mini fans to keep them cool in this oppressive heat. I had a feeling they were about to become very popular once the breezes from those fans started up during our trek into town. Connie Morella commanded the microphone as she gave out a few awards. This tradition was started on last year’s tour when kids were given awards for things they did each day. (Think of it as a daily superlative award.) These awards were based on what Connie had “witnessed” (get it?) Zach Callis received an award for being brutally honest. Sydney Fennington received the Bright Ray of Sunshine Award and Austin Mollard received the Most Likely to Survive the Apocalypse award (in other words, he is prepared for any situation.) Because of the long amount of time we were on the bus, it was decided to have two sets of Greeters today. The honor went to Lydia Turner-Little with David Hembrough in the morning, and later it was Julia Bratburd with Cole Taylor. Two awesome sets of Greeters! The rest of the bus trip to NC consisted of a Scooby Doo movie and napping. The bus was noticeably quieter than it was yesterday!
We arrived at New Bern, NC around lunchtime. I admired how beautiful the town looked next to the river with all of the white sailboats contrasting the beautiful blue water. I discovered that New Bern sits next to the Neuse and Trent Rivers. It was named after its sister city in Bern, Switzerland and was founded in 1710 by Swiss and German immigrants. New Bern is the second oldest European colonial town in North Carolina. Many of its buildings date back to the 18th century. We were all dropped off in the center of town and had an hour on our own to walk around and buy lunch. I noticed that everywhere we went we saw statues of bears outside of the shops. I was told that Bern means “bear” in the Swiss language and that a few years ago the town had celebrated its 300 year anniversary. Artists were commissioned to decorate the town with all sorts of bears. It was truly a unique experience to see all of the different artistic styles of these mascot animals.
After lunch, we walked a few blocks to see Tryon Palace. The palace was used to house the British Colonial government in 1770, but after the revolution it became the State Capital building. It burned to the ground in 1798 but was reconstructed again during the 1950’s. We received a tour of the house, the scullery kitchen and the stables, as well as a brief history lesson. Visitors were invited to stroll freely through the gardens in the back also. Most of our youth opted out of that because of the heat. It was a sweltering 91 degrees and the gardens were in the direct sun. Instead, many of them went to the air conditioned gift shop where I saw some bags of candy being purchased. Our youth also performed another “WitnesSING” song on the front grounds of the palace! It was a joy to watch them.
Dinner was served by our hosts at the First Baptist Church. This is the church where Lydia Turner-Little’s grandparents attend. Everyone was welcoming and friendly. They had a real southern dinner prepared for us – fried chicken tenders, macaroni and cheese, green beans, rolls, watermelon and ice cream. We were told that New Bern is the birthplace of Pepsi Cola, so of course there were bottles of Pepsi on every table. The CWS surprised Katie Elliott with a birthday cake, complete with 12 candles. It only took three breaths to blow all of them out!
As the youth were changing for the concert, a thunderstorm rolled in. Tom went outside and saw a full rainbow filling the sky. It seemed to come right down into the church, as if First Baptist was the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow! (Check out our amazing photo he caught!) It seemed like a sign from heaven that God was blessing our concert.
It was decided that the concert would be performed wearing their red tour shirts tonight. As we listened to them sing and were bathed in the sea of red colors, everyone was moved. I thought of the blood of Jesus and how he has blessed all of these young people. Equally, the audience was blessed listening to their angelic voices. There was enthusiastic clapping and even cheering! When Polly asked for audience participation, there was loud, joyful singing! Lydia’s grandfather Craig Little was invited to join the CWS during “We Shall Rise,” eliciting a wonderful response as he added his powerful voice to the bass section. “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord” became a reality for everyone who was in attendance. Get ready to be blessed at the Welcome Home concert!