Wednesday, June 24, 2015


Today is Homeward Bound Day. A mixture of feelings are very evident. Everyone is tired and can’t wait to go home and see their families, but the bonding of new friends and experiences is strong. We hate to see it end. Back at the church, everyone meets in the sanctuary and we gather together in the choir loft to have a serious talk. What have we learned this week and how have we witnessed? The answers were thoughtful and honest from many of the different youth. We have grown into a family of friends, accepting of one another and growing stronger in our faith. We discovered that no matter what denomination church we visited, we felt welcomed and accepted. We realized that we are all one in God and we can be ourselves. We realized that the songs we sang touched the hearts of many people and brought them hope. As the youth shared, there were tears and hugs. Tom asked the kids to form a Sharing Circle and hold hands. We went around the circle and asked each person to share one thing that they were thankful for this week. The answers were all different yet sincere as the spirit of gratitude filled the air. We are blessed.

As we loaded the bus we felt closer than ever to one another. Madison Bowe and Ben Con were chosen as our morning Greeters and we headed to the Krispy Kreme Donut Factory in Greensboro. Deborah Bowe’s parents, Janet and Mike Dawson, were treating everyone on the bus to donuts! This factory was the first ever Krispy Kreme store that opened in the Piedmont area (which includes Winston-Salem, Greensboro, and High Point.)  Deborah confessed that years ago, she used to skip her high school classes to come to this factory to get donuts! As we went inside and donned our Krispy Kreme paper hats, there was a glass wall where we were able to see the donuts being made on the assembly line. A spontaneous “WitnesSing” broke out right in the donut shop. Everyone sang, “Ain’t Got Time To Die.” Even the adults were singing along!

Back on the bus, we began the long drive back to Maryland. Tom had another set of “Lost and Found” items that we have been accumulating throughout the week. I would like to thank Wendy Hembrough for the fabulous “dot” system she used to identify her boy’s clothing. We found a lot of those dots this week! Calista Kibak and Ryan Celli were chosen as our second set of Greeters – a first time tour participant and a veteran participant greeting together. Then it was time for fork stories. Autumn and Helena had a story about last night’s house. There was creepy clown doll (creepy dolls have happened a lot on this tour) that mysteriously disappeared from its shelf during the night and was gone in the morning. Plus the connecting bathroom had no door! The Taylor boys told of a fabulous house they stayed in that had a swimming pool, a hot tub and a bedroom with a tent in it and inside of the tent was a mattress on the floor. It was called Camp Meemaw and tall friends should Stay Out! Trent told a story about the ride to his host home. William had to sit in the front seat with all of the backpacks and 5 others had to cram in the back seat. They all ended up doing the “Cupid Shuffle” in the car. Cecelia Hembrough won the prized fork by describing an adorable little old woman who lived alone with her cat. She was trying to get back into the dating scene and was considering getting a dog so she could take him for walks to look for a man. She asked the girls if she could “friend” them on Facebook.  (Connie Morella added a fun fact to add to this story by telling about her first choir tour. She made friends with one of her hosts and they have been Facebook friends ever since!)

Connie Morella gave out more Superlative Awards. “Most Creative Outfits” went to Rhodesia Roberts. She is always stylish and “put together.” David Hembrough received “Biggest Romantic.”  The next award had to do with “passing the torch” to someone who would be taking Connie’s place next year as “Tour Mom” to the younger, new kids: Jessie Marshall. Steve Kalnoske generously purchased double disk Harry Potter movies to watch on our long ride home. We started with “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” (Some were watching but others couldn’t keep their eyes open and fell asleep.)

We stopped for lunch in another strip mall area that had several restaurant choices that we could walk to. Back on the bus after lunch again, the youth presented our bus driver Paul with an award of his own – “Most Dedicated Bus Driver” (because he never failed us yet) and a signed “WitnesSing” poster with everyone’s names on it. Paul told the kids that he has been so touched this week by all of them and especially their concerts. He will try to make the Welcome Home concert but he has a job and doesn’t know if he will make it back in time. Either way, all of us wanted him to know how much we have appreciated his dedication to our group. We hope we will be able to get him as our driver again in the future!

Zack Callis (who is a lifeguard at Plantations pool) gave us his last Zack Fact for the pool party tomorrow night: No chicken fighting, no running, be kind to your lifeguards and listen to them, give them food because they love it, and you ARE allowed to jump in with your clothes on.

Connie gave out the next set of her Superlative awards. Cole Taylor won “Pickiest Eater Award.” Charlotte Bowe won “Being Fairly Loud.” Cecelia Hembrough won “Most Chill” and Bryce Taylor won “Softest Skin Award.” Deborah Bowe won “Best Mama” and Sue Con won “Best (late night) Blogger.” Steve Kalnoske won “Best Black Market Blogger.” Rachel Burns won “Silent but Deadly.” Quil Kibak won an award for his own original catch phrase: “Bruh!” After the awards, everyone settled in for the second movie, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” While the movie was going on, Reid Taylor pulled a molar from his mouth. That’s the second tooth lost on this trip! There was also an exciting game of Hearts taking place (everyone’s favorite card game.)

As we neared closer to home on Route 270, Zack and Scott gave out the final Superlative awards. Friendly Jonathan Works received “Most Talkative.” Ryan Celli received “Better Late Than Never.” Mattie Marshall won “Realest Comments.” Lydia Turner-Little won the “Stinkin’ Cute Award” and Ben Con won the “Bojangle Connoisseur” award. Madison Bowe was awarded “Always Being There When Needed” and Austin Mollard won “Yes, I Can Sleep even when Steve is Playing Loudly on the Organ” award. Emma Baldridge awarded herself the “Being Cool” award. I think you can see from the awards this week that each person has their own special personality and yet the kids can appreciate and have fun with each other’s uniqueness. Choir Tour has a way of making this special bonding happen. It also makes lasting friendships.

As I finish this last blog post from our 2015 choir tour experience, I am reminded of something Steve Kalnoske shared with the youth earlier in the week during a rehearsal. “Don’t take this experience for granted,” he told them. This is special. You will remember it for the rest of your lives. You have been shaped by this experience without even realizing it. You have touched people’s hearts through your words and your actions. God has drawn you closer to him and you have shared His love with others. The words from the songs you have sung have entered your hearts and planted seeds that will grow. You have been a witness.