Sleeping was pretty good in the cabins at Epworth by the Sea, and some rose early for exercise and yoga by the shore side. It was beautiful and almost cool in the morning.
Breakfast began at 7 am, and we ate in the cafeteria again. Grits were a breakfast feature, being in Georgia, and there was a lovey spread of breakfast choices. It was John Hoffpauir’s 16th birthday, so we greeted him. Later in the day we had and cake and singing of Happy Birthday.
Before departing, we gathered by the waterfront for a group photo. Our van riding folks picked up the box lunches provided by Epworth by the Sea, and we got on our way by about 8:30 am toward Wilkesboro, NC. Lucas Martinho has been tracking our route, making sure to see the signs to welcome us into each state. We stopped to eat our lunches in South Carolina at a rest stop.
While on the bus, we had more greetings and Lindsey Whitmeyer and Sam Johnson gave out several tour awards (everyone eventually gets one) - it is a way to highlight the unique personalities and funny or notable things that happen for folks on our trip.
There was a palpable sense of being ready to get back home for many, and also an awareness that things are wrapping up.
We arrived at Wilkesboro UMC about 4 pm, which turned out to be a magnificent final night on our tour. Lydia and Isaac Turner-Little’s grandparents live in Willesboro and attend the Baptist Church, and Linda Little (grandmom) worked tirelessly to find a location for us to sing and to secure overnight hosts. The United Methodist Church and Baptist Church of Wilkesboro are right across the street from each other, and they collaborated to host us - it turned into a very ecumenical experience.
We unloaded the bus and settled in - during rehearsal in the sanctuary a huge thunderstorm hit and rain could be heard pounding the roof and some lights flickered. We all took a secret passageway through the church from sanctuary to the fellowship hall to avoid going outside and getting rained on.
During the practice, Polly overheard the music director Jim Brooks comment in awe that he “never heard those sounds coming out of this organ.” Steve has a unique way of showing what is possible when he plays an organ, and we actually feel that’s a pretty important part of what we do on tour. Some might not believe that a group of 65 youth and adults could hang in for 11 days together and manage to cooperate and transcend personal challenges and differences of opinion to share the good news of Christ through music with great consistency, power and efficacy, but we’re here to tell you: it’s possible! We are pushing limits and demanding more of ourselves because that is what God asks of us, and God strengthens us for the work we must do. We keenly feel the Holy Spirit empowering our tired voices and bodies and focusing our varied thoughts every time we stand up to share a concert. God’s power pours right on through us - we are vessels, and it is a blessing.
All that good work does make you hungry and thirsty, though! For dinner we were served homemade spaghetti with salad, garlic bread and dessert. Our meals provided by hosts have had such great variety this year and have nourished us in body and spirit. Knowing the effort and care others have taken on our behalf is a gift in itself.
The concert was very well attended with lots
of family and community connections. Some drove long distances to be there, including Karalee Turner-Little (Isaac and Lydia’s mom) from Damascus, Mrs. Turner (their grandmother from TN), and Joy Black (Anna Mae and Caleb’s mom) from Asheville. The concert was a great time of growing close with our hosts, and so many commented about how meaningful the songs were and how special it was to hear a youth choir again. As worship and music traditions have changed in the last 25+ years, many churches have allowed their youth choirs to dissolve or they never had one. Again, we are blessed to show what is possible and celebrate God’s provision in the Charles Wesley Singers 30-year history. We realized that the group’s first tour was in 1988, so this marks 30 years. Kind of a big deal!
Everyone had a host family, which is a large endeavor for 65 people. We enjoyed traveling to host families with roommates that were coordinated by Beth Taylor. She has been taking care of rooming requests and assignments all during the trip so that folks have chances to stay with different people. It’s a big job, and we appreciate her work very much.
Another shout out goes to the tour chaperones, many of whom take time off work, to be part of this mission endeavor. It’s definitely not a vacation, but those who come will tell you that it’s worth every sacrifice.
Click Here for Photos of Day 10