Tuesday, June 26, 2018

2018 Tour - Day 11 - Final Reflections

We began the day by gathering for breakfast at our host church - they prepared enough for all of us! We had biscuit sandwiches from Bojangles with fresh in-season tomatoes on the side, fruit, donuts and plenty of coffee and juice!

We said goodbye to our lovely hosts and the Worrell boys as we boarded the bus for home. Joseph and Robert headed for home in Ohio, and we had a 6-hour Drive to Maryland.

A word needs to be said about our bus driver Paul Lopez, who has driven us for the last several years. He is faithful and accommodating in every way - he is a lovely travel companion and does all that he can to facilitate the plans we have made, even when there are last minute changes. He comes to our concerts every night after driving all day and has become part of the fiber of our tour experience. We are most thankful!

The bus rides over the last two days have included movie watching, thanks to Annie Elliott who brought a case full of DVDs. We had just the right number of greeters for the whole trip, and the last greeting of tour featured Charlie Bratburd and Conor Shiflett. 

It was been an amazing and wonderful 11 day adventure. 

In their own words, here are a few reflections from the group:

Troy Moskowitz: Enjoyed hanging out with friends and talking about favorite parts of tour 

Phil Hulcher: Smelling NC moonshine for real in our host family's garage!

Anne Elliott: it’s all pretty good!

Stephanie Greer: Hanging out with my friends on the pier at the retreat center.

Nick Works: My favorite moment was sitting in the lovely Lane chapel on st simons island listening to what the youth have learned from this tour!

Jonathan Works: Swimming at 2 am in the morning 😂😂😂

Jonathan Colborn: Spontaneous Friendships

Taylor Cappeluti: Singing come unity at the church in ft Lauderdale

Bryce Taylor: Singing Come, Unity in the acoustic cylinder at Coral Ridge. It was really beautiful. 

Helena Colborn: Beth Taylor bringing me a vanilla milkshake, and enjoying it and some pizza with Torie, Sydney, and Lydia in our hotel room

Lucas Martinho: the Harry Potter ride at Orlando

Katie Elliott: I enjoyed spending a lot of time with my friends and talking to people after the concerts

Derek Johnson: Being unexpectedly surrounded by nuns during our singing of Omnia Sol in beautiful Bethesda By The Sea sanctuary.

Angela Nardone: Singing come unity in every church and just hearing everybody’s voice surround you in comfort and hearing the host homes or the audience just talk of being filled with love and joy when we sang it and being able to say we felt the same way.

Kae Johnson: Singing at the retirement community (Village on the Isle) and then walking around downtown Venice with some other chaperones

Emma Dube: The best part of tour was getting to know people that I wouldn’t have known otherwise. 

Emma Baldridge: hanging out with everyone at Universal 

Liz Elliott: Texting a few photos each day of tour to a super-appreciative host mom. Spontaneous hugs.

Scott Hembrough: My favorite memory is sitting on the bus next to amber feeling the pus of my sunburn drip down my chest

Noah Lenker: I enjoyed being able to get to know people that I didn’t already know and strengthening my relationship with those I already know

From Don Hillerich, our host at Village on the Isle: ‘All I can say is: WOW, WHAT AN AWESOME CONCERT! The residents have all been raving about your concert last Friday night, June 22nd. Speaking on their behalf and mine too, it was an inspiration. The music selections, “One in Christ Jesus”, lifted the hearts and spirits of everyone. Visiting with the members following the concert was just great too!’

Click Here for Photos of Day 11

2018 Tour - Day 10

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

Monday, June 25, 2018

2018 Tour - Day 9

Some early risers departed the hotel before 6 am to take Jordan Anderson to the airport in Jacksonville - Taylor Cappeluti, Troy Moskowitz, Robert Worrell and Tom Baldridge made the trip and celebrated Jordan’s time on tour before he flew home early for a family event.

Most of the group came down for breakfast about 7 am, and the meal was a bit fancier than our other hotel breakfasts. We were seated by a hostess and they took drink orders and the breakfast buffet included real eggs. We’re thankful for any sustenance, but it’s a treat when things are special.

We sang our standard Come, Unity at breakfast - it’s a way of greeting and acknowledging those who are serving us and sharing a meal, and it’s also a time of centering and connection - a little reminder first thing in the morning of who we are and what we are endeavoring to live out.

The vans went on ahead to reach Penney Memorial Church in Penney Farms, FL, and we had a greeting and Fork stories during the 1-hour drive. Matthew Baldridge (who was celebrating his 15th birthday along with his brother William) told about having to switch hotel rooms because when his group opened the room they discovered it had not been cleaned. Oops. Hotel management changed their room and offered them cookies. We get impressed again and again by the graciousness of our group in responding to inconveniences. 

Penney Farms, FL, is where former DUMC pastor Jim Archibald retired, and he helped line up the chance for us to lead the worship service at Penney Memorial Church. Nick Works shared a message based on the Gospel story of Jesus calming the waters when the disciples (who were all experienced fisherman) panicked on the boat in the extreme weather. We sang The Storm is Passing Over and several other anthems throughout the service, and Steve’s playing of hymns and other service music was greatly appreciated by our hosts. It was a very special time!

We haven’t had many food repeats, and for lunch there were Subway sandwiches for all, plus vegetables platters, chips, and plentiful desserts. We also celebrated Matthew and William’s birthday with cake and more singing. Yvette Peloquin, DUMC member who moved to Florida, came to see us there, as did other family members and friends of our group. Seems like lots of us have Florida Connections.

We changed clothes and boarded the bus for Epworth by the Sea - a United Methodist retreat center in St Simons Island, Ga. We’re moving back in the direction of Maryland. Epworth is the name of John and Charles Wesley’s childhood home in England, and both Wesley’s came to the Georgia coast as Christian missionaries, so the Methodist history is very rich. 

We arrived at Epworth by the Sea around 2:30 pm and had time to unpack into our 4 cabins and have free time before dinner at 5:30 pm. There was a pool, covered basketball court, and lots of beautiful waterfront to explore. It was good for the soul to be in a tranquil setting with Spanish moss draped from mature trees, historic buildings, and a lovely prayer/chime tower. 

Dinner was served in the cafeteria, and afterward we went by foot to the Lovely Lane Chapel for a time of reflection about tour. We talked about highlights and a theme that kept coming up was how we treat each other like family, showing great care and acceptance in every situation. We also laughed about arriving at fast food restaurants with 60 of your closest friends and unique things that happen just by traveling with a group. People commented how tour can rejuvenate our faith life and said thank you to each other for providing wellness care, direction, friendship, sunscreen and aloe, counsel, musical expertise, encouragement, gentle teasing, love and memories. Angela Nardone led us in a concluding prayer. 

As we left the chapel, there were outdoor games happening around the Strickland auditorium where youth from all over that area were gathering for something called The Main Event. Many of our youth joined in, and some elected to stay for the music and featured speaker. Every Sunday night during the summer, about 700-800 youth meet for this event at Epworth by the Sea. Kae and Sam Johnson both shared that the speaker’s main point was that broken crayons still color! 

Others in our group elected to remain outside and take in the sunset, which was beautiful. Photos abounded, and a round of ultimate frisbee was entertainment for many.

We all were in cabins, nicely air conditioned, by about 10 pm, getting showers and preparing for bed. It felt a little like summer camp with bunk beds and about 20 people per cabin. As usual, after a tiring day, sleeping came quickly and easily. 

Click Here for Pictures from Day 9