by April Bayer
Photo courtesy of Katie Christensen
Several Concordia students spent the summer traveling and sharing the Gospel around the world through music, teaching, volunteering and mission work.
Forty-four members of the University A Cappella Choir spent nearly three weeks from May 7-27 touring and performing in South Africa. The tour provided an opportunity for students to not only sing for an international audience but to fully experience another culture.
“I was appreciative of the fact that our tour manager, Adam Lee, worked to give us an authentic South African experience,”conductor Dr. Kurt von Kampen said. “It would have been very possible for us to perform in churches very much like we have in our country and stay in four and five-star hotels. But he wanted something unique (and more) for us. We got into the culture…both by meeting many local folks at
the churches and staying in their homes.”
The choir performed many of its usual pieces, including hymns, African spirituals and a Bach piece, but also learned new songs from local church choirs along the way. The students also had the chance to perform with a Swazi tribal choir and experience various forms of worship from a Zulu Pentecostal service to a high church Lutheran service spoken in German.
Concert locations included Johannesburg, Middelburg, Kruger, Swaziland, St. Lucia, Durban, Lesotho and Pretoria. Choir members had the chance to visit several notable South African landmarks
such as the Apartheid Museum, Kruger National Park and the St. Lucia Estuary. They also went on two safaris, toured the cities of Pretoria and Johannesburg and explored the Indian Ocean.
“I got to see more stars than I’d ever seen, go for a pony trek, and teach the Doxology to some people there and learn some of their music as well. Plans changed often, opportunities arose and we got to see God
work in awesome ways,” senior Caleb Worral said.
Von Kampen said that the choir also experienced some cultural differences from the United States as they performed and stayed with local families. Concerts and meals would sometimes start up to 45
minutes later than planned because South African culture does not depend as much on time and schedules as American culture. South African audiences also reacted differently than most American audiences
by singing call and response songs with the choir and dancing in the aisles.
“What I learned in this tour is that you can’t really get to know a place that you’re visiting until you live with the people,” junior Katie Christensen said. “They have close families and family time is important.
Their priorities are different. We saw a lot of the tourist stuff during the last two weeks, but as fun as that was, it wouldn’t have been the same tour if we hadn’t experienced the real lives and families of the South African people.”
Another group of nine education students journeyed to Shenzhen, China to teach English and other subjects in an ESL learning environment at Buena Vista Concordia International School from June 22 to July 30. Students spent time planning lessons, leading day camps focused on art and science and visiting a variety of landmarks from a Buddhist temple to a jade market.
“God is in China and His will is being done there. I always knew this fact, but until I got outside of my American bubble, I didn’t truly understand what it meant,” junior David Epperson said. “So many people have not heard the name ‘ Jesus,’ but even though proselytizing is illegal, there are still churches and there are still new people coming to Christ every day.”
Nine Concordia students also visited a Lutheran mission and church in Amatitan, Guatemala for a week in May to work with local children and lead a program similar to Vacation Bible School. The Concordia students and the children spent time singing songs, doing crafts, studying the Bible and playing outside. The group also helped teach English in local schools, worked to serve the women of the community, and planted fruit trees at local homes.
Sophomore Anna Holle said that the language barrier sometimes made both travel and conversation with the locals difficult but was a useful learning experience.
“It is so simple yet so amazing to think about how our God doesn’t only speak one language. Language barriers don’t exist when talking to God, and loving him is a universal thing,” Holle said. “We were
created to be relational. Even when language barriers exist, God made it possible to show love and service through our actions.”
Junior David Geidel spent over two months, from May 15 to July 26, living in Hong Kong but crossed the border into Shenzhen, China regularly to deliver Bibles to churches and people that did not have access to them. Geidel also visited and delivered Bibles to the Hmong people of Vietnam.
Geidel said that while a limited number of Bibles are legally sold in China, there are still areas where churches have no Bibles. The Hmong people in Vietnam have even less religious freedom and carry out much of their worship and study in secret. Geidel was safe during his stay in Hong Kong and China, but the work he did there presented some risks and challenges when he was stopped by Chinese immigration
officials while crossing the border.
“A police officer, detective and immigration superintendent questioned me,” Geidel said. “The first time I was stopped, I was alone and (was) questioned and held for three hours. The second time, I was with a guy my age, and we were questioned and held for four hours. Through this trial, I had my faith tested. Through the testing, I became more mature in my faith.”
Other students who completed mission work this summer include senior Jan Steinbrueck, who worked with a mission team in India, and senior Andie Anderson, who visited Paris, France.