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Friday, May 28, 2010

Two thousand pictures later

While traveling, it was hard to describe the sights and the concerts and the people in my journal.  There's no way I'd ever be able to capture all that Europe tour was and is.  It would be a total cop out to not write anything about it.

For now, let's go through a quick photo tour of the trip and I'll try to fill in some of the adventures later.

So!  Every four years, the Bryan College chorale takes a two week tour around Europe where they give concerts in churches to bring in unbelievers and to minister to the local Christians.  We stay in host homes for the majority of the time (to save on cost and to form better connections with said local Christians).  The students who go raise support and leave for the tour a couple days after May graduation.  This tour, we had 34 student singers and 6 chaperones (Our director and pianist, the Chair of Bryan's music department and his wife and the music department secretary who planned this whole trip and her husband).
Here's the whole gang minus two of our chaperones who were taking the pictures near L'Abri in Switzerland:
Photo from Kelly Miller

We went to England, Switzerland, and France and gave 8 concerts:
Astbury Parish Church : Congleton, ENG
St. Johns Methodist Church : Whitchurch, ENG
St. Thomas Church : London, ENG
All Saints Church : Vevey, SW
Grand’ Eglise : St.-Etienne, FR
Baptist Churh Echirolles : Grenoble, FR
Eglise du Freney d’ Oisans : LeFreney, FR

Bryan College Europe Tour 2010Yes, my friends, we sang in churches like this. This is Astbury Church. It's so old, it was first used by the druids. I didn't get to see it, but there is a 2,000 year old tree in the back yard! The acoustics here were amazing, but it was frigid inside; most of us girls wore our jeans underneath our dresses.

Bryan College Europe Tour 2010
Different people were excited about seeing different things, but, naturally, the Eiffel Tower and the Swiss Alps were great hits. I was most excited to see the Peter Pan statue and Platform 9 3/4 in London, but every time I walked into one of the cathedrals, I felt like I could have stayed and stated at the architecture for ages.  We had plenty of time for sightseeing and got to spend lots of time in London and Paris as well as in other towns along our drives.  Other favorites of the group ranged from the London Hard Rock Cafe, any Opera house we could get to, Abby Road, Euro Disney in Paris, a monastery in Le Puy-en-Velay, and the outskirts of Wales.

Bryan College Europe Tour 2010Bryan College Europe Tour 2010Bryan College Europe Tour 2010Bryan College Europe Tour 2010Bryan College Europe Tour 2010We were able to get some awesome pictures including tons of jumping pictures in the Alps in Vevey, SW, but I regret not taking more pictures of the most important parts: the concerts and the people. The concerts were absolutely amazing experiences, every single one of them. I had no idea how encouraging and uplifting they would be to the individuals in the audience! Every face we saw after the concert had been impacted. During our concerts in Switzerland and France, the emotion and impact was even greater! Dr. D was right, they do love spirituals there, but it seemed like the entirety of the concert, somber anthems and all, just blasted into their hearts and turned their faces into the brightest ones I've ever seen. Their applause was the most sincere and encouraging applause we've ever received, and surely they were just praising us but who we were singing for as well. I teared up after nearly every concert, it was such a beautiful time. Throughout the trip there were many rough spots, but, when I remembered the concerts, my spirits were instantly lifted and I knew why we were doing what we were doing.
The concert in Grenoble was particularly awesome.  We had the unexpected and wonderful pleasure of sharing our concert with the French Gospel choir One More Voice.  They were, in a word, phenomenal.  We were blown away just from listening to them rehearse before our concert!  You can listen to some of their music here.  The love and excitement and joy on the faces and in the bodies of the singers and the band was so penetrating.  They smiled and swayed and danced and invited you to join them in their worship.  It was hardly a concert, it was fellowshipping and praising the Lord.  The songs they sang were fun and engaging, and it was easy to join in (especially because nearly all the words were in English).  You could tell that they knew what they were singing and they believed it whole heartedly.  They were such an encouragement to all of us and we felt sheepish when it was our turn to take the stage with our slower-paced church music, but the French choir and the other 20-30 audience members were so supportive, I smiled the biggest smiles I had smiled during the trip.  They whooped and clapped and stood and grinned at us and made us feel welcome and appreciated and enjoyed.  After the concert, we mingled together and I was so glad to be able to speak to some of them.  It was funny how two people from the two different choirs would say the exact same things to each other: "You guys sounded great!  Such excellence!  Beautiful and so encouraging!  Keep up the great work, I loved it!"  I feel like crying now, because there's no way I could have ever completely described to the electric guitarist I was talking to how truly shaking and bolstering their portion of the concert was.  Heck, I can't completely describe it all with the words we have in the English language.  It was as if the power of the music and the experience flattened me against the wall and spread past me taking me joyful tears with it.

The best part of the concert was that the entire Bryan College chorale enjoyed it so much together.  We hadn't had the pleasure of hearing this kind of gospel music at all at Bryan, and we hadn't had a time to really let loose and move to godly music like that in such a long, long time.  I was standing by two of my good friends, and we were swaying and dancing and singing and shouting together in the most freeing way.  Who cared about the restrictive concert dresses and tuxes we were in, this was worship!  Real worship.  Who cared about the repetitive phrases and emotional words that I'd previously condemned during my research for a paper this semester, these words had soul, love, and Jesus behind them!  I could swear that this is what heaven's going to be like, and that makes me excited to get there. 

The host homes!  Every place I stayed with my roommate, Molly was great! All of the people were loving and caring and so hospitable.  Each family made us feel very comfortable and welcome.  We stayed with British families each time except for one American family in France. 
Bryan College Europe Tour 2010
Here we are with host parents Kim and Andrew from London.

We got to spend two nights with a couple homes.  This happened with our last host home with the Hadleys.  We had an exceptionally good time with them for many reasons one of them being the two kids who were our age, Charlotte and Ben.  We got to hang out with them longer than we had with the rest of our families and we laughed together past midnight each night, we ate cake and licked the mixing bowl, and we played games and took pictures together.  The Hadleys are family to me.  We still keep in touch, and I look forward to seeing them again some day.  It was so refreshing and fun to be with them, and they're who I miss most from Europe.
Bryan College Europe Tour 2010
Molly and I with the Hadleys: Ben, Charlotte, Wendy, and Wayne
Photo by the awesome Rebecca Fergusson

Another interesting part about the tour was delivering a testimony.  I was asked along with one other to prepare a few minutes worth of testimony ahead of time that I would deliver at each of the concerts in France and Switzerland.  I had written my material while back in the States during a time when I'd been seriously hurt emotionally.  I reread what I'd written once it was time for me to be prepared to deliver it at the first French concert, and I edited it severely for time's sake and conciseness.  This is what I came up with:

Good evening.  Bonsoir.  My name is Lindsay.  I just graduated from Bryan College, and I'm moving on to the next stage in my life.  This has brought me to a time of reflection, and I see that I've learned a lot about myself over the four years at college:  I want to be loved.  I want to be important.  I want people to give me their attention.  Because I am human and because I live with other humans, I don't always get what I want.  When this happens, I feel rejected, unloved, and unwanted.  But here is something amazing:  God created me.  He knows every part of me, and, to Him, I am a priceless treasure.  In Him, my desire for love and significance will never be denied.  As Romans 8:35 says, "Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?"  His love is so pure and powerful, it is so much better than any love I could receive here on earth.  Even more incredibly, God feels this way about everyone.  Each of you are a priceless treasure to Him.  I hope that, in your own search for love, you go to God first.  I also hope that the joy and love on our faces as we sing are a testimony to God's wonderful love.  Thank you.  Merci.
This speech was tweaked nearly every night on purpose and on accident.  One night I forgot to include the Bible verse, but God was in control of it all, and I am so thankful that God used the words He gave me.  So many times, I was literally preaching to the choir which was an interesting experience, but each night I was repeating what I needed to hear.  This is a truth that I forget; I constantly need to be reminded of the greatness of God's selfless and forgiving love for me.

Bryan College Europe Tour 2010
Delivering my testimony via translator in Le Freney, France
Photo from Nicole Thomas

The first night I gave this testimony, I was floored by the resounding truth that I could be one of the only speakers of the Gospel some in the audience would ever hear.  From my previous mission trips, I know that the moments we have to share God's Word needs to be taken seriously.  The weight of the responsibility I bore became so great I felt near to tears every second of the concert and the entire half hour before.  Unfortunately for me and my nerves, the flood never came, but I did receive encouragement from many friends and my super supportive translator.  They spoke truth to me and told me that God says in His Word that He will put the right words in my mouth.  He's in control, even here in Switzerland, and it's His responsibility to touch the hearts in the audience.  Very yes.  God used me, and I'm so blessed from it.

The entire trip was quite a lot to take in during two weeks, and I did suffer social and emotional whiplash when I returned to the States.  I was no longer spending hours on a coach with the same 39 people, living out of a suitcase, nor traveling to a new place each day.  But I have my still vivid memories, my priceless photographs, and my eternal friendships.  Thank God for facebook!  And, thank You, God, for this amazing experience and what I learned from it.  You are good all the time.

Bryan College Europe Tour 2010
Watching a street entertainer make us balloons in Chester
I'm pretty sure he was making Ryan a ridiculous hat at this point.
Photo by Kelly Miller

Bryan College Europe Tour 2010
Molly and I with Charlotte and Ben
Photo by Rebecca Ferguson
Bryan College Europe Tour 2010
With my most common traveling companions, Drew and Sweeny in an English pub in Chester
by Elise Bacon, I belive

{Uncredited photos by myself}

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