Praise in Paraguay
Paraguay, South America? Whatâ€™s in Paraguay? Who goes there? My friend Kathy called me and said, â€œLetâ€™s sign up.â€ I agreed. Sounded intriguing. Plus, this would be a new location for Global Missions Project. I liked the idea of being a trailblazer. I signed up to be the keyboardist and Kathy, the drummer.
Kathy and I met on my first GMP trip to Germany last year. We were paired together as roommates. Kathyâ€™s musical expertise, coupled with her Jersey accent and witty personality, was sheer delight to this intimidated and rattled Southern belle writer and healthcare professional whose delayed flight caused a chaotic start. The Lord surely blessed me by bringing Kathy into my life at the perfect time. We have become good friends.
The Celebration Orchestra, as we are called, is a group of musicians that present the gospel through music. Everyone converged in the capital of Asuncion in Paraguay for our first rehearsal. Music charts had been sent to each participant a month beforehand. Still, I was apprehensive about debuting my new iPad rather than using printed music and maneuvering a foot pedal to turn pages.
Around thirty-five of us from at least eight states arrived in the country that recognizes the guitar and harp as national instruments, along with a cellist from Guatemala and a violinist from Brazil. Another twenty musicians from Paraguay joined us. The Celebration Orchestra was honored to accompany a fabulous singing group of Mennonite men called aDorIOS on several songs. They doubled as our mission partners and hosts.
Camp Kirkland, an internationally known composer and arranger, directed our 50+-piece orchestra that swelled to 90 for one concert. Our group traveled to either side of Paraguay (pronounced by the locals as â€œPar-a-gwiâ€), presenting eight concerts in schools, universities, concert halls, churches, outside, and at a police academy. Each concert was different. The thunderous applause and whoop-hollering from 400 police cadets was energizing, but my favorite and most touching time was at the youth event when they held up their phone flashlights and sang with gusto to â€œYou Are Good.â€
Our visit to the landlocked country in South America proved spiritually advantageous and musically enlightening. Members of the orchestra, including myself, had opportunities to instruct students through Master Classes. I enjoyed sharing my musical knowledge, and they seemed appreciative. But Iâ€™m not too old to learn a thing or two myself. My Rhythm peers (drummer, bass player) broadened my playing skills allowing me to discover an element of freedom through jazz. Iâ€™ve never played jazz (other than what was written on the page), but they gave me a few tips to loosen me up on our jazz numbers. By the end of the week, I heard myself throwing in offbeat chords an octave higher and leaving the left hand to the bass guitar.
Aside from our concerts, we ate at multiple churrascaria restaurants. Whatâ€™s that, you say? Itâ€™s like a Brazilian steakhouse where the servers come to your table with a variety of seasoned meat on long skewers and cut off a hefty slice. It was all delicious. I think I ate enough protein for a month!
Our time wasnâ€™t all work; there was a little play. Our group enjoyed a city tour in Asuncion and an amazing afternoon across the border to see Iguazu Falls in Brazil. These falls are one of the seven wonders of the modern world. They were an incredible sight, with numerous falls around every corner. After finding myself alone, I decided to brave the massive crowds on the elongated pier leading into the heart of the river. Once I finally reached the end of the pier, I looked up to see a sight that made it all worth it. Around the bend of a set of falls were two additional sets of falls. Glorious! A beautiful rainbow arched in front of the powerful cascades of water, causing me to gasp and offer a silent prayer of gratitude to God for His eternal promise.
Over the week, we shared Godâ€™s message through music and testimony with over 4,100 people. At times I felt an exuberant joy of the Lord as I played. It was a humble honor to play with so many accomplished musicians. The Lord allowed me the privilege to go and use the gifts He had given me to bring glory to His Name. What a blessing!
â€œMy heart, O God, is steadfast, my heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing of you among the peoples. For great is your love, reaching to the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the skiesâ€ (Psalm 57:7-10).
To learn more about Global Missions Project, check out their website at http://globalmissionsproject.com. Whether a jazz group or an orchestra is your thing, consider using your instrument for the Lord. Recruitment is through word of mouth.
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Ewe R Blessed Ministries / Karen O. Allen
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