It is not unusual for a peaceful Saturday at Chipitala Avenue, Blantyre, to be disturbed by music, but usually it’s loud intrusive music being blasted out over loud-speakers from the University sports complex behind. But last Saturday the music was coming from the Zambesi Mission bungalow – and it was much more pleasant to the ear! Ruth was holding her first Song Creation Workshop with a group of 15 young people.
This group of young people, from a variety of churches within Blantyre, have a desire to form a choir and use music to reach out with the Gospel to the young people in the villages, where most Christian artists never venture. Ruth started helping them several months ago to hone their musical skills, and plan the way forward. On Saturday they finally settled on a name for the choir – “Echoes of Grace” – a name that carries musical connotations, but also the essence of the message they want to sing about.
The plan is to commence with a small choir, so that they can raise awareness and prayer support within Blantyre, and start raising funds for instruments, equipment and other costs. Recognizing that ultimately their target audience is people in the villages, whose English will not be as strong and whose musical tastes will not be as westernized as their own, they wanted to start writing Scripture-based songs for the choir, in Chichewa, and speaking directly to the needs of the people.
On Saturday morning the young people started by looking at the opening verses of Psalm 40, and praying for God’s presence, blessing and inspiration. Then they studied Scriptures around the topic of the need to evangelize and make disciples. Ruth had already selected some verses as a starting point, but these young people showed they had a great knowledge of the Scriptures themselves, knew the context in which those verses were first penned, and brought in other Scriptures they wanted to use. Then they divided into two groups, and, again with much prayer, started working on composing their songs around these texts. One group stayed indoors, and the other group sat on a reed mat out in the garden. Although both groups chose the same verse as their refrain, Romans 10:13, one group turned their song into a challenge for Christians (continuing with the words of v14 “How will they hear if no-one tells them?”), while the other group wrote a very evangelistic song, using other verses from the Bible to explain what it means to “call on the name of the Lord”.
By lunch time we had 2 great new songs! The musical style could be described as “fusion” – western music has obviously influenced these young people, but the Chichewa words and strong rhythmic nature and harmonies naturally added by the members of the group had real African flavour. After a break, the process was repeated, with a new topic and new Bible passages, and again 2 new contrasting songs emerged.
It was a joy to have our home (and garden) filled with music, filled with young people our children’s age, so committed to God and burdened to share the Gospel with others, and a special joy to witness how clearly the Holy Spirit was present, putting a new song into their mouths.
“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God” Psalm 40:3