It may surprise you to know that we are already thinking ahead to when we return to the UK – one third of our time in Malawi already having gone – wondering how things we are involved with will carry on when we are gone. That’s why our focus has been on training trainers. Ruth was very encouraged a few months ago when the young people of Echoes of Grace suggested that they would like to run the weekend music seminar that Ruth has developed as one of their own ministries, and were keen for Ruth to train them in this.
This seminar is aimed at church musicians in the city who have access to instruments but do not know how to play them, and who want to learn to read music. Music was taken off the curriculum in schools many years ago, so in the urban churches that do have instruments, they are being played by people who are completely self-taught and do not really know what they are doing. In some places, non-Christian instrumentalists are being hired to lead the worship! Hence there is a real need to train Christian young people who have the interest and ability.
In the seminar, the theoretical is put into practice with the opportunity to try out instruments, and to sing from printed music. So far Ruth has only run this seminar for a few ZEC churches in Blantyre, but there are many more churches with young people desperate for this same training. The interdenominational choir, Echoes of Grace, are the perfect group to spread this knowledge. Indeed Ruth feels the seminar will be much more effective, run by a team of musicians rather than on her own.
Last weekend Echoes were invited to train musicians at Zingwangwa Jesus Pentecostal church, and another church from central Blantyre sent their musicians too. The music literacy and introduction to keyboard was taught by Ruth, translated into Chichewa by Stephen and Praise. It is already obvious that these young men have a good understanding of the theory, and the more times they listen and translate at the seminars, the sooner they will be able to teach the course themselves and answer questions.
By early afternoon on the Saturday, there was a thunder and lightning storm, the rain pouring on the tin roof making it impossible to continue teaching from the front. But it was time for some practical experience, and here the other members of Echoes of Grace stepped in to help teach others. Although some of them still only know a few guitar chords themselves, they taught these to others, and showed them how to interpret guitar tablature so that they can learn more on their own. The limiting factor was really the number of instruments – Ruth’s 2 keyboards and 3 guitars had to be shared among the 15 participants, so inevitably there was some waiting around for a turn.
The high-point for Ruth was the last half-hour on the second day – devoted to a time of praise and worship – all the participants singing from their hearts, led by the Echoes of Grace instrumentalists. So even in that, participants were learning the benefits and power of music well led and executed, and hopefully being motivated to take what they have learnt and put in the effort to become good instrumentalists. But as well as developing their practical skills, we hope to convey the importance of growing spiritually, so that their singing and playing is coming from hearts that love God, that are committed to His service, and that put Him first in every area of their lives.
Empty hands held high
Such small sacrifice
If not joined with my life
I sing in vain tonight
May the words I say
And the things I do
Make my lifesong sing
Bring a smile to You
Let my lifesong sing for you