Back to the churro waffle, but I added butter this time, so I'm counting that as a different topping.
I had a little more preparation to do for our final day. I had to prepare the awards and get a few things organized. Thursday is a very important day on the mission. It's senior night, and it's a time of goodbyes. VMM day 5 did not disappoint.
We started by gathering for "senior dinner." I asked people to make their own meal in keeping with an Italian food theme. Most everyone did (I know because I asked them what they were eating). Chris and Curt showed up in their orange and blue Dumb and Dumber tuxedos for the event. I had imagined making lasagna or some such, but we wound up with pizza at our house. We chatted about things over dinner while people arrived and ate. It actually felt quite a bit like our meals on tour, which surprised me.
After dinner we talked about concerts again. I had a number of emails and a couple of videos to share. I so appreciate everyone who took the time to send us feedback. The act of recording for this project was...isolating. It's so difficult to make compelling music when you're singing into a camera. We've talked many times in the past about how a reactive audience can make a concert more fun while I stoic audience can make the concert very difficult. No audience at all is even worse than a stoic one! People who took a few minutes to let us know about their experience provided a breath of fresh air and helped us see the good we were doing.
We moved on to awards (just as we would in real life). I awarded a rookie of the year, which goes to a first-time participant who seems to grasp the most what we are doing and participates enthusiastically. That went to Anna, who has been great all week. I made several Director's Awards, generally based on how emotive they were in the videos. Those went to Owen, Erin, Brooke, and Issabel. I also make awards for attendance, which comes in 3 categories: Excellent Attendance (missed only one required event), Perfect Attendance (missed no required events), and Uber Perfect Attendance (missed absolutely nothing at all). We had five people achieve uber perfect attendance! To be fair, that may be because I stopped counting when shelter-at-home happened. But still...worth acknowledging their great attendance!
I thanked the chaperones and gave them a chance to say a few words. These guys. They're fantastic. They're generous with their time, and they really do a good job of connecting with the youth. I think I've already said it, but just in case I didn't...I had 11 chaperones signed up for VMM before I had 5 youth. Such good people.
Then it was time for senior recognition. We have one graduate this year, Katie. I have ordered her a tshirt and written her a letter, just as I do for all seniors every year. I talked about her time with us--how great she has been as a leader--and how much we will miss her.
Then I told everyone it was time to get on the bus! That's what we would normally do. Except of course we couldn't get on the bus because we didn't have one. Except that WE MADE IT HAPPEN!
That's Katie on the bus. Monday morning, she and I met Mark up at the bus yard. He opened the bus, cranked it up, and turned on the mic. We have a mission tradition...on senior night, the seniors are allowed to use the bus microphone to say whatever they would like to say. This is the only time youth are authorized to touch the bus mic. So I sat a safe distance back and recorded Katie's senior night speech. And then, on zoom, I played it back for everyone. It's like we were there.
Katie had a few more things to say after the bus video, including some fantastic gifts for me (I really shouldn't brag,but I'm about to be the proud owner of a personalized deck of cards that includes all of the shirts from her time in choir on them as well as a scrapbook she's been working on). Also she had handed me a box when I saw her Monday, and she told me to open it on Thursday. Inside was a deck of cards from every place she had been that had ever caused her to miss a choir rehearsal! SO. THOUGHTFUL! This is why we will all miss Katie.
Over the years, we have from time to time said goodbye to chaperones on senior night as well...the ones who have served for a number of years but have decided it's time to hang it up. Last night it was my turn to say goodbye. I had written a letter, which I took a picture of and put on the screen for them as I read it. I won't put the whole thing here, but here are the last couple of paragraphs...
"...VMM gave me something to work for in my final weeks. It gave me purpose, and it gave me a final memory--not just with you, but with the church. The pandemic has taken away so much. From all of us. But your time and effort and caring and laughter gave some of it back.So as you might have guessed, this has become a thank you note. Thank you for these five wonderful, strange, fun days. Thank you for a year of making music together--or many years, for some of you.Thank you, most of all, for being great friends. I've so enjoyed getting to know you. I've enjoyed our time together. And I will miss you so very much.Thanks and Love in Christ,John"
With that, I made some announcements and split everyone into rooms of 6-8 people. I went to check in with them and visit for a while. Then folks started leaving, one or two at a time, over a period of a couple of hours. The last of us...about 18 or so, finally ended the meeting just after midnight.
And it was over. Virtual Music Mission 2020...in the books.
Except we have one thing left! Sunday is homecoming. The youth choir will be providing music for worship, and I will be preaching. I hope you'll plan to join us! Here's the link:
https://vimeo.com/event/24696 I hope to see you there!!!