Because if I've learned anything from Facebook it's that people have nothing better to do than look at pictures of food other people have taken?
We got right into the meat of VMM on Tuesday. After about 10 minutes of gathering (it takes a bit for everyone to get into the meeting), I welcomed everyone and then asked Cindy to offer a devotional. Cindy is a rock star...the Bon Jovi of chaperones (a compliment she will no doubt enjoy). I make it a rule not to put up pictures of zoom conferences, so here's her picture from a previous mission doing exactly this...
This is a good opportunity for me to say a word about the chaperones. Like the youth, they signed up for this trip when it was a bus trip to Saint Louis. That in itself is something of a miracle. But when we decided to do a virtual music mission, and I sent out an email to ask if they wanted to participate, I had 11 chaperones before I had 5 youth sign up. I'm guessing it isn't because they love buses or riding in a van for hours chasing buses (or, in this case, sitting on zoom for 3 hours each night). It's because they have their own mission, and it's based on loving these youth. Some of them have served in this way for years, and each year I've come to rely on them more and more. I remember vividly the year they took over checking the tape in the morning, which earned me an hour of extra sleep each morning!
I received another video response to our music mission, which was great. I shared it with the youth, and we talked about the difference between doing a live concert and a virtual concert. These video responses gave us some good discussion points, because in addition to pushing our own content out, we were able to think about how it is different for *us* to experience getting to know people by a short video rather than an in-person visit. The videos and comments we have received so far have been fantastic. I really appreciate those who have taken their time to make them for us. It has filled in a critical gap in the virtual music mission. For the younger singers, they are anxious about talking with and getting to know our audience. For the older singers, it's their favorite part.
I asked the youth, at the end of our discussion, if they feel like we are making a positive difference in the world. Nearly everyone responded (through the Zoom poll) that they feel like we are. I asked because I've been struggling with it myself, and since well before this week. Do we really make a difference? Against the backdrop of such upheaval and struggle and suffering, does our little effort even matter?
How I answer that depends on the day, but today my answer is to remember that the purpose of mission work isn't to change other people. It is to change ourselves by serving other people. When I listen to the youth talk about the music mission, it's clear to me that along the way they come to understand the value of being present for others--the value of listening to others. And right now, well, people who look like me need to do a whole lot of listening.
We also talked briefly about whether it makes sense to release our concerts virtually every year. It's something I've never even considered before. I have wondered what ways the pandemic may leave permanent marks, both for better and for worse. Here's one of the ways we can be better!
After our discussion, I got them started writing their letters. Typically these would be thankyou letters for people who have supported the music mission, but that proved logistically impossible this year, so they are writing...whoever they want. This is the part of the mission I think is suffering the most. If I ever have to do it again, I'll try hard to find a way to make it better.
When we started planning this whole thing, I asked the youth to tell me what was important--what was really at the hart of music mission. We agreed that movies on the bus was part of it. And each year, I make it a point to watch one movie in particular.