Music in Missions and International Connections

Music Faculty Lead Mission Trip to Austria

August 21, 2014 (Jackson) - Dr. Stephen and Mrs. Carolyn Sachs led Belhaven music students and alumni on a choir mission trip to Austria over the summer. The team worked with House of Hope, an outreach for refugees from all over the world and used their musical gifts to perform in churches, parks and other venues in Linz, Austria. Dr. Stephen Sachs said, “We were taking western music back to a root area of western music, we were presenting music with excellence to a culture that highly values that music. We connected with their aesthetic right away with music. Our group became credible because the music was credible and that provided a vehicle for the gospel message to be shared.

The group was comprised of alumni Anna Cullnane (’11), Brooke Edwards (’14), John Mathieu (’13), current students Beth Walczak, Rachel Walczak, Rachael McCartney and other choir members from Covenent Presbyterian Church in Jackson. They used performances as a way to talk with people about the Lord and develop relationships with the community and staff for future outreach.

Mrs. Sachs said, “How do you go and approach someone who is not hungry for the Gospel? I believe that music is one of the best ways to connect with people and opens the door for the Gospel message. We were connecting with a wide range of people who would not have any reason to hear us sing.  We were one of the seeds planted and the friendships forged in this initial connection will be used by the Lord to further His kingdom.”

Five Belhaven University Students Participate in a Summer Ministry Tour to Northeastern US Correctional Facilities

In spring 2013, five students from Belhaven University were among thirty students from across the United States chosen by Shining Light Ministries to be a part of a select performing arts ministry team for their summer Impact Tour. Shining Light's mission is to expand perspective and impact lives by taking a high-quality performing arts production to people in correctional facilities. This year's itinerary included Rikers Island in New York City, Riverside Women's Correctional Facility in Philadelphia, Maine State Prison and 6 other youth and adult facilities throughout the Northeastern US. The three-week tour had a dual purpose of bringing hope through Jesus Christ to residents in these facilities and expanding the student participants' perspective of the world, themselves, and God.

Shining Light received excellent audience responses at all the facilities. Comments from inmates such as, "Your coming here meant a lot to us; it meant hope, strength and encouragement," "It's comforting to know I'm not by myself, and to know that other people are praying and thinking about us "God makes sure we know He remembers us," "'you'll never truly realize what a difference it makes to us'," are an indication of the impact Shining Light events had among the 1,500+ people seen in audiences. Facility staffs are also affected through these events. After the performance for nearly 300 women at Philadelphia's Riverside Correctional Facility, Warden Terence Clark stated, "I find it amazing that we have kids of that age to actually come inside and be willing to help another person. It's very inspiring'"

Equally importantly is how the college students who prepare and present these programs are impacted. As they meet and sometimes shake hands with inmates in maximum security prisons or youth in juvenile facilities, they discover the humanity of every person there. Here are some participants' responses to this unique opportunity to visit a part of our society that is often ignored or forgotten:

"(I've learned) we're all people, it doesn't matter what side we're on" I've been completely transformed by the people I've been able to meet in these facilities."

"I came into this experience thinking that I was gonna do the population of inmates a favor, or do God a favor by gracing people with my talent, and quickly God humbled me" Literally every day God opened my eyes to new things, about me, about my relationship with Him and about His grace."

Recent Belhaven graduate Roddy Merritt '13 commented, "As a lead singer, this has been training for a future in music" It has redirected my focus in how I use my music and who my music reaches." Dance major Melody Stowe '16, found that the experience reinforced her career goals, "I've known for a while that I want to use dance to minister, or go into dance therapy. This Tour affirmed that." Another participant, Stephanie Morales, had long desired to be a part of Belhaven's dance program but doubted her ability to measure up to Belhaven's high standards. With a new confidence gained on the tour, in July she applied to Belhaven and was accepted as a dance major.

Shining Light Ministries began in 1996 and has done presentations in 54 correctional facilities in 23 states. In the past, students were only recruited from schools in Pennsylvania. This was the first tour done with students recruited nationally, with participants from 15 colleges and universities in 9 states. The need for performing arts mission opportunities to enable students to put their skills to use in ministry has Shining Light planning more tours of this kind in the future and seeking opportunities to work more closely with colleges with performing arts program.

Students participating from Belhaven University included:
Roddy Merritt '13 Music Ministries & Biblical Studies
Stephanie Morales '16 Dance
Justin Nipper '16 Music Ministries
Melody Stowe '16 Dance
Travis White '15 Biblical Studies

Music Department's Mission Trip to Peru

Chris Shelt directing choir

June 13, 2012 (Jackson) - Two Belhaven music professors, Dr.Christopher Shelt and Dr. Andrew Sauerwein, traveled to Trujillo, Peru and taught at the second largest national conservatory of music, the Conservatorio Carlos Valderrama. Rachel Reese ('10), a concert violinist and string instructor, invited them come to Peru in May and teach.

Reese has served as a full-time faculty member with the conservatory and music missionary with Peru Mission in Trujillo for the last year and a half. The goal for Reese and Peru Mission at the conservatory is to raise-up musical leadership for the growing number of newly planted churches in the greater Trujillo area.

Dr. Shelt said: "The greatest treat we experienced was seeing Rachel Reese in action. Her mastery of Spanish, her adaptation to the culture, the respect she has earned in the musical community, and her earnest efforts on behalf of the Kingdom of God are nothing short of spectacular. Rachel has blossomed as a musician and as a person in this environment."

Rachel was a participant, along with Dr. Shelt and Dr. Saerwein, on the very first Belhaven Connections trip in 2007 and all three returned with a team in 2009.Belhaven Connections is the musical missions arm of the Belhaven University Department of Music. Reese is one of three Belhaven music graduates who have done full-time work in musical missions. Ellie Honea ('11) and Abi Lavallee Lowther ('98) are the other two music graduates that serve in Japan.

While there, Dr. Shelt taught a course Training the Human Voice in four-hour sessions Monday through Thursday. "The conservatory students still remember our previous trips in their midst. They were extraordinarily eager learners, sponges absorbing everything they were being taught. We also had times to share our personal testimonies with a number of students and to teach the foundations of a Christian Worldview of the Arts," said Dr. Shelt.

Dr. Sauerwein, whose discipline is composition, looked at Peruvian students' compositions and gave critiques and advice. He also introduced Cobra, a composition by John Zorn that has no traditional musical notation and required the students to use improvisation. This was very popular among the Peruvian students.

Dr. Shelt also rehearsed and directed the conservatory choir in Andre Thomas' "Keep your Lamps", Ken Parker's "Listen to the Hammer Ring" and Dr. Sauerwein's "The Lord in the Manger." To conclude the week's activities, Reese organized the first instrumental contest in the Trujillo area. A total of 19 contestants competed for prize money while Dr. Shelt and Dr. Sauerwein served on the panel of judges.Lecturing in mission country

Let Your Light Shine Tokyo

Ellie Honea knew she needed her undergraduate degree, and that her gifting was in music. She assumed that God was blessing the path she saw for herself, but those carefully constructed plans crumbled. Severe illness prevented her from playing the clarinet, so she learned piano and majored in piano at Belhaven. While at school, a long standing relationship was broken, and with it, more of her dreams. Now what, Lord?

A Belhaven Connections trip to Japan stirred her love more deeply for music and missions. She saw her path opening as a music and children's missionary. While she sought a position with Mission To the World (MTW), God surprised her again; through lessons during her senior year, her love for and excellence in clarinet resurfaced. Now she was being called to service in Japan, and her heart's desire for playing the clarinet was being fulfilled. "Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart." Psalm 37:4

Read her September 2011 missions newsletter. (PDF)

Belhaven Connections to Tokyo

May 12, 2010: Belhaven Connections is the musical-missions arm of the Belhaven University Department of Music. A team of 13 Belhaven students and faculty, led by Dr. Andrew Sauerwein, are traveling to Tokyo, Japan, May 12-26. Japan is among the most musically literate cultures of the world, and notably one of the least evangelized: less than 1% are Christians, and fewer than 5% will have an opportunity to meet another Christian at some point in their lives. Traditional methods of church planting and evangelism tend to be ineffective in Japan, but music-making is an ideal way to help establish personal relationships in which non-believers can see the gospel being lived out, get involved in evangelical Bible studies, and get connected to local churches.

Belhaven Connections will partner with Roger and Abi Lowther ('98 graduate), full-time musical missionaries with Mission to the World, using musical events in churches, schools, homes, and on the street in support of their church-planting work with Grace City Church near Tokyo Station. This area of Tokyo has the political power of Washington D.C., the media power of Hollywood, and the financial power of Wall Street. Please keep the Belhaven team in your prayers as they minister in Japan. For more about the trip and how you can continue to pray, see the "Belhaven Connections in Tokyo" blog.

Belhaven Music Department makes Connections in Peru

Music in Missions to PeruJune 17, 2009-Belhaven Connections, the musical missions arm of the Belhaven College Department of Music, returned from Peru on what was their third international missions effort. The group's purpose is to build winsome relational, cultural, and artistic bridges that promote a Kingdom worldview of the Arts and proclaim the gospel of Christ.

Dr. Christopher Shelt, Belhaven music professor, led the 15 member group, which included Belhaven composition professor, Dr. Andrew Sauerwein, his wife Quita and daughter, Hannah; recent Belhaven graduates Arthur Alford and Nicole Nutting; Belhaven seniors Abigail Crumley, Micheal Hall, Daniel Johnston, Rachel Reese, and Tory Senete; and high school students Gracie Clark, Virginia and Dorothy Claire Glover, and Jensen Kelley.

Belhaven Connections performed a diverse repertoire (classical, Broadway, hip-hop, traditional folk, contemporary folk, Spanish, and pop) to fit their settings, which were also diverse ("Independence Hall," the conservatory, a public university, public schools, an orphanage, two shopping malls, a language institute, and three churches). The team wanted to tangibly communicate the rule of Christ over every sphere of musical expression and every context of musical expression. The concerts were all well attended and received, many standing room only.

For many of these concerts, the USA team performed alongside the Christian Peruvian band Muyupampa. This Peruvian group skillfully played Peruvian styled sacred and folk music using traditional Peruvian instruments. When audiences saw the two groups' friendship as well as their musical collaboration, the result was a tremendous public statement of cultural respect and unity in Christ.

Belhaven Connections was warmly welcomed upon their return to the Peruvian Conservatorio Carlos Valderrama. Dr. Shelt lectured on "Musical Megatrends," taught 5 master classes in voice, and 2 master classes in conducting technique. Recent Belhaven graduate Nicole Nutting taught a seminar on Collaborative Piano (in Spanish!), student Rachel Reese taught a seminar on String Performance, and student Abigail Crumley, Soprano, performed in a solo recital. The conservatory leadership was so impressed with the quality of Belhaven students and graduates that several were offered teaching positions at the Conservatory should they wish to return to Peru for a longer time.

The Belhaven group also engaged church leadership on their visit-through teaching, training, and equipment. To support the musical growth of the churches, the Belhaven Connections team raised funds and hand delivered 7 guitars, a piano keyboard, a portable sound system, and a sound mixer.

Both Allen Smith, with PeruMission, and Alonzo Ramirez, a Peruvian pastor working in university ministry, said that these musical missions efforts "break down obstacles" and "open doors of opportunity" with regards to their ongoing ministries. All of the pastors and the missionaries said that the most important result of the testimony and performances of Belhaven Connections was the shattering of the negative Peruvian stereotype of an evangelical. They also said that their missionary labors are taken much more seriously as a result of the team's visits.

Belhaven Connections Headed to Africa

May 30-June 15, 2008-Belhaven students Lindsey Berg, Hannah Cross, Mandy McCullough, and Tory Senete, along with Belhaven alumni, Jill and Eddie Moran, Natalie Tackitt, Belhaven faculty organizer, Rev. Dr. Christopher Shelt, and Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church member, Deana Dryden, left May 28 on an 18 day ambassadorial mission to Africa with Belhaven Connections, an ongoing Belhaven College musical missions ministry.

Last year's Belhaven Connections trip to Peru impacted not just worship and evangelism, but education, government, and business.

Dr. Shelt, Belhaven's Coordinator of Vocal Arts and an ordained PCA minister, will take four days to teach the entire book of Psalms to seminary students in Zambia, then preach in local churches, and teach seminars on music and the family from a Christian worldview in Zambia and Uganda.

The team's chaplain, ruling elder Eddie Moran, will also minister the Word in local churches and in the seminary chapel services. Jill Moran and Natalie Tackitt will be doing a school assessment for the Centre for Christian Mission Trust School in Zambia.

The arts will be featured prominently in the ministry with numerous opportunities for education and cultural exchange in both music and dance. Belhaven Connections will feature musical offerings in both Zambia and Uganda with voice, clarinet, flute, piccolo, and piano. Dancers will teach American folk dances and creative movement in the Trust School and during the cultural exchange festival.

The group will hand-carry three Orff xylophones, designed for children's music education, as a gift to the Trust School. The team has also raised $1500 for a new building at the Trust School. Pray for Belhaven Connections as they visit the continent of Africa.

Dr. Stephen Sachs and Ana Catalina Ramirez performed in San Jose, Costa Rica

Costa RicaMay 19, 2009-Ana Catalina Ramirez, clarinetist and Dr. Stephen Sachs, pianist presented a recital at Belhaven and Mississippi Colleges during 2008-2009 with the assistance of Alejandro Encinas, violist. As Ms. Ramirez is Costa Rican, it was decided that she would seek a recital opportunity in San Jose, Costa Rica. The University of Costa Rica School of Music accepted Ms. Ramirez's proposal. The recital was presented on May 19, 2009 to a standing room only crowd of 125 people in the Recital Room of the School of Music. San Jose violist Maricel Mendez performed in place of Alejandro Encinas who was not able to make the trip. Pianist Mrs. Carolyn Sachs turned pages for rehearsals and the recital. The following day, Dr. Sachs offered a Master Class for 5 Costa Rican student pianists performing works by Liszt, Mozart, Scarlatti, et al. During the week that Ms. Ramirez and the Sachs' were in Costa Rica, there was much time available for practice, cultural immersion, a little sight seeing, and much relationship building among fellow Christians at the University.

In photo: Recitalists Dr. Stephen Sachs, pianist; Maricel Méndez, violist; Ana Catalina Ramirez, clarinetist