Peruvian school children watch Belhaven Connections performJune 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 visits.