Over Easter 2019, Ruth Jeanes (from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama) and I (Jess Holmes, from the Royal Northern College of Music) were involved in a cross-cultural short-term outreach run by OM - Operation Mobilisation - called "The Sound of Easter" in Linz, Austria. We hadn’t actually met before the trip, so it was a nice surprise to arrive and meet people from all over the world, and much closer to home!
What we did
It was a wonderful and busy week that included:
- 5 Bible studies
- 4 training sessions for evangelism
- 4 street evangelism sessions
- 4 concerts
- 4 church services
- 12+ rehearsals
- Over 200 pieces of cake!!! (As a team of 13!)
We were in a team of 13 people from different countries with a wide range of musical backgrounds. A typical concert would include everything from a performance of the William Tell Duo Brilliant by Jules Demersseman to singing and dancing to This Little Light of Mine. The variety of musical styles meant that we were able to appeal to people from a wide range of backgrounds. A particular highlight for me (Jess) was meeting somebody for whom it was the first time they had ever heard a cor anglais.
In our first concert we played at a Catholic old peoples‘ home, where we were able to share the hope of a personal relationship with Christ through the combination of song, music and personal testimony. At another concert in the small town of Enns, over 20 non-Christian guests attended. The church had done a really good job of preparing the space as a welcoming concert venue, serving free drinks and inviting their friends. I shared my testimony with translation by Rachel Olney. It was a nerve-racking but uplifting experience to perform several solos, sing and then also speak about how the hope of the gospel sustains me in daily life.
What we saw
Nine years prior, on a Sunday morning that church had consisted of three missionaries (including our team leader Rachel) praying for God to move in Enns, plus one refugee lady. But we now saw a thriving evangelical church working to share Jesus in a country where only 0.5% of the population have a personal relationship with Christ.
It was amazing to see churches working together that had very different styles, from the large Free Church to a service at a House Church Network. Overall, the thing that made the missions week so successful was the fact that so many people from different countries, backgrounds and church expressions worked together to share Jesus with as many people as possible.
What we learnt
Halfway through the week, on a lovely walk down the River Danube, we were reflecting on how it was going. We’d done ‘all of the things’ - we’d prayed as a group, read our Bibles, rehearsed and received training sessions. Yet we felt like once morning prayer was done, we were disconnecting from truly walking with Jesus throughout each day. It was the classic question we face as musicians in any context: How can we know God more deeply without being able to create any extra time?
Being slightly wary of being critical, I suggested to our team leader that maybe we could have prayer partners to pray for a few minutes before and after each concert. Rachel said 'yes, let‘s do it!' It was amazing to see the difference such a short but consistent time of prayer could make. People began to step out in faith more confidently, whether that was in performance, talking to people or sharing their testimony publicly.
Whom we serve
It was costly for both of us to go at Easter just before our final exams. We can only trust God to get us through impending deadlines and final recitals. Music mission in this way at times feels like hard work. It takes a lot of rehearsals, logistics and planning. We’d rather try to find a quicker and easier way. But we serve a King. Before a King arrives, you prepare the way because he is worthy of it. Therefore being diligent about high quality work points to a God who is worthy of our praise. I’d rather have just played my instrument this week and not sung or danced. But we are called to obedience. Jesus went to the Cross for us, saying ‘Not my will, Lord, but yours be done.’ He invites us to do the same. Following Jesus’ call to go and make disciples of all nations may mean staying in the UK. But for some it could mean going to share the gospel in other nations. Will you go?
I will sing of steadfast love and justice; to you, O Lord, I will make music.
(From editor: OM runs these Easter outreaches in Austria nearly every year, so if you’d be interested and/or would like to be kept up to date with plans, please email Rachel.Olney@om.org)