Coming to Bethel had a lot of implications for me. For starters, it meant that I would be two state lines away from home. It meant that I would have to fight my own battles without the reliance of my parents. It meant I would have to be responsible. *gasp*
It also meant that I would be accomplishing a lifelong dream, and as far as I was concerned, this dream was the reason for my existence. I got the opportunity to play college basketball.
Aside from my jersey and lack of face paint not much differentiated me during my first two years from the guys in student section spectating and longing to be on court. This season, however, I was in a significant position to contribute. I started nearly every game, averaged a healthy 8 points a game, scored career highs, and was generally an integral part of the team.
Wednesday was our free day in Minneapolis. It was fun to have a break from concerts and be able to explore the city. We stayed in a hotel that was within walking distance of lots of shops and restaurants downtown. People split up into groups and did all kinds of different things during the day. Some went to an art gallery, some explored the riverfront, and one group even said they walked about thirty miles throughout the whole day. Our group visited a huge library, with a 25-cent book sale and very impressive bookshelves that moved with the touch of a button. The day before, the whole choir had a chance to check out the Mall of America for a few hours. It was packed with not only countless stores, but also an indoor roller coaster! Dale calculated that almost half of the choir members left the mall with a shopping bag in hand.
Lately, my life has been filled with Holy moments. These sacred moments shape my life as a person of faith, and remind me of my desired to seek, serve, and grow in my faith. A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to serve communion at my home church in Wichita. This particular Sunday, communion was taken by intinction (partly dipping the bread into the “wine”), so I had the job of holding the cup. On my side of the sanctuary, the pastor held the bread, and people took from that before coming to me. The whole thing was such a humbling experience! Here I was, standing beside the pastor serving this community of faith that has watched me grow from a newborn into this young woman of faith who is considering a call to pastoral ministry. It was such a humbling experience to serve communion to the adults I think of as my “other mothers and fathers.” These are the adults who I have I looked up to and greatly respected for my entire life. Now I was serving them, on Holy ground.
Monday night we sang at Bethel Mennonite Church in Mountain Lake, Minnesota. I had always wanted to visit Mountain Lake, seeing as it is one of what I might call the “Mennonite Meccas”. My high school church mentor, Robert Regier, is from Mountain Lake and and I am certainly looking forward to sharing my experiences with him. Also, my fellow choir member and friend Dmitri Bucklin is from this town. It was fun to see the place he grew up in. From the start we were greeted with hospitality. Even though the choir concert had to be shortened due to a local H.S. band/choir concert the crowd was warm and welcoming. One instance stands out to me: as the choir performed the processional, “This Little Light of Mine,” a man with Down’s Syndrome gave each singer a thumbs up. For me, this was a tremendous confidence boost. It was great to know our presence was appreciated.
Later on, our allotted time was coming to a close. Pastor Galen Kauffman stood up in the audience and insisted that we sing at least one more song. The audience unanimously agreed when Bill put it to a congregational vote. It was wonderful to see such support and it was just another example of the extremely gracious Mountain Lake Community. I will remember these experiences long after the tour is over.
Monday, March 19
Sioux Falls, South Dakota
Over the noon hour, the Concert Choir spent our time enjoying the interior beauty of St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Sioux Falls. St. Joseph’s was recently remodeled and looks immaculate. The walls of the Cathedral are lined with stained glass windows depicting various saints and there are many large, marble pillars. In the front of the church, there was a beautiful alter covered by a canopy. Our time at the Cathedral was a very treasured time for many of us, a time where we could relax, pray, think, reflect, or do whatever else we needed to do. After a while, Woven sang “Os Justi,” and the sounds of their song were extremely powerful. The choir then came together and we sang two of our selections, “O Magnum Mysterium” and “Ave Maria.”As we sang, we had the opportunity to step out of the choir and listen to the songs that were being sung in the incredible acoustical space. Sitting there, I couldn’t help but sob. The sounds were simply breathtaking. Open Road sang a song, “Lux Aurumque.” Finally, we closed our time at the Cathedral by lining the outer walls of the Cathedral and holding hands. We blessed the Cathedral by singing, “The Lord Bless You and Keep You.”
Since we were in Sioux Falls, we obviously had to stop at the actual falls. We only had 15 minutes to explore, but it was fun to climb around on the rocks and enjoy the falls, both the little flowing waterfalls and the huge vertical waterfall.
All in all, it was a very powerful afternoon and we all enjoyed our little break from the formal concerts.
Monday- March 19
Today, I’m sitting on the bus as we ride to our next destination. I can’t help but think of the previous 24 hours. South Dakota – My home state, singing in my home town, Freeman, and even singing in a Chapel service at Freeman Academy, my old high school. Traveling with the Concert Choir to “my old stomping ground” has been such a huge blessing, not only for me but also for a community that appreciates good music, and our choir abounds with good music. We arrived at Salem Mennonite Church in rural Freeman with plenty of time to practice and eat a delicious home cooked meal before the concert. When the concert began, I couldn’t help but smile. This community, Freeman, is my home and there I was, singing with my follow Bethel College choir members, my second community. This concert was my first time experiencing these communities coming together – one community to listen and support me, the other to stand with me and make music. It was beautiful and throughout the concert I was constantly reminded of how great it is to be a part of Bethel, a part of the Concert Choir, and a part of Freeman. I am so grateful to the powers that be that arranged us coming to Freeman, to Salem Mennonite Church for hosting us, for Freeman Academy for having us at their chapel service, and for the rest of the choir which made the last 24 hours something truly special for me, and allowed me to create memories I know I will cherish for a long time.
Saturday, March 17 & Sunday, March 18th
Hello friends, I hope you’ve all had a good weekend! The Concert Choir sure has been busy touring through Nebraska yesterday and South Dakota today. Our concerts are going well, though I find that it’s always a struggle to maintain one’s energy throughout our entire tour, especially when we have days with more than one concert plus lots of travel. Regardless, we’re all having fun together making good music. I’ve never been to Henderson, Neb. or Freeman, S.D. before, so I’ve really enjoyed getting to know the communities where some of my friends come from.
Going to school close to where I grew up, I have never really had the experience of missing my home and home community very much since I can just go back whenever I want to. Not everyone can do that though, and it’s been nice to see my friends and fellow students get to go home to their families and friends and reconnect. Perhaps someday, when I end up moving far from home, these sorts of reunions will have the same meaning for me. Until then however, I can appreciate the joy my friends experience and maybe make some new friends as well.
I need to get some sleep, so look for more blog posts in the future from other members of the choir.
Our first stop on Choir Tour 2012 was Colorado (my home state)- Denver to be exact. We sang at the beautiful First Mennonite Church. This was a great place to start our week-long adventure, not only because it is in the state I love the most, but because this church was so welcoming and friendly. During the concert, I could just see the attentive and thoughtful expressions on the audience’s faces; they looked as though they understood every feeling we were trying to convey in each song. But of course, my favorite part of the night was getting to see my family and friends. Since coming to Bethel, my family hasn’t had the chance to hear me sing with the choir. They loved our program, and said that the choir was amazing. My best friends also came to see the choir sing. They both were amazed how great we were and one even told me she felt inspired. I am so thankful that all of them came and listened to the Concert Choir. After returning to the hotel and changing, we all split up and walked the 16th Street Mall. This mall is an entire street filled with shops and restaurants and fun activities like a bowling alley or a movie theater. After walking and looking at the beautiful buildings and stores, we ended the night at a restaurant to eat a snack: the best sweet potato fries and chips-and-dip ever. I’d call the first stop of our tour a success and I know the experiences will only get better as the tour progresses.
Today the Concert Choir started off the 2012 tour with a trip to Salina, Kan. to sing for my Grandma, Alice Weltmer, in her retirement home. A few weeks ago when I was looking at the schedule of places that we were going, my Mom and I realized that my Grandma would not be able to make it to any of the concerts. She recently had back surgery and would not do very well with the traveling. I asked Bill and Dale if it would be a possibility to go to her since she could not come to see us. They immediately said that it was a possibility and that they would do whatever they could to make it happen. Not only did my Grandma get to see us perform because of it, but my Mom’s best friend from kindergarten was able to come as well. My Grandma was thrilled that we made the effort to let her see me perform and she really loved our music. When I was hugging her goodbye she was so happy that it almost brought me to tears because I was so glad that we could sing for her. I would like to thank Bill for allowing this, Dale for setting it up, and the retirement home for hosting us. I would also like to thank all the students who came to introduce themselves to my Grandma and talk with her a bit. That was a really sweet gesture and both her and I appreciated it a lot!
This Sunday, my “Mennonite History, Life, and Thought” class had the opportunity to visit an Amish congregation in Yoder, Kansas. The service started at 9:00, so we had to leave at 8:00am. Add in time to get ready and the time change and it was a pretty early morning. The Amish hold their services on the property of congregants, often in homes, but sometimes in barns or sheds. This particular one was held in a church member’s basement. When we arrived, all the men were standing in the barn talking, all of the children were staring at us from the windows of the house, and all the women were sitting and talking on the benches in the basement. The basement was set up so that men and women sat separately on backless wooden benches, with youngest boys in the front, oldest women in folding chairs in front, gender-separated families in the middle, and young women and men in the backs of their respective sections.