Choir Tour

Choir Tour- Monday, March 21

Monday was a day of exploration and relaxation. We left Beatrice with relatively few hiccups at around 8 and were dropped off in downtown Lincoln nearly an hour later.
Faced with nearly six hours of free time before an evening concert, students broke into groups and entertained themselves with varying degrees of creativity and energy. A good portion of us passed through The Mill: a winding, brick-walled coffee shop with chandeliers and wi-fi. I myself spent the entire time there, enjoying multiple cups of hot chocolate and indulging my more introverted side.
Other students called a cab and went to the zoo where they discovered that it was closed and moved on to the Natural History Museum. Another group visited the Haymarket baseball stadium and even managed to get into the stands. The Haymarket area of Lincoln’s downtown (where we were dropped off) boasted other attractions, including (but not limited to) a multitude of restaurants, a Ten Thousand Villages, and a feminist bookshop.
In the evening we gave a concert. First Mennonite Church’s small congregation welcomed us into their worship space and then into their homes afterwards.

Westen Gesell

Choir Tour Recap- Sunday, March 20

Sunday was our first doubleheader of the trip–we sang in Rainbow Mennonite Church in Kansas City during the service before making the trek out to Beatrice, Nebraska to sing in First Mennonite Church. The morning service at Rainbow was well attended, although some suspect that the main draw may have been the presence of the legendary Bethel golf team, who was also in attendance. The service finished on a great note, as the choir circled the congregation to sing The Lord Bless You and Keep You, and was joined by the Rainbow Choir in singing the hymn. After an amazing potluck and a refreshing nap on the bus, the choir arrived at Beatrice, Nebraska. The highlight of this performance occurred at the very beginning of the concert. In the silence following the last note of Ubi Caritas, a child in the back of the church let his deep gratitude and sincere appreciation of the music be known by calling out, “Yay!” Sometimes it’s these simple interactions that carry the most meaning and best reflect the spirit of the concert. The long day was completed with what every congregation seems to have deemed necessary for our survival– cookies!

-Ben Wiens

Choir Tour Recap- Saturday, March 19

We started off the tour with a concert in Manhattan last night. This was especially neat for me since it was at the church that I grew up in. That church was one of the most important communities in my life as I was growing up, and the Bethel choir has been a great community to be a part of in college. It was really meaningful for me to see these two parts of my life merge. After the concert, we all dispersed to the various houses of people from the congregation who were hosting us.

This morning, I went for a run. It was still fairly dark out when I left and throughout the run, I was able to watch the sun rise. It was a beautiful way to start off the day. It has only been about 14 hours since we started this tour, but there have already been some great moments of fellowship, hospitality, and beauty. As we head to Topeka now, I’m looking forward to many more of these great moments throughout the week.

-Oliva Gehring

The Road Home

(Sunday, March 29)

Over the past two days, the Concert Choir has been busy traveling, singing and developing our community with time spent during meals and on the bus. On Saturday afternoon, after a free morning to sleep and grab some lunch in Dallas, we said goodbye to Texas and loaded the bus for the journey to Tulsa, Oklahoma.

That evening, after eating a delicious Italian meal at a local restaurant courtesy of Bethel, we performed at a cathedral in downtown Tulsa. The cathedral provided an incredible, rich housing for our sound to occupy. Each piece sounded different from what we were used to. The sound echoed for what seemed like forever after a crisp release.

Although the crowd was not as large as it had been for previous concerts, we sang just for the pleasure of singing in such a glorious space. This concert, at least for me, was one of the most vocally rewarding experiences during the tour, and I believe others share my opinion.

After our concert, we loaded the bus for a shorter drive to Enid, Oklahoma, where we would perform Sunday morning at Grace Mennonite Church. The next morning, after spending our final night outside Kansas, we headed to the church. We engaged in the worship with the congregation at Grace and then offered a shorter, but still a high-quality performance designed to fit into the worship.

The choir enjoyed singing to such an attentive and involved audience. After the service, the congregation fed us a delicious potluck meal and were able to engage in conversation with the people of Grace Mennonite.

We are currently back on the road for the last time together with this group, headed back to Kansas. The tour has been deeply moving and one of the most powerful experiences of my short college career.

As a freshman in this group, I was unsure of how I would fit in or how a 10-day trip would really go. Before this trip these people were my friends and acquaintances of my college career. However, after traveling with them and giving all these performances together, I can without a doubt say that this is my family.

And as one of our songs asks: “Where is the road that will lead me home?” I can honestly give a reply to this question: I am at home in the Concert Choir.

-Reece Hiebert

Austin, Urban and Rural

(Thursday, March 26)

After having explored downtown Austin the other day, today we got the opportunity to explore Congress Street, an art district that offers, among others, an art gallery, a big thrift store, an antique shop and several private owned clothing, book and gift stores. This area also has got a big variety of food trucks, which made it hard to decide for one only. I tried a meal at one that sells authentic Jamaican food that I really enjoyed a lot.

After spending a few hours on Congress Street, we loaded the bus and headed toward Salado. However, traffic was backed up a couple hours due to an accident involving a semi-truck and a bridge, which kept us from getting to our hotel as scheduled. Instead, we went straight to a ranch a couple of hours earlier than planned.

This ranch is owned by Bethel College alumnus Walter Dyck, who generously let us explore his property. We fed his horses and donkey, took a walk and just enjoyed being in nature.

Kyle made a new friend at the Dyck ranch.

Kyle made a new friend at the Dyck ranch.

In the evening, they fed us a delicious barbeque meal before we watched the impressive sunset and brought the day to a close by singing several songs for Walter Dyck and his friend, who we are very grateful to for letting us experience such a wonderful day.


–Daniel Scharwachter

A (Slightly Late) Recap of Our Time in Galveston

(Monday, March 23)

We started out to go on a guided bus tour through Galveston. Leland provided us with interesting historic facts as well as tips for where to go, what to do and where to eat well. After the bus tour, some of us decided to see the historic downtown of the city – the Strand – and do some window-shopping, others went to the state park and others just enjoyed what we don’t have in Kansas: the beach! … some of them suffering the consequences of “seeing some sun today” in the evening…

Choir tour2015.Galveston

At about 4 p.m., we left for Leland’s home congregation – a most beautiful church with tinted windows and a warm, welcoming atmosphere. After a warm-up session, we got some very delicious food and had the opportunity to meet some of Leland’s family members, who were all so welcoming and happy to have us there. It was just a pleasure to see their shiny faces!

Before we gave our concert we gathered in the old sanctuary next to the actual church, where we listened to Leland’s senior reflection. Most of us will probably never forget those touching moments, when we share joy and grief, laughter and tears, and hugs. Those are moments that bind us closer together and that will become memories for a lifetime.

Our concert went well – the congregation was so engaged and encouraged us again and again with their enthusiasm and joy about having us there and listening to our music. We probably enjoyed the evening just as much as they did. After the concert, we had the possibility to greet the church members and again, we were so blessed and touched by their love and gratitude towards us. This evening will never be forgotten, that’s for sure!

An amazing, relaxing, challenging day full of events and new experiences came to an end. We look forward to the next one.

-Janna Braun


(Wednesday, March 25)

Today we had a few hours of free time in Austin.

People spent time on the Colorado River, wandering busy 6th Street and exploring the Texas state capitol. It was a beautiful day and was wonderful to experience such a great city.

At the end of our free time, we sang one of our pieces of music in Saint Mary’s Cathedral. It was very different from the small churches we have sang in on the tour. I always love hearing the sound of large choirs in cathedrals and it was great to be a part of it.

~DrewAnne Gatlin

Extraordinary Hospitality in Dallas

(Sunday, March 22)

We have only been on tour for two days, but already I am overwhelmed with the incredible hospitality we have experienced.

First in Harper, Kansas — where a congregation the size of our choir (or smaller) not only provided supper, but hosted all 45 of us overnight, and then packed sack lunches for the next day.

Saturday afternoon, we were jointly hosted by Edmond Trinity Christian Church and Joy Mennonite Church (of Oklahoma City) in Edmond, Oklahoma. After the concert we were treated to, as I heard it described, “the faspa to end all faspas.”

This morning, we had the privilege of worshipping with Alexanderwohl Mennonite Church’s sister congregation, Iglesia Luz del Evangelio, in Dallas, Texas.

Choir tour2015.Luz

I think I can speak for the entire group when I say that this was one of the most (if not THE most) dynamic church services that I have ever been a part of! The energy and exuberance that this congregation worships with is truly extraordinary. Although we come from different backgrounds and spoke in different languages, it was clear that we were welcomed into their church not just as visitors, but as brothers and sisters in Christ. It was a moving experience to sing for an audience that was so engaged in the music.

After the service we were led out to the lawn behind the church for a lunch of tamales, tacos, flan and many other authentic Mexican dishes. This also gave us the chance to talk with the members of the congregation and make connections.

As we continue on to Houston, and then Galveston, I’m looking forward to all of the fantastic people we have yet to encounter. I also hope that we can take these experiences to heart and learn to practice such hospitality in our everyday lives.

–Erin Regier

Harper and Edmond

(Saturday, March 21)

We’ve been on tour now for about a day, and we’ve already given two concerts. This morning we left Kansas, traveled into Oklahoma, and we’re now on our way to Texas.

Choir tour2015.Karina       Choir tour2015.Ben&Issei

Over the course of these last 24 hours, I’ve seen a lot of beauty. I’ve seen beauty in the people we’ve met, the conversations I’ve had with people in the choir, the nature we’ve witnessed and the music we make. Several of the songs we are singing express the beauty of nature, something I was reminded of this morning.

Last night, we all stayed with people from the Mennonite church in Harper, Kansas. I was with three other choir members at a lady’s house on a farm.

This morning, we all got up and went out to feed her animals. We were exploring the attic of her barn when an owl flew out from the rafters. Initially, we were all somewhat frightened to be in an enclosed space with an owl, but then I was struck by the beauty of this creature. It was completely white, and as it flew around the barn, we all stared for a few minutes in awe.

As we sang our concert this afternoon in Edmond, Oklahoma, I was reminded of this and other moments of beauty I have witnessed today. The home stays in Harper were a great way to start our trip, and I’m excited for what is to come over the course of the week.

Choir tour2015.Edmond.KR

–Olivia Gehring

Choir Tour Update–Finally!

Greetings from Austin, Texas!

After a few technological difficulties, we are finally able to post blog updates about our tour! In order to catch everyone up to speed on all the amazing experiences we have had so far, I will go ahead and post updates from all the days so far. Look forward to more regular blog posts for the remainder of the tour!

Erin Regier