Announcing a new "Limited Edition Live" recording for the relief effort in the Sudan.
Over the past few years, I have developed a close relationship with Pastor Mike Slaughter and the congregation of Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church in Tipp City, Ohio. Pastor Slaughter's life and teachings have, over time, impacted me in a personal and profound way. As a result of the Ginghamsburg congregation's vision and passion for the displaced and suffering refugees in the Sudan, their burden has now become mine.
Recently, as documented by the international press, the United Nations has named Darfur, Sudan, the worst humanitarian crisis in the world today. More than two million people are displaced and have been living in refugee camps for years. Tens of thousands have died as a result of a genocide that not only includes systematic murder, but also starvation and disease.
In response to the crisis as well as Christ's words, " In as much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me," the congregation of Ginghamsburg Church has taken action. Beginning with the Christmas season of 2005 in conjunction with UMCOR, (United Methodist Council on Relief), the church raised 317,000 dollars. Through this offering, 621,293 pounds of seed was provided in the camps for crops. Additionally, the gift also provided more than 25,000 farming tools.
The results have been dramatic! As of last year, these efforts have put 5,208 families back in the farming business. What this means is that over 26,000 people have been provided for in the camps. UMCOR estimates that the seed from that one offering is now feeding an additional 50,000 people!
Again this past Christmas, Pastor Slaughter challenged the congregation to live more simply so that others may simply live. The church responded in a generous way. The result of this latest sacrificial gift, which is still being tabulated, is slated to provide among other things; water purification and protection for children.
Therefore, in partnership with Ginghamsburg United Methodist Church, I have decided to release a "Limited Edition" live project. All proceeds will benefit the refugees in the Sudan, with no portion going toward administrative expenses.
The concert was recorded July 20th, 2006 at the Loft in Columbus, Georgia. Most of the songs on the project (eight of ten) I have not previously recorded "live." Assisting me on stage for the evening was my good friend and great guitarist, Tim Crabb. As a prelude to the concert, I penned the song, "We Can Make Their World Different." The original working title for this song was "We Can All Make A Difference." But after a conversation with my good friend and confidant, Kerry Willis, he suggested that the church's role is to make their world different. I am very grateful to Kerry for his creative inspiration as I wrote this title track. The song is offered as a free download (on the main page) as well as being included in the project. "We Can Make Their World Different" can only be obtained through the Ginghamsburg Bookstore by calling toll-free: 866-238-2930.
In closing, I would like to thank Mike Slaughter and the congregation of Ginghamsburg Church for their outward looking vision. It is an honor for me to be a part of this important work. I would like to thank Buddy Nelms and everyone at the Loft in Columbus, Georgia for making this recording possible. Also, my thanks to Rob Rierson who mastered the project at his studio in Sophia, North Carolina. Finally, I would like to thank all those whose interest in this project will contribute to the Sudan relief effort. Together we can truly make their world different.
Musical Christian Outreach
From August 8th to the 18th , I spent a week on a small island in the Taiwanese strait and the last couple days in the bustling city of Taipei, Taiwan. The Technological Institute of Kinmen brought me in to offer a musical Christian outreach to this small island of predominately Buddhist inhabitants. We did a series of concerts at the Cultural Center, as well as ministering in some of the churches.
Kinmen is the former Dutch colony of Quomoy and is steeped in twentieth century history. Chang Kai-Shek and his forces, after being defeated by Mao in 1948, retreated to Taiwan and heavily fortified this small island. The people on this once embattled island suffered many hardships at the hands of the Chinese Communists, which included two invasion attempts, a 44 day artillery bombardment, and repeated shelling from 1958 to 1979, when the United States finally recognized China diplomatically.
This tiny island, while only 10 miles wide and 25 miles long, was also a major point of contention between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in their televised 1960 debates. While these presidential candidates debated the merits of defending or not defending this tiny island, the Kinmenese with very little support from the west, were successful in defending themselves and remaining free of Communist domination.
While having traveled extensively in the US and some in Europe, this was my first foray into Asia. The sensorial experience was unlike anything that I have ever known. The people seemed very curious, especially regarding my height. We didn't encounter another western face, outside of our own party. I found the people to be incredibly gracious, kind, humble, resilient and generous.
Our trip coincided with the movements of typhoon Cora. The fringe effects of the typhoon were enjoyed on Kinmen, where the temperature and humidity dropped considerably with the typhoon winds. Our first concert on Kinmen was at the Cultural Center. Despite torrential rain, our sponsors were pleasantly surprised by the turn-out. It was humbling to observe older men in the audience of the nighttime concert. An apparent rarity, as older adults tend to stay in, only traveling to temple. In spite of the language barrier, which was lessened by an interpreter between songs, those in attendance seemed to truly enjoy themselves. Through the interpreter that evening, I was able to share some very basic tenets of Christianity, using John 3:16 as a basis for my remarks. My comments were received kindly and respectfully by those attending the concert. I count it a privilege to be a part of sowing the seeds of the gospel in a land far away.
There is no way to adequately describe the sights, sounds, and smells of a Chinese marketplace. We were surrounded by the aromas of proffered hammerhead sharks, sandworms, and unidentifiable fish, along with flip-flops, incense, ancient Chinese relics, knives, and Buddhist sacrificial items. All this peppered by the drone of countless motorbikes streaming through the streets, on an oppressively humid afternoon.
Pastor John Spencer of the Calvary Chapel in Gulf Breeze, Florida led the group we put together - a few talented musicians from the Calvary Chapel in Fort Lauderdale to back me up in concert. Clay Hecock, worship leader at Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale, brought along bassist Joey Falconeri and percussionist Doug Ferrar. Traveling with a band was a real treat, and I think we all received far more than we gave. Join me in praying for the beautiful people of Kinmen and for God's work to be done in their hearts and lives.
Free music download
I would like to take this opportunity to announce a free music download. The song I am offering is an instrumental composition and is entitled Effie. Over the next few months I hope to occasionally offer more selections of my previously unpublished work. Keep an eye on the website for other musical offerings.
Additionally, I want all of you to know how much your kind words of encouragement have meant to me, especially over the last year. Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of the meaning of all this traveling and running about, and your words are a part of the reassuring reminder of why I do what I do. Please feel free to continue to send your comments, critiques, evaluations, admonitions, suggestions and encouragement through the guest book. In the not too distant future, we intend to post a sampling of some of your comments online.
Finally, thanks to all who manage to find their way to my concerts. If ever I am in a city near you, please accept this as my personal invitation to bring your friends, family, and loved ones to spend the evening with me. I hope to see you all soon!