August 16, 2013 | 8:33 a.m.
By Michelle Westlund, Communications Specialist
This summer, 67 Bethel Choir members toured Poland for two weeks, performing seven concerts in mostly Catholic churches under the auspices of Bethel and Next Generation Mission. “Of the 12 overseas tours that Bethel Choir has taken since 1968,” says Professor of Music Dennis Port, “this is probably the most unique. We were asked on behalf of Next Generation Mission to come to Poland and sing the gospel through sacred classical music in the Catholic churches there. It was tailor-made for the classical repertoire that Bethel Choir does every year, with the added incentive of this specific mission. The result was remarkable. Audiences were responsive and moved by our music, and we in turn by their response. Seldom have we felt more loved in singing, or in leading musical worship.”
The people of Poland “flocked to the concerts in masses,” says senior business and Spanish major Chris Sjolander, who serves as Bethel Choir business manager. “In Eastern Europe many Poles seldom get a chance to hear American choirs,” he continues. “They were so appreciative of our music, and as a member of a choral ensemble there is nothing more rewarding than seeing the congregation so immersed in worship that it moves them to tears.”
Music major Callie Turner’13 echoes Sjolander’s enthusiasm. “Ministering to the Polish people was unbelievable!” she says. “I could see how touched they were by looking at their eyes, often filled with tears. Each concert’s attendance was maxed out, with frequent standing ovations and encores.”
The tour’s members were committed to a goal of glorifying God through song, says Turner. “This tour was mission-focused,” she explains. “We were to go to Poland and spread the Good News through song. This commission created an incredible bond between members. And if we weren’t close enough before we left, we certainly became closer with so many colorful personalities all crammed together on a bus for two weeks!”
The choir returned to the U.S. not only with closer friendships, but with lasting memories and the satisfaction of knowing their efforts have eternal significance, says Turner. “Music is a universal language and I was able to see this in action for the first time,” she says. “Though most of our songs were not in Polish, the audience could follow along with a translation. Even without understanding the text, it was clear we were worshipping God. The Spirit was definitely working, and I hope it created a lasting impact in the lives of the Polish people.”