Monday, October 30, 2006

The Ukrainian Invasion has passed -- thoughts on Music Mission Kiev 2006

Posting was light last week because we were preparing for the Ukrainian invasion of Cincinnati. This weekend, we hosted Music Mission Kiev in two concerts for their 2006 eastern US tour. We've been preparingg for a year -- arranging for housing, raising money, selling tickets, prepping advertising, working with other churches, contacing media sources, and prepping our sanctuary (we had to move two rows of pews and all our very heavy pulpit furniture).

They provided two stunning, simply stunning concerts -- standing ovations at both intermission and conclusion. I've been fielding calls and emails all day from people who told me the concerts brought tears to their eyes. I've been spending all day basking in the after-glow of the glory of the weekend -- it's kind of a remnant of God in his common grace touching our hearts through created beauty (see my previous post on The Artist and the Jock for a more extended reflection on this).

As I process this weekend's experience, I wanted to share a few stories with you from the concerts:

First were obvious God moment: In Saturday night's concert, a beautiful late 50s blonde woman came forward, red shawl draped daringly around her shoulders, and sang a lovely traditional Ukrainian song. Her eyes were radiant and she was animated. Meanwhile, sitting next to me and Tammy was a young twentysomething man, tears streaming down his reddened cheeks into his ample beard. At the end of the song, the woman put her fingertips to her mouth and blew them toward the young man. I leaned over to look again at his face as the crowed thundered applause. His wife leaned from his other side to say to me "that was his mother". At intermission, we spoke -- he hasn't seen his mother since the last time Music Mission Kiev came to Cincinnati -- and his wife had never met her mother in law. Blessedly, the director of the Orchestra, Roger McMurrin, gave this lovely lady the next day off so she could spend it with her son.

Then there was the appreciation of the performers. I love hearing our church people being affirmed -- and they received tons of affirmation. Our dear friend Mary Dillon coached our kitchen co-ordinators on what kinds of meals would be traditional Ukrainian meals. Our kitchen volunteers pulled out all the stops, and as our Ukrainian friends were leaving, I had more than one person tell me that our meals were the best meals they had on the entire tour. Mary, when she came into the dining hall last night to check on everyone, received enthusiastic applause for her work. Our kitchen team did a great work.

Meanwhile our facility got rave reviews as well -- the musicians told us that acoustically, ours was one of the best venues they've ever performed in on tour. They sang and played their hearts out, in part because they knew that with our acoustics they would sound great. And believe me, they did.

The people who housed musicians came talking about the host and hostess gifts that they recieved and the warmth with which our Ukrainian friends received hospitality. I delighted in seeing one of our dignified gentlemen in church come to the Sunday concert with a scarf sized Ukrainian flag draped about his neck. When I asked him about it, he told me that the performer that he and his wife hosted gave it to him, and he could think of no better way of honoring the gift than by wearing it with pride to show his appreciation to her.

Then there were the stories. Roger spoke in both concerts about the Mission's work with widows and orphans -- he told us about their orphan ministry taking on 100 new children. He told us how they provide food for over 500 widows each month. He drew an audible gasp on Saturday night when he told us of their medical work -- that they could arrange for cataract surgery for a blind widow for only $50.

Our team is already talking about arranging a group to go over to Kiev, perhaps in summer of 2007.

The Spirit moved mightily in and among our people this weekend. I pray that the blessing will continue.

Soli Deo Gloria