The high school church choir tour had been hard for me. Our camp’s cabins were hot and crowded, I was feeling ill from homesickness, and my mood was dismal. I trekked up hills and numerous stairs to the mess hall for breakfast one sweltering June morning. An audience member had told the choir director the previous day that, although we sounded beautiful in concert, we looked sad. As he conducted our meeting before breakfast, he relayed this sentiment to us. I knew this to be true. I myself had struggled not to cry as we sang the previous day, feeling terrible about my own spiritual troubles. I decided to try to smile at the next performance; however, I was having doubts as to whether others were really moved by our efforts. I was to be surprised. God gives us the power to change lives; this I believe.
The next afternoon, we were to perform at a homeless veterans’ center. I was just a high schooler, and had no idea how to relate to these men, unsure how to inspire people whose lives had been so hard. The choir shared a meal with the veterans, then the concert got underway. I put on my best smile and sang. The applause following each song, I figured, was just courtesy.
Then time came for our final song “Goin’ Up A Yonder.” The director asked everyone to form a circle to pray and share the last piece together. Veterans and high schoolers held hands as the piano player began the song. It was then that I felt God move. Everyone started to sing, and as the final chorus came around, I got chills. I gazed around at everyone squeezing hands, tears flowing from many eyes. Everyone, including myself, had begun to sing with a passion I knew was from the heart. I resisted getting choked up, and finished singing. A moment of silence was followed by applause and hugs. Everyone visited for a while, newly opened up. I stood, watching, and felt that God really had moved there, and I was inspired.
The time came for us to leave. We packed and loaded our bus and pulled around the parking lot. My heart swelled. Veterans standing on the lawn and on balconies waved goodbye to us. One man touched us all in particular. He had come to the concert wearing arm crutches and, afterward, had told us that he was inspired to get stronger, and had proceeded to replace the crutches with a mere cane. As we drove off, he lifted his cane into the air, stood on his own two feet, and waved goodbye, smiling. He was a changed man, and I knew I was changed, too. My life was a miserable mess, but I knew then that, through faith, any struggle could be overcome. Not only did God give me the power to help change the lives of these men, but He had given them the power to change mine, as well.
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