Trademarks of traveling: hours spent sleeping in the airport, jet lag, lost luggage and a multitude of other things; yet we’ll never regret a minute of it. As Southwestern Adventist University Singers, it is an honor for us to represent not just our University and community, but Christ, with all those we encounter along the way.
Throughout the first few weeks of May, our group of 36 traveled to sing across the Nordic countries of Norway, Sweden and Finland. This was an experience like no other. The countries were beautiful, the people friendly and the concerts out of this world.
The first country we visited was Norway, where we were eagerly welcomed at Tyrifjord Videregående Skole, an Adventist academy near Oslo. We sang our first concert that Friday evening. Expecting only students, we were pleasantly surprised to see a number of surrounding community members in the audience. As we finished the concert, the people refused to leave until we sang two more songs. Finally, after singing as much as our vocal cords could take, we took a final bow and exited the small chapel. As we thanked the people for coming, one lady approached me, her eyes welling up with tears. “Tusen takk, tusen takk,” she said repeatedly. “You have brought me closer to heaven this evening than I have ever been before.” We hugged and for a moment this stranger was my sister, both of us waiting for heaven.
The next day after a concert in a nearby church in Mjøndaleiv, we were approached by Dr. Jan Paulsen, former General Conference president. With a wide smile and warmth in his voice, he thanked us for sharing God through our music, stating that Southwestern was truly blessed to have such a magnificent group of young people who offered such powerful testimony through song.
A few days later, we were standing in Ekebyholm, an Adventist school in Sweden, singing for a student chapel service. Afterward, we had the wonderful experience of rehearsing with their choir. The students wanted to sing some of their favorite choir pieces, and we were more than happy to share the stage with them. We may not have known their names, nor they ours, but our bond through music was undeniable. Their choir director later wrote us an email saying, “You were an inspiration to us and it was such fun with the variety and intensity of our program. Our school choir was also blessed by your participation and interest. It was truly a wonderful day! You are spreading joy all over the place!”
Once we arrived in Finland, we visited many cathedrals and were able to test their acoustical spaces. Turku Cathedral in Turku, Finland (pictured left) has one of the longest resonating echoes in all of Scandinavia, lasting for several seconds. Singing in this space was a truly ethereal experience. As the melody left our lips, it seemed to simply linger in the air, creating a beautiful blend of chords and notes. One of our more challenging acoustical spaces was Temppe Liaukion Kirkko in Finland. This cathedral built into a rock was structurally magnificent and is a popular tourist attraction. As we sang, dozens of visitors came and went, pausing to listen to our songs. One of these tourists found us on Facebook and left a message saying, “I was passing through and heard you singing at the Temeliaukion in Finland. Oh, it was so mesmerizing and lovely. Well done!” It’s incredible how God uses us to impact strangers and friends alike.
Many times, we were told what a wonderful blessing we were, yet I feel as though I was the one who was most blessed. The hospitality was truly the greatest blessing of all.
Although difficulties arose from time to time, God always provided. As I think back to those moments when I was singing until I thought my voice would give out, or waking up at 3 a.m. to catch a flight, I realize one thing: the music we learn and sing together is not meant to be kept to ourselves, it is meant to be shared with the world.