The Blessing of Music
While I spend the majority of my time editing or revising books, I still do some article writing for a couple denominations.
They included a recent, heartwarming story about Overbook Assembly of God of Philadelphia, whose members were well-suited for the challenges of this year’s pandemic.
That’s because they trained for disaster by organizing considerable personal assistance during the Ebola crisis that struck western Africa in 2014-15.
The approximately 200 members of the church are 90 percent African immigrants, with 70 percent of them coming from Liberia.
Melissa Annan, who now serves as the choir director, came to Philly in 2014 for what she thought would be a month-long visit.
She is still here. When it came time to return, all flights into Liberia had been canceled.
A daily newspaper editor in her homeland, she found herself with no job, no food, and no home—until the church stepped in.
After learning of her predicament, the congregation supplied her with food and transportation, and paid her fees so she could enroll in a certified nursing assistant’s course. It offered similar help to many others.
Today, Melissa is working at a nurse home, helping elderly residents with their feeding, bathing, and exercise.
“What the church did for me was why I got to where I am,” she said. “I gave praise for the church. The pastor taught me to fish instead of giving me fish every time. That stays with you for the rest of your life.”
As remarkable as that was, something she said near the end of our interview made a profound impression, even though I didn’t have space in the story to mention it.
She talked about how good it felt to be the choir director after the church helped her. Especially since the numbers have grown since from around 20 to 35 since she took over in 2016.
The talented choir, which has recorded audios and videos, receives numerous invitations to sing in their area in white and black churches alike.
“We are working for God,” Melissa said. “He has given us our gift. Music is food for the soul. When a person is feeling bad, they can get healed (through music). So we sing as much as we can.”
Somehow, I don’t think it was a coincidence that the same day I did this this interview, I noticed a link posted on a friend’s Facebook page.
Curious about the “Hawaii Blessing,” I clicked and heard one of the most beautiful songs I had ever heard. Ever.
Poking around online, I discovered Hawaii was only the latest group to record a version of the song, written by Pastor Steven Furtick and three others at Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Watch any of these videos and you will notice a picture of the body of Christ, as pictured in Revelation 7:9: every tribe, nation, people, and tongues. All singing in heaven to the glory of God.
Ironically, these multicultural, multiracial, multiethnic groups were able to come together through technology, at a time when in-person services were largely prohibited.
So, at a time when fear is rampant and society threatens to fracture into pieces, God uses a pandemic to bring us together. A remarkable development, even if it you won’t hear about it on the evening news.