by Sharon Knotts, First Church of Merrimack, Merrimack, NH
Psalm 98:4-5 "Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth, burst into jubilant song with music; make music to the Lord with the harp, with the harp and the sound of singing, with the trumpets and the blast of the ram's horn . . . shout for joy before the Lord . . . the King."
In June of 2015, I retired after 47 years of being a music teacher and turned in the keys to my precious school where God had planted me for 21 wonderful years. I was exhausted and sad to leave this huge part of my life. But, several days later I was packed and ready to travel to Saint Georges de Beauce, Quebec, with 7 wonderful teens from my church (most of whom I had held, loved and prayed for since infancy), and our Intern Pastor Caleb Nelson, and his new wife, Alexa. Such was the beginning of the next chapter of my life. What an honor to be able to begin again with a job of such great importance to the Lord. Our mission: to spread the Gospel through teaching English.
My job was to teach music to children from 5 to 15 years old who spoke and understood anywhere from almost no English to functional basic conversational English. The camp has a tradition of exuberant singing of praise songs at the beginning and end of the day, but I was to have 2 songs ready to perform as a whole group at the Friday night family dinner and program. My teacher mind was buzzing with the dilemma of spending enough time in teaching the songs to prepare a good performance and having time enough to share the meaning of the words. How could I share the good news and teach the music in 4 days of 20 minute lessons when they didn’t understand English! As my stress level grew, the Lord gave me the answer through one of the teens. In an evening conversation, she expressed doubt in her effectiveness in the same situation in her classroom. The children just did not have enough English to understand. The Lord gave me an answer for her that was my answer, too.
We were there to plant seeds. We weren’t the gardener, just the planters. Our job was to plant the Word of God in every way we could, whether by lessons, songs, or actions. We plant and then pray for those seeds to take root. We might get to return and “water” our plantings, but that job might go to someone else. Our Father is the gardener and He will faithfully watch over those seeds.
The Great Gift of Music
I never doubt the power of the great gift from God called music. From inside their mother’s womb children react to and embrace music. As educators we know that memorization of information is more easily attained by setting it to music. Countless warriors have gained courage from the sound of music leading them into battle. Alzheimer patients remember music lyrics when then can no longer even remember their own name. Those songs they learned at English Camp may lie dormant for a time, or might spring to life quickly. It is, thankfully, in God’s hands. My prayer is that those children will sing, not from just the memory of the camp, but according to Psalm 149:3 "Let them praise His name with dancing and make music to Him with tambourine and harp," praising God as joyful, redeemed sinners.
We’ll know when we get to heaven.