Minister of Music Ron Partain and Senior Pastor Dr. John Beck both agree that previous youth choir tours are more than singing, adventure, and vigorous Bible study. The tours are about making lasting positive impressions upon lives – not only the lives the tour is designed to reach with song, but the choir members, also.
Partain started the mission tours his first year of service at First Baptist 15 years ago. The summer mission tours are designed to get youth involved in the church program, Partain said. “Kids love to travel, love something adventurous, and they love to sing.”
Both Partain and Beck agree that one motivation for taking their youth on mission trips is their firm belief that young people should be given opportunities to see and appreciate what they have in America.
Beck, who has served as pastor for 18 years, said, “Kids need to know that as Christians it’s OK to take their faith everywhere and not the church only.”
Previous tours have taken the church’s youth to New York, San Francisco and Hawaii. Their adventures have taken them to Yellowstone Park, Yosemite and Niagara Falls.
The choir has hiked into the Grand Canyon and a 39-mile bike ride coasting down a dormant volcano in Hawaii ended with surfing and snorkeling.
They have laid wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery, The World War II, Korean, and Vietnam memorials in Washington D.C.
When dropping rose petals at the U.S. Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor Partain said he recalls seeing “oil bubbling up” from the sunken battleship.
Previously the choir sang the national anthem in eight major league baseball parks, sang on the River Walk in San Antonio, in juvenile detention centers, and in churches across America.
Recalling their visit to Hawaii Partain said, “The people in Hawaii were most gracious hosts. They were dumbfounded that we would come so far to minister to them.”
A particularly memorable moment for one individual that heard the choir is captured in a letter Partain received from Army Nurse Capt. Eric Graybill. The choir held a concert at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.
Partain read a portion of the letter, “I was lucky enough to hear the singing this morning and brought some patients with me to check out the action. I have to say it drastically improved their outlook for the day and brought lots of joy to their heart.”
For some past choir members, the adventure of travel and sharing the gospel didn’t end with the tour. Former choir members have traveled to India, Northern Africa, and Thailand.
Others haven’t ventured off but have remained faithful members of the church. Cory Williams serves as the children’s pastor at the church.
Williams is traveling with this year’s group because the trip is going to New York. Partain said Williams wanted to return to New York because it was on the previous trip that Williams made his profession in faith. “He wants to return to the place where he found the Lord,” Partain said.
While they are on tour senior high members of the choir are rewarded for their continued participation. Past rewards have included limo and helicopter rides in New York City, dinner on a River Boat traveling The River Walk in San Antonio, and a hot air balloon ride.
Partain said he begins planning the tour six months in advance. The tour itinerary includes planning for transportation, scheduling places to sing, meals and fun things to do. “I take them to places I like or want to see,” Partain said. “Most kids will never get a chance to go back.”
This year’s bus tour begins June 16. As they travel the choir will stop and sing at churches and other venues. Awaiting the choir in New York is a visit to the 9/11 Memorial, a game at the new Yankee stadium, and attending a production of “The Phantom of the Opera.”
On their return U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions has arranged for a VIP tour of the Capitol Building and a dinner cruise on the Potomac.
A trip to “Mayberry” in Mount Airy, N.C., the home of the Andy Griffith show is scheduled.
The tour also includes what Beck describes as a “boot-camp experience.” Based upon materials he has studied, Beck said choir members will receive intensive Bible study.
“We will teach our beliefs about our Savior, Jesus Christ,” Beck said.
The choir will roll back into Childersburg June 23 with a concert at Russell Chapel Baptist Church in Fayetteville and a concert at their home church June 24 at 5 p.m.
The tour is funded by choir and chaperones paying some of the costs while fundraisers help to cover the expenses.
Two major upcoming fundraisers include a golf tournament at Coosa Pines May 7 and a community fish fry May 12.
Beck said he appreciated the community’s support. “Without the community’s support the tour wouldn’t be possible,” Beck said.
“We have never asked for donations from the places we’ve gone,” Beck said.
Partain said, “We have a good time and have always had support from Dr. Beck. He is one of the reasons for our success.”
Another reason for their success, Partain said, “I’m 67 years old and wake up every morning loving kids and want to make an impact in their lives.”
Contact Mark Ledbetter at email@example.com