iPraise: HECK YEAH.

June 22, 2013

Our youth group failed. Miserably. Its screeching, grating dysfunction made 2012 a year of excruciating frustration, and so it was with both sadness and relief that its official closure was received.

The conundrum that followed was that we still had a group of teenagers we wanted to keep within our reach. The volatility of adolescent years and the disproportionately vulnerable environment in which our kids live made especially necessary the need to keep shining light in their lives.

By way of this necessity was birthed the concept of music discipleship, and out of that, an uncertain new ministry whose initial outlook was admittedly dismal. A severe lack of staffing and a variety of other factors beyond our control projected yet another failure, but against all hope, we launched Saturday afternoon workshops because losing these kids for want of action still held prospects far worse.

For the last few months, we have been trudging along. While no Mozart has emerged, we have nonetheless been pleasantly surprised by the sheer numbers who attend weekly. Even scores of those not old enough for classes come to fraternize, and the group has naturally formed a sense of camaraderie that was so anxiously pursued yet never attained last year.

The musical side of things has seen no miracle with maaaybe one student showing promise. Maybe. But nevermind the lackluster progress of musical talent. Mostly, we have been contenting ourselves with the fact that average attendance hovers around fifteen and the majority stay to listen raptly to the Bible study portion. Again, such a marked departure from La Ruta, and a cause for celebration at any cost.

But today, something shifted in the musical realm. We scrapped together an ensemble practice in preparation for our semester-ending recital two weeks away. In the moment, I heard tone-deaf singing, out of sync strumming, and a lot of chaotic background screaming from the hoards not participating in the rehearsal. Not exactly what I am hoping to debut for what will already be a reluctant audience.

Yet in the wake of the first few stanzas of discord, a palpable excitement was ignited. Suddenly, my lagging, struggling student would not stop playing, beseeching me to continue accompanying her halting chord progressions with my pitchy singing (the song is definitely two keys too high for my lacking vocal range). In a matter of twenty minutes, she had transformed from a giggling, flighty participant to a focused pupil intent on mastering her first song. And she came pretty dang close to doing so if you ask me.

I thought my pride could not swell any higher, and then my star student sauntered over, casually joined the jam session, and picked up Es Tiempo for his first time, flawlessly. As the last notes died away, the electric and well-deserved grins irrevocably commandeering their beaming faces filled my heart to the overfull. T even gave me an impulsive hug. I may have shed an invisible tear or two.

With just 37 days left in Paraguay, my waking moments are wracked with paradoxical feelings. I am torn between the lure of comforts that await at home and the bittersweet knowledge that I’ve made more friends than I think and tough goodbyes will be in no short supply. But for tonight, I am thankful, simply thankful to be witness to these moments of breakthrough and revelation for kids who truly deserve it the most.

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