Monday, November 15, 2010

Concert Tour-Part 3

We arrived in Ségou early afternoon on Friday.  We set up camp at a local church.  Our concert venue was an indoor concert hall…by far the nicest of the places we’ve been – it was even air-conditioned!  Someone had made arrangements for a sound system and John and the tech crew went to a local bar of all places to pick it up.  It was a nice system and worked wonderfully.  Again, our concert started with a couple of Malian choirs followed by our team.  Because we were indoors, our audience was limited to around 200 people.  But the concert went very well.  After the concert, we returned to the church for dinner and some sleep.  The dorm rooms were small and weren’t able to hold everyone, so John and a couple of other guys slept on the floor of the church sanctuary.

Saturday morning we left Ségou and returned to Bamako for the last 2 concerts.  It was exciting to return home.  We had a wonderful family reunion until John had to leave for the concert an hour later.

Concert Stage - BamakoOur concerts in Bamako on Saturday and Sunday nights were wonderful.  We had several groups perform ahead of us including Kings Kids, a YWAM children’s performance group.  They are always a crowd pleaser.  Because Bamako is the capital city and there is so much to do, we had our lowest turnouts of the tour with our audiences topping out at 100-150.  But that certainly didn’t keep us from worshiping the Lord.

The travel was long and grueling, and it was difficult to be separated as a family.  But it was an event of a lifetime for John and he is happy to have been a part of it.  He never imagined he would have the opportunity to tour with a professional singer/songwriter.  It was in many ways a dream come true for him.  One of John’s favorite French worship songs is Entends mon coeur.  It’s originally an English song called Listen to Our Hearts by Geoff Moore and Steven Curtis Chapman.   Concert Crowd - BamakoJohn fell in love with the French version (sung by Rolf Schneider of all people) a few years ago when he first heard it.  We’ve still never heard it in English!  John has always wanted to play the song, but it’s mainly a guitar song and didn’t translate well to the piano.  John was so excited to find it part of the repertoire for the concert tour and on the play list every night.  He accompanied on the synthesizer which he doesn’t get to play very often.

Each concert ended with a song written by Rolf Schneider called Shalom.  John reminisces of looking out at the crowd swaying and singing along at the end of each concert.  It was a fitting end to every evening.  We’ll also let it be our closing remark for the Concerts de l’Espérance 2010 tour of Mali.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Concert Tour-Part 2

Mosquito NetsAfter several hours on the road, we arrived in Sévaré on Monday afternoon.  Our lodging was at a Bible school.  We set up our mosquito nets and beds and had an evening to relax and catch our breath.  John was able to buy a cool mosquito tent for only $12 in Bamako before he left on the tour.  It’s like a small camping tent, complete with folding poles, but it’s made out of mosquito netting rather than nylon.  On Tuesday afternoon we headed into town to setup for the concert.  This time our concert venue was a basketball court.  We didn’t have electricity so we fired up our generator.  Thankfully we now had the proper cables to get everything hooked up, but it took a while to get the generator actually working.   A Malian choir opened for our concert.  They only had a small minivan at their disposal for transportation, so they arrived bit by bit throughout the concert.  It was interesting to see the choir growing every 15 minutes or so.  They started with about 20 choir members and grew to over 60 as the night went on.  They wrote and performed a special 50th anniversary song for the occasion.  We went on after the choir and the concert went very well.  We had 300-400 people in the crowd.

On Wednesday, our team was invited to Mac’s Refuge - a bed and breakfast in Sévaré run by man who grew up in Mali as a missionary kid.  He treated us to a wonderful lunch.  Back in 2001, our family stayed at Mac’s Refuge during our second week in Mali as part of an orientation tour we took of the country.  It was interesting to return nine years later and see how things have grown and changed and catch up with Mac.

Concert CrowdOur next concert was in a nearby town called Mopti.  Because it was so close, we continued to lodge at the Bible school in Sévaré and drove into Mopti in the afternoon to set up in a sports park.  We had several places to choose from and decided on a basketball court again.  This court had stadium seating to allow for greater crowds.  Unfortunately, the remaining part of our sound system failed just before the concert.  Throughout the tour, we were using a small sound system to provide sound for the worship team so we could hear each other on stage.  For the Mopti concert, we were forced to use this instead for our main sound system.  It was not nearly as powerful, but it managed for this concert.  The evening began with a couple of Malian groups followed by our team.  Our starting time was 8:00 pm – our latest concert to date.  We didn’t finish until after 10:30 pm.  Due to security concerns in this region of Mali, John and the other Westerners on the team were rushed back to Sévaré immediately after the concert ended and the rest of the team stayed behind to clean up.  Thankfully, it was just a precaution and there were no issues with safety.

Thursday we left for the town of San.  After two flat tires we arrived safely and moved into yet another Bible school  This one had a dorm complete with beds and mosquito nets already set up for everyone on the team.  We made arrangements to borrow a sound system from one of the churches in San.  We arrived early to set up up the borrowed sound system and the rest of our equipment.  San was one of our biggest crowds yet with 400+ people.

John learned several new songs for the tour including Nous announçons le Roi which he really enjoyed playing.

Next stop….Ségou.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Concert Tour–Part 1

Our concert tour hit the road on Thursday October 28 for Bougouni, about 3 hours from Bamako.  Our venue had both an outdoor and indoor stage.  We chose to setup outside to attract people in from the street.  Unfortunately, 10 minutes before the concert started, a big rainstorm rolled in and we needed to break everything down and move it inside.  Just as we were set up, we were hit by a power outage.  We tired to use our generator to get things up and running, but we didn’t have the right cables.  An a cappella Malian group performed in the meantime in the dark.  Eventually the power came back on and we had a great concert.  Unfortunately, because of the rain and our isolated indoor location, our crowd was less than 100 people.

Concert Tour - SikassoOn Friday, we moved on to Sikasso.  The road was very difficult with more potholes than pavement in a lot of places.  The road was also diverted onto a nearby dirt road several times due to road construction.  But we eventually made it.  Our concert was held in an outdoor amphitheater in the center of town.  There weren’t any power outlets available, so John had to connect everything directly to a power meter.  Thankfully, it went well and he didn’t curl his hair.  Unfortunately, half of our sound system failed in Sikasso, but we were able to do the concert with the remaining half.  The amphitheater was adjacent to the main street in town so we had a very good turnout.  We had about 250-300 people in the seats and a hundred or so standing in the street.  We had a Malian choir perform before our concert started then we went on.  After the concert, we stayed overnight at our YWAM base in Sikasso.

Concert Tour - KoutialaOn Saturday morning, we packed up early and headed out to Koutiala – the home of our largest YWAM base in Mali.  We spent 2 days in Koutiala with concerts on Saturday and Sunday nights on a big outdoor stage.  We had an excellent turnout of 300-400 each night .  Each concert was led off by 3-4 Malian groups before our group took the stage.  We were able to do the concerts using the working half of our sound system.  This was our first nighttime concert and there weren’t any lights on stage, so we had to rig some up so we could see.  The lights we found didn’t have plugs on them so we had to plug the bare wires directly into the power outlets.  The cords were not long enough so we had to twist wires together to make them longer.  We didn’t have any electrical tape on hand, so we had bare live wires lying on the stage – watch your step!  This definitely isn’t OSHA approved - but then again, not much in Africa would be.  We also had a terrible bug problem and did a lot of dancing and wildly flaying our arms during the concert to avoid a wide variety of flying pests.  Here’s a selection from the Koutiala concert:  Regne en moi (Reign in Me).

It was refreshing to stay at the Koutiala base with real beds, running water (complete with showers and Western toilets) and fans to keep us cool.  Monday was originally scheduled as a day off, but because the next leg of our travel was so long (8 hours) we chose to make it a travel day instead.  Next stop…Sévaré.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

End Of The Line

Concert TeamAfter 9 cities, 11 concerts and over 1,000 miles of bus travel, the Concerts de l’Espérance drew to a close on Sunday night.  The tour went very well.  We traveled on our YWAM bus along with a support car to carry more people and equipment.  Our team was made of up 20 people – 5 band members, 6 singers, plus tech and support people.

Even with all the travel, we had almost no vehicle trouble!!  The support car burst a radiator hose just as we were leaving town the first day, but thankfully it happened while we were still in town and not out in the middle of the bush.  Concert BusThe bus also had 2 flat tires along the way.  But considering the distances and conditions, travel went remarkably well.  Most of the roads were in fairly good condition.  We did have one day on a bad road and couldn’t travel faster than 35 mph.  At times, it was more advantageous to drive on the unpaved shoulder of the road.  The travel time was long and drawn out each day, mainly due to slowing down as we passed through villages and the many police stops along the way.  At each checkpoint, we gave the national police Bibles as they checked our paperwork.  This proved very popular with them.  How exciting!!

Our lodging was mainly in churches and Bible schools.  The conditions were quite primitive with running water in only a couple of our stops.  We slept on the floor under mosquito nets with all the guys in one room and the girls in another.  For the most part, it felt like a camping trip.  We did eat well along the way and each stop provided wonderful African meals.

For the most part, everyone stayed healthy.  John did catch a cold along with several others.  There was also a smattering of tummy trouble for a few people.  Unfortunately, one of our teammates did catch Typhoid and had to leave the tour halfway through.

Thank you for your prayers about the security situation.  This too was uneventful.  We did have one concert end around 10:30 pm and immediately after the concert, John and the other Westerners were rushed back to camp while the rest of the team remained behind to pack up the equipment.  Thankfully it was only a precaution and we made it back without incident.

We did have several equipment failures along the way including losing our entire sound system about halfway through.  But we were able to adapt, improvise, and borrow what was needed.  After all was said and done, (and sung), hundreds of people were touched by the concerts and heard the Gospel message.  Throughout the tour, we were able to give away over 1,000 Bibles along with hundreds of Gospel tracts.

Here are a couple of songs from the concert tour.  O Dieu Tu Es Grand (How Great Is Our God) and Je Te Donne Tout.  Be sure to listen for John on the piano!

It is wonderful to be together as a family again.  John is still playing a lot of catch-up and more blog entries will follow in the next few days with more details of the tour.