Journey to Africa
by Louise Craig
“You have got to be kidding!! On the busiest weekend of the year?”
The words screamed in his head when Ben Purvis, music teacher at Gem State Academy, was told to host the Oregon Adventist Men’s Chorus (OAMC) on alumni weekend.
Purvis didn’t know two things: 1) this was God’s timing; and 2) he and his male singers were about to undergo a seismic change placing them on a path leading to Africa.
A year earlier, OAMC leaders met for a weekend prayer retreat. By Sunday, the group knew God mandated three objectives: 1) continue their mission with the Adventist Men’s Chorus of Romania; 2) help build men’s chorus ministries around the world, beginning at the General Conference session in Atlanta; and 3) involve young men of the church in this ministry.
The mission to Romania had been full of miracles. OAMC had no idea how to reach out to the world, but understood this was a command.
Reaching young men of the church had already been tried. And failed, despite invitations to participate and interest from academy teachers and students.
Then God took over.
OAMC was invited to sing for Gem State’s alumni weekend. OAMC director Lou Wildman was impressed to go on one condition: the boys in the academy choir must sing with OAMC.
Not surprisingly, the academy boys didn’t want to. Purvis told his students, with a little rebellion of his own, “You must attend the Friday rehearsal. After that, you choose.”
“I had no idea what was about to happen,” Purvis recalls, “but within minutes of your arrival, I felt a huge weight lifted. You were not only incredibly organized, you wrapped me and my boys in love and blew us away in music.” He smiles while describing the boys’ reaction when the music started, as heads turned his way and mouthed “Wow!”
Now, students look forward to rehearsals. Several students joined a tour of the Northwest with OAMC and the Adventist Men’s Chorus of Romania. The tour ended in Atlanta, with performances at the General Conference session and Emory University.
One student tearfully called his mother from Georgia, saying “I know what I want to do with my life. I want to teach music in Adventist schools.”
God showed his hand again. During the final concert in Atlanta, a GC delegate from South Africa eagerly sought out OAMC staff to invite OAMC to join the men of his country in preaching a message of multi-cultural, multi-racial unity in Christ through song.
Soon after, OAMC spent a weekend at Milo Academy, with a concert at Jacoby Auditorium, sponsored by churches in and around Roseburg, Ore. The 1,200 seat building was full, with many turned away.
Dwight Morgan, music teacher at Milo, reports, “There is a heightened sense of self, and a deeper spirituality among our students, because OAMC was here.”
Steve Behrmann, former pastor of the Milo Church and Bible teacher, said, “Our whole campus was shaken in a positive way. The boys are excited that they could be men and share the gospel in that way.” When senior recognition night conflicted with an OAMC concert, several wanted to choose OAMC.
On April 14, OAMC will sing with students from Gem State, Milo, Columbia and Walla Walla Valley Academies, Walla Walla University and others of high-school and college age. The concert will be held at 4:30 p.m. at the Adventist Community Church of Vancouver.
It’s the next step on the journey to South Africa in July.
Reserve tickets, follow the OAMC journey, and learn how you can help at www.oamc.org.