Our Youth Ministry has spent a lot of time moving our feet over the last few weeks. We have finally finished our three-peat — Middle School Mission Blitz, followed by High School Mission Trip, followed by Youth Choir Tour — and we all survived. In particular, Youth Choir Tour requires more moving than any of our other trips — we sang in a different city every day, stayed the night at different churches every night, and covered 5 states in 6 days. It was a weird and wonderful week where Plan A went out the window as the bus left Fort Worth and we came up with Plan B and C on the fly. We swam in the ocean and got to hold a baby alligator. We missed more showers than we got to take and we spent a night in a 2-bath house with zero working toilets. We ate at a place that throws hot rolls at you as soon as they come out of the kitchen (it’s called Lambert’s, and I highly recommend it) and ate ground-beef tacos for breakfast. We watched all three Mighty Ducks movies and took naps on the floor of the bus. We visited historical sites and we got to wander through the French Quarter of New Orleans. We sang for people at retirement facilities, nursing homes, and a children’s living center, and worshiped in community with people from other cities and invited them into our choir-tour family.
There are a lot of moments from Choir Tour that I could tell you about. Some of them would make you laugh, some of them would make you cry, some of them would probably confuse you and some of them would make you proud (and if you would like, any of our youth would be glad to tell you some stories) — but in a weird twist for a blog post from an Associate Director of Youth Ministries, I’m going to focus on one moment that has nothing to do with the youth that were with us on Choir Tour.
Except that it has everything to do with the youth in our ministry.
Because Plan A never really made it out of Fort Worth, we had to shift some of our activities around. We had originally intended to stop at the Civil Rights Memorial Center in Montgomery, Alabama but because we weren’t going to make it in time for them to be open we changed course and made a detour to Selma. We first stopped at Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Selma, where John Lewis, Hosea Williams, and others organized and began the Selma-to-Montgomery march on March 7, 1965 — what became known as “Bloody Sunday” — and looked at the Martin Luther King, Jr. monument that sits out front. And then we came to the impromptu decision that we were going to walk across a bridge.
The Edmund Pettus Bridge.
As we crossed the bridge, my heart was heavy as I thought about everything that bridge symbolizes. In the 1940s, it was a symbol of white supremacy and dominance in the South and was named after a Confederate general and Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan. In the 1960s, it was the location of the horror of “Bloody Sunday” and became a symbol for the civil rights movement.
On that day, it was a reminder to me of what we are called to as Christians.
On one of the memorials on the south side of the bridge honors John Lewis — one of the leaders of the Selma-to-Montgomery march and current member of the U.S. House of Representatives — and it bears these words: “When we pray, we move our feet.” I haven’t been able to get them off my mind since. Each of us had a different experience that day — some people were quiet, some nervously talked and laughed, some people felt the weight that I did and some took in the sights of the water and the trees.
My experience of walking across that bridge had nothing to do with our youth. Every step I took, I tried to understand what it must have felt like walking over that bridge that day — the determination it must have taken, the fear they must have felt, the confusion and the chaos when the violence started, the perseverance to continue pressing on for freedoms we take for granted.
“When we pray, we move our feet.” Those words have everything to do with our youth.
We did a lot of moving our feet last week — we covered over 1,600 miles. We sang Disney songs that brought people joy and reminded them of happier times. We sang hymns that brought back memories of loved ones and caused people (and choir members) to tear up. We laughed, we played, we napped and we became a family.
We also prayed a lot last week. We sat with people, sang with them, and talked with them. We heard their stories, felt their tears, held their hands, and let them know they were loved.
The irony of the Edmund Pettus Bridge has never been lost on me — what was dedicated as a symbol of white supremacy became an iconic site and hallowed ground for the civil rights movement. This trip also became something else — what started as a Disney Dazzle youth Choir Tour became an amazing experience of watching our youth connect with people through music and loving on them. Every step they took this week was a prayer for people — for the other members of Youth Choir, for the adults and staff that were with us, for the people we were singing to and even for the people that just asked us where we were from.
I’m not an expert on civil rights, the history of the South, the architecture of bridges or even in youth. All I know is what I saw. And I saw our youth live out words that most of them had never heard in crazy and weird and unexpected ways. I only hope that we can follow their lead.
“When we pray, we move our feet.”
Associate Director of Youth Ministries