Friday, April 16, 2010

Thoughts on Tour

Well, unfortunately due to lack of internet access I didn’t have time to do daily updates like I wanted.  Oh well—it was nice to spend time with my students and the church families that hosted us for the duration of the tour.  I certainly had a lot of fun getting to know my students more on a personal level.  I’ve learned many things about their lives, backgrounds, and spiritual levels.   They are such a special bunch to me and will always hold the position of my very first performance group at MACU.  We have a lot of funny moments and stories to share, and I’m hoping many of them will be posting on their blogs and Facebook pages about what they have seen and done. 

I’m going to try to recap this trip to the best of my ability.  If anyone reading this has thoughts to add, please feel free to share them in the comments area below! 

Friday, April 9thThis was our original departure date.  Unfortunately, we had a church cancel on us about 3 weeks prior and rather than asking another church to host us at the last minute, we decided to just start our tour one day later.  This was actually better because it gave my students an additional day to attend class before leaving for the week and time to take care of last minute tour items.  One of those items included moving the vans across campus closer to the dorms for the students.  Stephanie and Dave happened to be in the parking lot and they got a crash course on Amanda Avery driving 15 passenger vans.  All I will say is this:  my feet do not reach the pedals, therefore I had to sit way up in the seat.  I am (and I’m sure my students are) most thankful that Mike and Dave (and sometimes Erin) agreed to drive for the duration of the trip!

Something I haven’t shared is that our percussionist and his wife were unable to join us on the tour at the very last minute.  They had several things going on and finally made the decision not to go.  I got the phone call on Tuesday and my immediate thought was panic, but I immediately started praying and called Chris.  After a few moments I was ok and after some more prayer, a discussion with two of my students, Evan and Dave, and some more prayer, I made the decision to forgo trying to replace our percussionist and just do the tour without one.  We were hoping to practice on Friday, but then we remembered Oasis was this past weekend at the school and the timing was just not in our favor. 

I decided to spend the night because we were meeting at 7:00am on Saturday morning and I certainly did not want to leave Greenville at 5:00am before driving on the road all day.  I spent the night at the Fields’ and that was fun.  Dr. Fields is a professor at the school and his wife works with admissions.  It was nice to get to know them better, indulge in a little pizza and Dairy Queen (which Dr. Fields consistently denies his obsession with the place), trip to Walmart for last minute items for our trip, and spent the night watching a movie.  I must say that the staff at MACU has been very, very supportive through this whole adventure and I am so blessed to be working with them!

Saturday, April 10thI woke up with a lot of butterflies in my stomach as I was getting ready for the day.  I knew we had a long drive, I was really missing my kids, and I was in a constant state of prayer.  I arrived at the school, met the students, loaded the vans, and had a quick prayer with Dr. Perkins before heading out to Florida. 

We took two vans and I rode with Dave, Chris Matchem, Stephen, Asheton, Mary, Jared, and Stephanie.  Mike drove the van with Erin, Landon, Hassie, Cooper, and Evan and all the equipment.  It was a fun day of driving and Stephen was smart to bring the game “Apples to Apples.”  I don’t want to brag or anything, but I won. 

The day was very long and by the time we arrived in Jacksonville, Florida at Starratt Road Christian Church, we were more than ready to stop for the night.  We had a sound check in the church after a cookout at a nearby church family’s home.  It was a little crazy trying to get our sound right in a new facility without a percussionist, while the families that were hosting us were anxious for us to get done.  I will give a shout out to Mike—he handled the sound for us at each church as well as the whole school year, and he is very talented and blessed with the ability to hear and make the sound “work.”  I am so incredibly blessed to have had him in this class this year.  He manages to work through any system with excellence, as well as providing me with much needed comedic relief at the most stressful moments. 

That evening Erin and I went to stay at the home of a family from the church.  The wife was from Barbados and the husband from upstate New York.  They had the most adorable son and cute dog and it was a nice change from the van! 

Sunday, April 11th
We got up early the next morning for one more sound check, attend Sunday School, and prepare for morning worship at the church.  The biggest fear I had going into this service is that everyone would be so tired and dead, but the students were so alive and energetic and I was overwhelmed with joy during their worship set. 

This, this, THIS is why I love my job.  I actually get paid to worship with my students.  I mean, honestly, it doesn’t get much better than that!

The church fed us a pasta lunch and then we headed across town to Englewood Christian Church for our evening set.  We had about an hour to kill so we headed to a local mall for browsing and give students time to pick up some items they may have forgotten.  When we arrived at Englewood we were immediately greeted by some of the kindest people I have ever worked with in ministry.  Now, I do not want anyone to think that the other churches were less than kind, but this congregation welcomed us into their church and homes with grace and love.  We had a sound check, ate dinner, and then prepared for evening worship.  The students knocked it out of the park—WOW!  It was so, so good.  I couldn’t believe what can only be described as Holy Static (or Spirit!) in the room.  You could feel the presence of the Lord and we worshipped.  It was fantastic!

After the service we went to our respective homes and once again Erin and I spent the night at the same home.  We stayed with the most wonderful couple.  He was an elder in the church and she was involved in many groups and activities in the church.  They were so wonderful and so fun!  They even had an orange tree growing in their backyard!  Erin drew some really cute pictures on the posters we were using in the children’s chapel we were performing at the next morning, and Mrs. Moseley and I helped color. 

Monday, April 12thHappy Birthday to my sisters, Erin, and my sister-in-law, Stacy!

We all met at the church to lead the chapel for the 2-5 year olds at the church’s daycare.  They were so cute!  My students were so good with all of the small children—telling a story and acting it out, blowing bubbles, singing songs, and engaging with the children.  There were about 60 small children in the room and they were so precious!

Immediately afterwards we went to the local Christian high school and talked about MACU and making good decisions when selecting a college.  It was a nice change of pace and we were fortunate enough to spend the day outside in the school’s patio area. 

After that we went to a nearby shopping center—wonderful, wonderful, wonderful! It was fun looking around at different stores and seeing what my students were into.  Instead of shopping, Landon, Dave, and Evan went to a nearby skate park and had a great time.  I was most proud of Evan for getting the guys back on time so we could head back to the church for dinner.  We were fed again and then went to our host families for one more night.  Erin and I watched a movie with Mrs. Moseley because Mr. Moseley was attending the Mike Huckabee event at Florida Christian College.  It was a nice relaxing evening and I was very glad to just sit and relax!

Tuesday, April 13thWe met early at the church for prayer and then headed to Orlando for the day.  We checked into our hotel rooms and divided into our activities for the day.  Mike, Erin, Stephen, Mary, Jared, Stephanie, Cooper, Hassie, and I headed over to Universal Studios Islands of Adventure.  Dave, Landon, and Evan headed over to the Vans Skate Park, and Asheton and Chris met family and friends in the area. 

WHAT A GREAT DAY!  We had such good weather at the park and park attendance was very low so we rode every ride we wanted several times, normally with a 5-minute wait!  Most of the time it took longer to get through the queue area then to actually wait in line for the rides.  We had such a blast riding crazy rides like the Hulk and Jurassic Park.  It was so fun to just relax with my students and be with them in an out of school environment.  Being 30 years old makes it very interesting to work with college students.  Some of them are younger than me and others are slightly older.  It’s so funny because I hate to make the older ones call me by “Mrs. Avery” and it’s strange because I’m not much older than them.  So, most of them have resorted to calling me either “Avery” or “Amanda” and I really don’t care.  In fact, I told some of them to please just call me something nice.  I figure, in just a few years (some less than one) I will be in ministry with them and we’ll be equals.  So, for right now I respond to just about anything.  I may change my mind when I’m 40. 

That evening the group went to Hard Rock Café for dinner.  YUM!  We walked back to the hotel as we were only staying about a mile from the park.  I was so proud of my students—they were not obnoxious at the hotel or ridiculous in the park. 

Wednesday, April 14thWe all ate breakfast at the hotel—Holiday Express Suites Cinnamon Rolls and I are BFFs.  We then drove over to Downtown Disney and shopped and ate lunch at the Rainforest Café with Mike, Erin, Stephanie, Stephen, Asheton, and Landon.  I bought some really cute items for my girls—especially with Lily’s birthday coming up.  I also picked up trinkets for Rachel and Tyler since they have been awesome with our kids this year and we all know how obsessive Tyler Morgan is about all things DW!  I found an awesome little trinket for my sister as well—but I will not post all of these items as they all read my blog and I want them to be a surprise! J  I was really missing my girls, especially as I saw all the little girls getting dolled up in the princess boutique.  So sweet! 

After Downtown Disney, we loaded up and headed to Titusville (home of the Kennedy Space Center) for a performance at First Christian Church—and met up with the famous Steve Jackson.  Steve worked at MACU/RBC before me and many of the students were so excited to see him!  I really liked Steve a lot and he was super sweet to us.  He was very thoughtful and it was nice to see a familiar face (via Facebook for me!) while on the road.  The students enjoyed dinner (a fish fry!) and had another performance that night.  I could tell they were really tired and that the wear and tear of being on the road had gotten to them, but they did a good job.  Chris Matchem BROUGHT DOWN THE HOUSE with his message—fantastic!

That night Stephanie and I spent the night with two ladies who attended the church.  They were very gracious and had a lovely home—their screened back patio was HUGE with a pool, hot tub, and plenty of seating for events.  It was awesome!  They were so cute and I really enjoyed talking to them and Stephanie before we went to bed.  I was very tired and glad to hit the bed that evening!

Thursday, April 15thStephanie and I went to breakfast at Denny’s before meeting the group at the church for our early departure.  We spent all day on the road headed to South Carolina.  When we arrived we walked into the church and were a little apprehensive.  The church was small, had limited sound equipment, and no 3-pronged outlets.  However, Mike and I had a small meeting, we had a pep talk, and decided to forgo the sound equipment other than very limited condenser mic-age and 

It.  Was.  Fabulous.

Whoa, I cannot begin to express the sound, the worship, and the spirit of the room.  I will say this, totally risking Mike and I's street credit (Mike’s more so than mine) that we were even able to worship in the sound booth.  There may or may not have been tears involved in that sound booth.  I was so blown away.  I have been to many worship events and been involved in many concerts, but very few have made me feel like I did last night.  I wish, I wish, I wish I could convey to you the joy in that room. 

That night I was invited to stay at the choir director’s home.  Mrs. Ernestine has been the director at the church since 1954.  Her husband, Frank, had Alzheimer’s disease and it was sad to talk to him at times.  He was diagnosed 4 years after they married (second marriages for both) and for the past 8 years she has cared for him.  They lived in a beautiful home on the river and I cannot imagine a more peaceful place to live.  Her first husband died in his early 40s of a heart attack leaving her with 9 and 11 year old boys. She credits it all to God—and both of her sons are currently ministers.  One is a minister in Jacksonville, FL and the other is the senior minister at Savannah Christian Church.  

Yes.  That Savannah Christian Church.  

She is a great woman of God and has an incredible story.  She also has been a public speaker for year and even spoke one year at First Church in Washington, NC!  She was most gracious and kind—and it was so sweet to see her take care of her husband.  I had a terrible headache last night and after taking a Tylenol PM I was out for the night.  

Friday, April 16th: Today we met at the church at 7:00am for breakfast and then got on the road.  We are so excited to get home (as I am currently putting this blog down in Word so I can post when I get home) and I love our van.  We’ve been jokingly calling it the Perfect Van all week because we have such a good blend of personalities.  We’ve laughed, talked, snoozed, and had a great time.

Right now we are filling up the vans with gas and Landon is running around in the parking lot with a zebra Snuggie on.  Oh dear. 

My final thoughts on this tour—I have so many.  First, it has been hard to be away from my family and I missed them more when I was in the homes or around small children.  However, the families really were good comfort for me.  They were such an encouragement on being a better mommy, wife, and friend.  I’m ready to see my family, but it wasn’t as terrible as I thought it would be. 

Second, this trip has reaffirmed why I love my job and my students so much.  I can’t tell you how blessed I am to work with these students and future leaders of the church.  I adore them. I adore my job.  I mean it—I really, really, really love my job. 

Finally, God is so good.  I have had every prayer answered, and when they weren’t answered in a way I imagined; God gave me something even better in return.  I began praying for this tour last summer—praying for students with a heart for ministry and music.  Students who would get along and love one another and would take me in, as the new music professor, who can’t begin to fill the shoes of the Queen, and that our tour would go smoothly.  God is so, so good all the time. 

So, I wrap this up with a Top Ten List for my students who may be reading this.  If you weren’t on the trip, you may feel the need to pray for us, but trust that these were the moments that I look back on and smile. 

Top 10 Moments (which may eventually find their way on the shirts)

10. “I DON’T CRY!”
9.   “Is Landon sleeping?”
8.  Host Families: Words of Wisdom
7. “Are those bubbles coming out of your mouth?”
6. “Don’t get it twisted!”
5. The Janki Store, South Carolina
4.  Ka-trina
3. “He Thinks You’re Sexy”
2. “Shhhhhhhhhh!”
1. Chaka Kahn, the Great Mongolian Leader

Students, I adore you.

MACU is a great school.

God is good. 

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