JULY 21st - I can finally say I am feeling settled in here in. I left home one week ago and with travel time, getting settled in my new home and getting used to being in an unfamiliar place I have a routine and schedule. Everyone here has been so gracious and amazing. I sometimes wonder if I would be as generous if our places were reversed. I hope so! God’s light shines through the people I get to work with and live with for the next few weeks. I have experienced this several times in the United States where you meet someone and immediately you feel like you have been friends forever and have known each other for a long time. The Holy Spirit truly binds us together and even when our cultures are different, we can still have this amazing bond with people from around the world. Our God is an awesome God!
I think Ryan has also accepted me as a member of the family. Today at lunch, Abraham had a headache and decided it was best to rest for a bit. Feba brought out a laptop Ryan was watching in the other room. She was showing me some of the videos he liked. It didn’t take long and Ryan climbed up in my lap and there we sat watching Charlie Chaplin together. I guess the idea of being a grandpa is starting to grow on me. (SIDE NOTE: Don’t worry Kelsi, Tevan, Tanner & Annie, I will not be pushing to become a grandpa anytime soon!)
I have become Facebook friends with several of the students and they have told me already they found my website and have been reading the blog as well. The last two days I have posted selfies with the conducting class and the composition class. I will do one more selfie of the theory class. All of the students in the theory class I have in the other two but I like having the reminder of who is in each class. So you will see some of the faces in all three class selfies. Those are the students you should probably pray for the most. They have to spend the most amount of time with me.
I am excited to see what each student will bring to the composition class. When we are done, each one will have written a song for the final project. I looked over lyrics today and tomorrow will get to hear some of the melodies they will create. What a privilege to get to see these pieces come to life.
Tonight I have a special treat. We will be going upstairs to have dinner with Thomas and his brother and wife. Thomas stays upstairs in the house and is Abraham’s partner at the school. There are two different schools that are in the building. The college students are there from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. and then the younger students come in for the afternoon and early evening. It is Thomas’ birthday today, so we gathered in the lecture room and the students sang “Happy Birthday.” We also celebrated with cake. We will continue the celebration tonight.
I do miss my family terribly! It is hard to be away for such a long time and also so far from home. But God is being very good to me by providing just what I need when I need it. I look forward to sharing much more in person. Continue to pray for the college and the students. They will have great opportunities to use music to bring glory to God. I plan to stay in touch with them as best I can. It will be great to hear what God will continue to do in there lives!
Oh, I shouldn’t rub this in BUT, the weather has been very nice here. Mid 80s all week long. I see on my weather app that back home it is 100+ all week. I guess you all should have come to India with me.
JULY 19th - My schedule is set for this week and I am off and running. I taught all three classes today and got to work on my name recalling skills. I have to say, I am doing better with this than I expected. It must be the prayers of you faithful followers of my blog. I know it seems like a trivial think to pray for but I really want the students to know how much I care and respect them and calling them by name is a small way I can do that.
As I walked into my first class of the day, all the students rose to their feet and greeted me with a “Good Morning, Sir.” Already I could tell things will not be the same as at home. How about it choir and orchestra? Can I get that same kind of response when I walk into rehearsal? The students were very quiet and attentive. When the class dismissed the students responded with “Thank you, sir.” I have to tell you. I did not mind being referred to as “sir.” At home “sir” always feel like… old man. It will be so good to get to know these students and connect with them. I am sure there will be days they will be sorry I came but overall I pray it will be a great experience for them. I know already it will be for me!
So my daily routine will looks something like this: 7:30 wake-up (which is a great time for me!) - 8:30 breakfast - 9:30 classes at the college (including Music Theory, Conducting, Composition and Piano) 12:30 lunch - 2:00 class ending around 3:30 and then heading home for the day. I have some down time where I can look over lessons for the next day or do some blogging or composing and then dinner around 8:00 and the rest of the night is mine. I am excited because without the distractions of my regular routine at home, I can spend extra time composing, praying, reading and just really working on deepening my relationship with God. I am learning many things as I go on this journey and I know that was part of the plan all along.
Please continue to pray for my family at home. Also pray as I really get to spend time with Abraham & Feba and the students that I can encourage them as much as they have already done so for me.
JULY 18th - Although I did not have to teach today, I did get to meet the students and give them a brief introduction of myself. Chris came for the morning to do a workshop on Church Music for the students and Abraham and I sat in on the class. The team from Vinton Baptist (Chris’ church) joined us after the workshop and got a tour of the school and we headed out together to have lunch. When you are a group of 10 Americans walking around India you tend to draw attention to yourself.
We had a great meal and I enjoyed an oriental noodle chicken dish. Yes, Tami and kids you might get me to a Chinese restaurant yet. And we topped it off with a little ice cream. The Vinton team wanted to do a little shopping so we headed to a nice mall and took a look around. It was 5 or 6 stories tall and had anything you might need. As we waited outside a local stopped and asked if I was an American. He struck up a conversation and then asked to take a selfie with me. I thought that would be all but he kept hanging around and as I moved closer to the group he followed me. He asked a few more questions about where I was staying and why I was in India. It was a very pleasant conversation but I could not figure out why he was so interested. I found myself feeling suspicious and constantly had my had in my pocket to insure that my wallet, camera and iPhone remained in my possession. He also talked to Abraham and asked how he found me to come and teach at the college. When we left the man shook my hand and then hugged me and wished me well.
After we parted I felt bad I had assumed the worst about him, although I think Abraham wondered as well since he kept hanging around. I have included a picture outside the main entrance of the mall, mainly for the percussionists in my family!
We headed back to house and made one last stop for “slippers.” Abraham has been concerned that I might fall on the wet floor in the bathroom in the mornings where I shower and wanted to make sure I would be safe. The “slippers” were rubber flip-flops to give me traction. He and his wife, Feba, have been SO gracious and are really taking wonderful care of me. I feel very comfortable and safe because they are always on the look out for me. I leave you with a picture you can not resist!! This is Feba and their 2-year old son, Ryan outside their home. I think Ryan and I are becoming friends. He let me unwrap his candy for him and I let him conduct with one of my batons.
JULY 17th - I can’t always post these on the day I write them so I will put the day the events happened on each post.
I attended church this morning with Abraham. He is the worship leader for the church. They have an English service at 8:00 a.m. which was the one Abraham played and lead worship and a Malayalam service at 10:30 a.m. which is the largest service. The church is called Life Fellowship and started 20 years ago. Their pastor, Sam, started the church. Life stands for “Living In Faith Everyday.” It was a wonderful service and most of the worship songs are songs we sing at home, “Great Is the Lord,” “How Great Thou Art,” “How Great Is Our God” just to name a few. They sang a beautiful praise chorus in Malayalam that had a chorus of “Hallelujahs.” I was able to pick up and sing-a-long on the choruses. The pastor shared a great challenge on lifting the Word of God about our heads like Moses who held up the staff to give Joshua the victory. The symbol of raising the Word above the struggles of life to keep our focus on God and His word was a great reminder. He actually had everyone raise their Bibles above our heads to drive home the point.
After coming back from church I had a little down time (I took a nap) and then we drove south to the beach and a hotel where Chris Monroe and the team from his church in Vinton, Virginia had just come in earlier in the morning. It was great to meet Chris and his lovely wife Mary Beth in person. They all looked exhausted from the trip and it was hard for me to imagine I had just made that trip one day before them. Chris will be coming to the college tomorrow to do a workshop on church music for the students of the college. I will actually start teaching on Tuesday and my week will run from Tuesday to Saturday each week. Abraham says we will be able to do somethings on Sunday afternoons and Mondays that way.
I am anxious to see the college tomorrow and meet all the students. I won’t have to teach but I will get to introduce myself and hopefully learn some names. I did meet two of the students who were at church this morning. Pray for me to remember names well. This is not a strong suit of mine so I will really have to work hard on it. Also pray that I can get into a good rhythm of teaching for the students and will be productive with the composing I would like to do while I am here.
Oh, for supper tonight, we went to Subway. Abraham is so worried I am not eating enough. I keep reassuring him that I have had plenty to eat and I have truly enjoyed the meals. It has been great because Feba (Abraham’s wife) has been preparing meals and they are being very careful to not give me anything too spicy. They also make sure I have silverware each meal, they use only their hands when they eat. I did attempt to eat my lunch with my fingers but failed miserably. I know that sound crazy but there is an art form to eating a rice dish with your hands. Anyway.. I had a turkey sub and Pepsi tonight for supper so don’t worry Tami and Mom, I will be fine!
JULY 16th - The journey here was not without a few bumps. The long flight was delayed for a little over an hour. I only had a 90 minute layer over in Abu Dhabi. I did make it on the connecting flight but it was necessary to be on a dead run from the minute we landed. It was wonderful that the airline had an attendant at the gate waiting for me and another fellow that was also on the connecting flight. We made the flight but our luggage did not! Abraham was gracious enough to find me something to wear and the luggage is due to arrive this evening.
I had an eventful first day. I had the honor of attending an Indian wedding at the church where Abraham leads worship. It was all in Hindi so I just soaked in the atmosphere of the event. Several pastors spoke from all the churches the couple had been a part. There were several worship songs. “Blessed Assurance” and “In His Time” were sung in English, a soloist sang “Oceans” from Hillsong. It was great experiencing these songs in a new way. We also attended the reception at a beautiful open auditorium and enjoyed the Indian food.
I have been surprised at how nice the weather has been. It is warm and humid but really not any different than it has been at home. In fact today has been really nice and after talking with Tami for a while this afternoon, it sounds like it might actually be hotter at home in Beatrice next week than here.
I also ventured out for a short walk from the house to the main highway and down the highway. I was careful to note signs and things I could use as landmarks to find the right street. The streets are extremely narrow here and you can hardly even see the turn off for your corner. You just have to know it is there. The pictures are the street down to the house (which takes a couple of turns) and then the house where I will be staying. I have a room on the main floor for the first two weeks and then for the last week I will move up to the second story. I have met a couple of neighborhood boys. As a sign of respect they will not call me by name but will either call me “sir” or “uncle.”
Abraham and I are headed to the airport to retrieve the luggage later and than it will be time for a dinner with the family and lights out. I am really excited to go to church with them all in the morning.
After weeks of planning and anticipation the day has finally arrived. I left this morning for India. It will take almost 36 hours before I arrive at my final destination. That includes the layovers between flights and I am currently on the longest layover now. I am sitting here at LAX in the Tom Bradley International Terminal awaiting the longest flight of the trip (16.5 hours).
It was an early morning start leaving Beatrice at 4:00 this morning to catch the flight out of Omaha at 7:25 a.m. I have to admit flying is not my most favorite activity. The only thing I really like about it is the fact it gets you to a place relatively fast. Is 36 hours fast?!? I know, I know, considering I will be on the other side of the globe from my home, 36 hours seems pretty reasonable. I have to say that the first flight take-off and landing were the smoothest I have ever experienced. Kudos to the pilot at American Airlines Flight 485!
I have been a bit anxious the last few days and now that I am in the processing of finally starting this journey, I have to say I am thankful it is here. I will miss my family probably more than I realize but when God calls you to a work, it’s best to follow through. I think that is what is keeping me calm and collected as I navigate this experience on my own with only Him walking beside me. It is hard to explain what that feels like until you have done it yourself. As you look around and see NO familiar faces, the only thing that feels like home is talking to God about where you are, what you are doing and where He wants your next steps to go.
It is my prayer that in this day and a half of traveling time, I can empty myself of me and totally fill myself with His Spirit and this amazing, humbling job God has given me to do in the next three weeks. Pray that the rest of my flights go as planned and when I finally arrive in Thiruvananthapuram I will find Abraham amongst the sea of people. Don’t worry, Abraham and I have been in contact and he assures me he will be able to “catch me” when I come out of the exit.
The next post will be from INDIA!!!!
This past weekend was an amazing weekend and I was humbled to be a part of the 62nd Annual Ocean Grove Choral Festival in Ocean Grove, NJ. One of the best things was getting to travel with a wonderful group of people from my church choir and here in the community. We saw a little bit of NYC on Friday and Saturday and then spent the rest of the time in Ocean Grove on the Jersey Shore. Below is a video of me conducting the 600 voice choir singing my piece called, "This Is Love." I had told you before the choir was 800 and another article said they were expected 1,000. In reality there were 600, which was still an amazing experience.
The people in Ocean Grove were truly welcoming and wonderful. The Quaker Inn where we stayed even had a sign outside the door saying "Welcome, Nebraska, Friends!" Everyone in town and in the festival choir knew we were coming and cheered for us when Jason Tramm (the musical director at OG) introduced us at the rehearsal. Even people in town would stop us and ask, "Are you the group from Nebraska?" You would have thought we were from a foreign country.
It was a great ride and now I turn to Thursday morning when I will board the plane again in Omaha but instead of landing on the East Coast I will land in the Southern tip of India. Please pray as I frantically finish up final details here at home before I head out.
My next post will be as I await my 16.5 hour flight to India in the LAX airport.
One week from today I will be aboard my flight to India. I am sure you are thinking, “It’s about time!” I have to admit, I am feeling a little anxious. I can tell by the way I react to the people and situations I have encountered this past week. The good news, I have a "small" distraction this weekend as I head to New York with 25 wonderful people from my choir and community.
In just a few hours we will be headed to Lincoln and flying to Newark to spend the weekend in Mid-town Manhattan and Ocean Grove. I have the privilege of being one of nine guest conductors for the 62nd Ocean Grove Choral Festival on the Jersey Shore in New Jersey. First we will spend a day and a half in New York, see a few sights and go to see “Aladdin” on Broadway. We head to Ocean Grove on Saturday night and then will be part of the festival on Sunday. The festival choir is made up of 800 voices. That’s right, I will be conducting a choir of 800. They will be singing one of my compositions published by Lorenz called “This Is Love.” I hope to get a video I can share when it is all over. I can’t even imagine what it will be like but I am thrilled to have around 20 of my choir members there singing in the festival choir.
We will return to reality on Monday and then I will have a mad scamper to get everything done before I head back out on Thursday. Please pray I can accomplish everything I need without driving my lovely wife insane. It seems SO many unanticipated things have come up in the last two weeks and I know none of them are a surprise to God so I need to grab hold of Him and by faith venture out. This has been a growing experience for me and I am sure the lessons are not over. Isn’t that what life is all about? Being willing to step out in faith, take a risk and see where He will lead and what He will do!
Thanks for going on this journey with me and continue to pray as I prepare for my departure day. One last note of good news, I got an email from Abraham last week and the books that some of you have donated money to purchase have arrived at the college. For now they sit in a box waiting for me to come and deliver them to the students.
Until next time!
Okay this may be more of a rant than a blog post but I promised I would talk about the things leading up to my departure for India so here it goes…
There are a number of things I hope to have done before I leave the country for almost a month. I want to make sure I have things in place not only for the weeks I am gone from church but I want things to be in good shape for Tami at home. We all know how there is always a list of things to do to keep your household running and in good shape. For us, it seems cars are always a necessary burden. We currently have three at our house. None of them are worth much or even in good running condition. In April coming home from a visit from Northeast Nebraska, Tami met a couple of deer up close and personal. It actually totaled our Honda Odyssey but it is still drivable as long as we don’t drive at night (no headlight). Keeli drives a ’98 Buick LeSabre. At about the same time as the deer incident, her car started leaking oil. Not just a small leak but almost to the point of adding oil as often as we add gas. We also have a ’07 Subaru. We have known for sometime the head gasket was leaking but we have been able to continue to use it as long as we keep watch on the oil. The air-conditioning was also not working. We took it to our mechanic to see if we could do all the repairs needed so we could at least claim we had one working car. Due to the number of miles on the Subaru (191,000) the repairs are far to expensive and our best option was to trade it off. So if you have followed this long and probably boring story, the Boesigers should replace not one, not two but three cars. Our goal was to find at least one before I leave for India so Tami does not have to deal with adding oil or worse yet, breaking down alongside the road. Cars that need a little TLC are really the norm for our household so the LaSabre will not get replaced - we will just continue to baby it along (sorry, Keeli, no new car for you). So the search was on for a replacement for both the Subaru and the Odyssey.
I need to preface this by saying, I know some people probably enjoy the idea of getting a new car. For Tami and I, it falls somewhere between cleaning the toilets and scooping manure! We started looking for a car last weekend. The extent of the search was driving through some big dealerships, not even getting out of the car. In fact at one dealership a group of salesman stood watching for victims… I mean customers and as we slowly drove by one of the salesman approached the car (while it was still moving) and I panicked and we drove off. We did finally get out of the car at a lot where the owner was very low key and gave us space. The next option was to come home and do a little searching online. We found 3 cars at one lot and decided to try again on Tuesday. After spending 3 grueling hours, driving 4 different cars and haggling we found something we really liked. We didn’t buy it that day, we needed time to crunch the numbers and to decide if this was the right choice for us. Of course the salesman was pressuring us to at least put a deposit on the vehicle. We gave him the bottom line, to which he was pretty certain the manager would not go that low and he refused to even take the offer to the manager because we weren’t committing to the sale. Funny thing, before we walked out the door, he said the manager approved the price we asked for and would honor it for 24 hours. We decided to take the deal because in reality it was a good deal but MAN… do we hate the process.
So I can leave the country knowing Tami has a reliable car AND I can look forward to going through the process of buying a car one more time when I get home to get a replacement for the van. There are still many things I wish I could say will be done before I leave but let’s be real, keeping up with your job, home, cars and life in general is a never ending job. BTW... two weeks from today, I will be landing in India! WOW!
Until next time!
I have about two weeks to get everything ready for my time teaching in India as well as having everything prepared and covered for the worship services at Christ Community. This is the first time in 25 years I have had the services planned 7 weeks ahead. I have one more Sunday before the adventure begins. The good news, I have all three classes outlined and almost all the lesson plans done. My goal is to finish those plans up this week.
Although I feel I do a good amount of teaching as I conduct my rehearsals, I am looking forward to being in a formal classroom setting and spending one on one time with students. As a composer, I am especially excited for the chance to do some writing and to communicate some of this experience through the medium of music. If you remember a few weeks ago I had lunch with Abe. He grew up in Thiruvananthapuram. I asked him if there would be Indian folks songs or sacred music that he thought I might be able to use to create new arrangements for choirs here. He suggested I look up songs written by Sadhu Kochoonju Upadesi. He was was a famous Malayali Christian preacher, poet and composer born in 1883 and was the leader of many missionary movements in Kerala. Upadesi wrote many songs that are now used in the churches in India. Much like the hymns of Wesley and Luther that we sing. I was able to find a website dedicated to his life and ministry with recordings of his songs. However, I could not find any scores for the pieces he had written. So one of the steps in the process will be to notate the songs I would like to use. I to translate them into English and create arrangements I can bring back for my choir. I will also be working on an orchestral work based of either some of the melodies of Upadesi or of Indian folks songs that I can program on the October concert for the Beatrice Regional Orchestra.
If you are interested in finding out more about Sadhu Kochoonju Upadesi, check out the website (www.sadhukochukunjuupadesi.com) and take a listen to a few of his songs.
Since this post already has a couple of unrelated subjects, I’m going to finish off with one more bit of information. Last Friday I sent off my piano books and the conducting books some of you helped purchase. The fee to ship a box of 25 piano books and 10 conducting books weighing 14 pounds was $90.96. I was thrilled I got off for less than $100.
Until next time!
This blog will journal my experiences as I prepare to go overseas this July and teach at the Asian Christian College of Music in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala in India.