Last Friday I had the opportunity to be a part of Restore Fest in Joplin, MO alongside Mercy Me, Mandisa, Hawk Nelson and several others. Almost a dozen bands/artists gathered on two stages in Landreth Park to love on this community in the best way we know how--through music. In response to the countless people who've asked or may be curious as to how it went:
Several weeks ago, I stood before the congregation at Morning Star Church and experienced a particularly poignant moment in worship centered around the brilliant lyric of Matt Redman's:
I'll bring You more than a song
I'll bring You more than a song
It's all about You Jesus.
I challenged individuals to take stock of that which they might be bringing to God--even the most pure and noble things--that could be getting in the way of what God really wants from us... our hearts. This past week as I have reflected on my experience in Joplin last Friday, that simple lyric has echoed in my mind from a whole new perspective.
Make no mistake about it, we came to serve. I, a recording artist and also a worship leader and local Missourian, knew that my band and I could stand alongside the other bands on the docket and steward our gifts to breathe hope and the truth of God's love and mercy into the people of Joplin. I had prayed about the words to say, the songs to sing, scriptures to lift up. We were slated to play on the main stage since the promoter had also assigned to me the distinct privilege of leading--along with several other artists on the bill--a special time of worship to close the entire night. My band was ready... we were well rehearsed for both the afternoon set and the late night worship time. I'd spent weeks on the phone trying to comb through logistics for backline, stage set up, sound and video needs with promoters, fellow artists, road managers, production companies. We packed our van and trailer (no, we weren't in one of the fancy tour busses) full of instruments and gear and we headed into the 100+ temperatures ready to serve.
What happened wasn't what we expected.
The day quickly got away from the production crew and, to make a long story short, all of the artists ended up making cuts to our sets to keep the day moving along. We ended up cutting a few on the afternoon set and weren't able to play that special late night time of worship at all. But, I'm proud to say, we did what we came to do. As I look back, I can confidently say that my band probably loaded and unloaded more gear, loaned more instruments, sacrificed more of our setlists, signed t-shirts and programs for more hours and thanked more volunteers than any other band at that festival. We got to pray with a 12-year old girl who lost family and friends that were only inches away from her when the tornado hit. We were able to drive through some of the hardest hit areas of the city and see--even two and a half months later--the unfathomable extent of the damage. We saw sights and heard stories that hurt our hearts but the faces we encountered lightened up the very core of our souls. It became so very clear that thiscity was desperate for this festival--desperate to be loved on in a different way. Desperate to feel release, to be inspired, even entertained. Desperate to encounter the God of hope and restoration through the beauty of song.
Ah, but more than a song. We only played 4 of those, and in the middle of the afternoon. Oh, we came to serve, and we did exactly that. Just not exactly in all the ways we expected.