Well – we’re home! After delayed flights, long layovers, and lots of laughs, we’re back in beautiful South Africa. But let me tell you about the second half of our stay in the USA.
With Doug busy at work we were left in the hands of our new friend Larry, and he took us out to a wonderful Civil War Museum, Wilson’s Creek Battlefield. This is the actual site of an important Civil War battle in 1861. We watched a documentary and walked around the museum in awe, before heading out to actual farm that it all took place on. What a chilling but powerful experience.
2nd gig: First Baptist Church concert
Then soon it was time for our second gig: a full concert at First Baptist Church in Ash Grove. This is Doug and Kristen’s home church, and we’d already met everyone and made some great friends there, so we were very excited to share our songs with them. A great crowd turned out despite a thunderstorm just before we began (the saying is, if you don’t like the weather in Missouri, wait 30 minutes!) and we were all ready to go.
We taught them some South African words (“howzit” and “lekker”) and then launched into our songs. Take a look at our setlist:
Powerful stuff! People sang loudly with “Soldiers” as always, and loved “Sinner’s Blues”. Rich’s “I Need You” and “Come Unto Me” were very moving and many people commented on how special those songs are. We loved singing Darren Flood’s “Just For a Moment” which he wrote on September 11 2001. And finally we got to sing “Hammer No More”, which was the song that made it all happen. We told the whole story of tracking Doug down and getting his permission. And then we sang it. I was so nervous – it felt almost like doing an exam! But Doug was super supportive and excited and had great things to say – and I think the people of the church saw a different side of him in that song and that story.
Afterwards we spent forever talking to people and just enjoying some encouraging words. We were – as always – just excited to think that God uses these songs to speak to people and bring joy and encouragement and truth to them.
What a day, what a blessing. God gets the glory, always. Thank you Lord, for giving us this opportunity!
The next day Doug took us up to the studio where Chronos recorded “Hammer No More” and their whole “Downpour” album, Studio 2100. This was a real treat for us – this song has been such a big part of our journey, and to see where it all happened was a delight! We met Jeff Smith who owns the studio, and him and Doug reminisced a little, remembering recording both Chronos albums and the instruments and techniques they used. Jeff listened with great interest to the story of us tracking Doug down to record the song, and spoke of how powerful he always found that track. Here’s a pic of us, with Jeff on the left and Doug on the right:
Sickness and a cancelled gig
On Friday morning, I woke up with a terrible cough! I spent the day coughing and spluttering and blowing my nose endlessly. Come Saturday I was flat on my back, and went to the urgent care at a local hospital. I had a nasty case of sinusitis it seems, and we were so disappointed to have to cancel our gig at Springfield Music, the local music store.
I was ready to cancel our Sunday service but the guys encouraged me to push through. And I’m so glad they did!
3rd gig: Life Church, Springfield
Our last gig of the visit was at a new church in the area called Life Church. Doug’s friend Evan set it all up for us, and we were so glad to have the opportunity to do the whole service.
Of course, I was really quite sick and had a quick nap before the service to get some strength! You can hear in the Facebook Live video below how some of the notes were a struggle.
BUT, the verse I kept thinking of was from 2 Corinthians: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” And man, this was so true. Because it wasn’t my voice we wanted people to hear, and it wasn’t us we wanted to the people to see. It was all about Him. The words of the songs, telling His story and bringing the people to Him. And so as I sat there sniffing away, God was working, and He just shook people with these songs.
I wonder to myself: would less of Him come through if I had been on full form? Possibly.
Anyhow, I was excited to do my Never Again talk, and I was wondering how it would translate over in America. Would it touch them the way it does the people back home? And of course it did – because everyone needs to know that there is grace, love and compassion at the foot of the cross. Everyone!
So we made it through, and had a great lunch with the congregation after. One lady told me she was praying for me the whole time I was singing, cos she could see that I was about to fall over! And many people commented on Come Unto Me, and Never Again, and Hammer No More, and just what a blessing it was.
Luke catching a quick nap to get some strength for the service!
Posted by Bryan Stephens on Sunday, April 9, 2017
Looks like we might come back to this church in the future. The Pastor has a plan to do a big revival at the university around the corner, and there’s a chance we’ll come back to do the worship. Let’s see what happens!
On Sunday night we finally got to spend some time with Doug. He’s a busy man – working in the medical field, his hours are hectic. But eventually we sat down and spent some great time learning all about Chronos, his music, and how our doing “Hammer No More” and coming to visit was a massive encouragement to him. The more we chatted to him the more we realized, this trip was hardly about the gigs we played. God had something much deeper going on.
Doug spent his childhood as part of a family band called The Anchors, who travelled around from church to church, just as we do here in South Africa. We went through a whole bunch of pictures and he gave us some of their old recordings. Then he told us all about his band Chronos, and their journey. I’ve always loved that whole album, and so to get a signed copy from him was brilliant! We saw some posters and articles on Chronos and their trip to Kenya and South Africa in 2005.
Here’s the actual sheet music for our favourite song Hammer No More, as well as some handwritten lyrics for “Downpour”:
Here’s the album on iTunes. Go buy it. Now! https://itunes.apple.com/fr/album/downpour/id215622689?l=en
We made so many new friends over there.
Firstly Doug and his wife Kristen, who were full of love and hospitality and let us take up some space in their home. What great people. We are so very grateful for everything they did for us over the two weeks!
Then Joyce and Larry, who took us around Springfield and gave us the best possible tour. They made our stay so worthwhile.
Here we are with Doug's mom Joyce and step-dad Larry. They were such a blessing to us.
We also got to meet the keyboardist from Chronos, Christopher Franklin. Great guy! He’s the one who actually put us in touch with Doug in the first place, when I started chatting to him on Facebook.
I'm so glad I got to meet my friends from Johannesburg South Africa tonight. Their band, CrossRoad, got blessed to come…
Back home again
And then, in the blink of an eye, we were back at the airport and on our way home. Our flight in Chicago was delayed, and so when we finally arrived in Washington to catch our last plane home, the flight had left! We were just starting to panic when a man seemed to appear out of thin air and helped us onto to a new flight to get us home. We’re still trying to figure out if he a real man or an angel, because it was incredible how he showed up at the right time and sorted us out. Without him I think we would still be floundering at the airport!
This is Jamie Larounis. When our Chicago flight was delayed, we arrived in Washington too late and missed our next…
So instead of a 17 hour flight from Washington to JHB, we flew to London, where we had a 7 hour layover, including a lot of stretching and uncomfortable sleeping in chairs! And then on Wednesday night we finally hopped onto our plane home, and landed at OR Tambo at 6:30 Thursday morning. Oh man, what a good feeling to be home!
And so our USA trip is done. Can you believe it! After all those months of build up. It’s clear to me that God uses us in ways we never plan. We always hope that God will take our music and put into the hands of someone who can open doors and get us onto the big stage. But that never happens – God always does things differently, and it always works out in just the best way.
Now we will rest for a few weeks… And then we start recording our new album, There’s a Light.
God bless everyone. Thanks for the prayers and support these past weeks!
Luke and the band