People often ask how we decide our partnerships for Be The Change Youth Initiative. There’s no real answer to that question except the Holy Spirit. Sometimes it’s just a matter of talking to someone and knowing we’re meant to work with them. Other times, Sydney finds an organization, reads about their mission and says, “I think we should help them.” That was the case with Guitars for Glory, a non-profit based in Rochester, New York.
In the fall of 2018, we kept seeing their posts on our Instagram feed. Pictures of people around the world receiving guitars. Videos of some in Africa, overwhelmed with joy and gratitude, receiving the gift of music. Two things that capture Sydney’s heart: music and world travel. (It’s only a matter of time before she’s gone. Not just out of the house… um… RV. But, on a plane or boat headed to some other continent.) So, we reached out to see if we could get involved. The timing was serendipitous. (That’s code for Jesus.) They had just received a request for instruments headed to Uganda with an organization called Reaction Tour. The cost would be over $1,000.
At that point, we were praying about how to proceed with Be The Change Youth Initiative. Would we even continue the mission at all? Between the costs for creating the music for Be The Change Collective, our travel expenses, and merchandise, we were hemorrhaging money. We also give most of our profits away, which really isn’t a sustainable business model. (But, we also knew the Lord was calling us to do it this way. He still is and it drives people crazy. Especially church people, ironically enough.) We were at a crossroad, but we also knew this was a need we could help meet, so we asked if we could help.
That December, we asked kids to use their gifts and talents to help raise the money. Some of these kids baked Christmas cookies and held hot chocolate stands. It was a seasonal rendition of our Fundraising Initiative, which raised approximately $1,300 for the instruments needed for the Reaction Tour. But, it was so much more than that. I remember a parent telling me how thankful she was to have something her kids could be a part of during the holiday season. Something that puts their attention on others and not the Target Christmas catalog. (Again, we knew there was something to this thing, a little engine that we knew COULD be a catalyst for change. But we just didn’t know how. We still don’t! But this little engine is still truckin’ so we’re still going.)
We wanted to visit our friends at Guitars for Glory, so we decided to make Rochester our first stop as we headed down Texas to start our work with Make-A-Wish. I feel like I could write a book about all the things that happened that weekend. The Lord confirmed so much about our decision to walk away from everything. First, we met with the youth pastor from Jeff Roeter’s church. (Jeff is one of the founders of Guitars for Glory.) You can imagine how hesitant we were to meet with him given our past experiences. But, this meeting was a breath of fresh air. Listening to him speak about the need for Sydney’s generation to be equipped for discipleship, instead of entertained with silly antics, was the encouragement we needed.
This was followed up with a tour of a local pregnancy care center in Rochester where we heard about their work in the community. We also shared with them our story and the Carry On Project. It was the first time we dropped of the download cards for Carry On. Our hope has been to drop these cards off at pregnancy care centers as we travel the country. It points women to our website, where they can read our story and download the song for free. It’s still the most visited page on our website.
The night ended with an amazing dinner at Jeff’s home. Many of the Board Members for Guitars for Glory joined us and from the moment we met them we knew they were OUR people. The people we have prayed the Lord would bring into our lives. Those sometimes seemingly non-existent like-minded people who actually live their lives, imperfectly as it may be, like Jesus is real and that our purpose in this life is to glorify Him. They don’t pretend to have all the answers, but constantly look to the One who does. They don’t shy away from the hard things. They make mistakes, but are quick to own them… to learn from them. These are our people.
We crammed into the living room after dinner to share our story. It’s crazy to think about it now. I mean, the story up to that point was pretty amazing, but what He’s done since we’ve been on the road… it all seems so surreal. The kids also got a chance to share their music. Brayden singing for the second time in front of a group of people. An INTIMATE group of people. I still remember how nervous he was. He’s definitely not the same kid he was five months ago. None of us are.
I think the most memorable moment of the night came at the end. You see, a funny thing happened almost as soon as we started the journey: The internal pick up on Brayden’s guitar stopped working. Super problematic when you’re a touring musical act that only uses a guitar. We were hoping one of the guys from Guitars for Glory could fix it, but they actually did something even better. They gave Brayden a brand new guitar. It was a brand we had never heard of before: Gopher Wood. (It’s probably a brand we will never be without again!) So many songs have been written on that guitar over the past five months. The kids share it on stage. (Sydney’s Taylor cost more than my first car, but she loves Brayden’s guitar!) A lot of healing has taken place as Sydney and Brayden have used that instrument to create melodies for the words the Lord has placed on their hearts. Sydney’s face in the picture below says it all. It was an extravagant gift, unexpected. Treasured. Much like the people who filled the room that night.
Some of those people have truly become like family to us. Jeff’s mom, Kathy, (seen in the picture below), is part of a small group of women I have praying for us while on the road. Jeff has arguably become my kids biggest cheerleader. As a parent, you pray for people like him to enter into their lives. A voice you trust, speaking truth in such a way that your kids will listen… even if it’s the same thing you’ve said a gazillion times! They’ve reached out to Jeff several times on the road to ask for help, or advice, and he’s always quick to respond.
THIS is what we envisioned our grand adventure being filled with. Moments that filled our cup and reminded us why we’re on the journey. Moments like these have most definitely occurred, but it’s been sporadic. They actually come at the exact moment one of us is ready to throw in the towel. It’s not a coincidence. I can give you at least 20 examples. And you’ll read about them in the weeks ahead. But, for this weekend, it was about more than encouragement. The Lord was widening or circle, growing our family. We’re so thankful for these people!