William Cowper, the 18th Century English poet and hymnodist once penned:
“God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform…”
How often we focus our minds on one thing─a specific task, trying to find a solution to that one problem─a way to help, and God presents us with a completely different opportunity to be used in ways we would never have imagined.
Since joining the Adventist church, it has been a desire of mine to participate in a mission trip and to serve others in a very hands-on way. Being a professional musician comes with benefits, in that I am often called to minister through music, and while being the first to argue for the immense value of the arts, I sometimes find myself questioning the impact of my contribution in the context of God’s call to witness and help the least fortunate. Is music my ONLY calling, or is there also something more tangible that I can do?
“… There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work…Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it…”
(1 Corinthians 12: 1-31)
There is however a difference between understanding this passage, and feeling significant or purposeful in your role. God in his infinite wisdom saw that I had a lesson to learn: that I have God-given talents that can be used in very meaningful ways.
Recently an oboist friend of mine retired at the youthful age of 83 to move to Italy and enjoy fine opera and food. Right before she left, I came home to find two massive bags of music and method books as well as several pounds of reed cane waiting at my door. This was an extremely valuable gift, and a completely unexpected act of generosity. Many of the books I had been hoping to obtain some day, and the cane would keep me supplied for many years to come. I removed out the duplicate books with the intention of someday finding worthy students who could benefit from them. I thanked my friend profusely, and promised to pay it forward, somehow.
My search for suitable mission work was interrupted by a call from a close friend. She had spent the summer in Panama working with the students at the Instituto Nacional de Musica near where I would soon be vacationing. Her call became a request to deliver much needed supplies to the students there. Despite Panama’s vast shipping industry, access to specialized materials is extremely limited. The oboe studio at Instituto Nacional de Musica shares one Barrett Oboe Method book from 1974─older than me and in much worse condition. Many of the pages had dry-rotted and were crumbling away from the duct-taped binding. In contrast I owned my first Barrett book (a basic foundational study necessary for all oboists to master) at age 13, my second, revised version, at 18, and currently possess 5 total Barrett books for use in my private studio. Other music the students have to find online and download. Since not all music is available in this format, this limits their education.
Coincidence? I think not!!!
After initial nerves over language barriers, and fear of intentions getting lost in translation, I made contact with the oboe professor and some of his students. They were incredibly excited about the prospect of receiving supplies. Soon, my suitcase was packed full of cane and music, some donated by other area oboists. Then off to Panama I went.
A simple act of being able to give away a gift that was given to me, turned into a blessing. I sat with the students for a couple of hours just listening to their stories and watching them flip through the books of music with joy, including two new Barrett books. They were full of hope and eager to get to work, and I know that one day they too will pay it forward.
Many times I feel that the Lord sends me messages that I need to hear through other people. While discussing the challenges of the artistic life, one student very wisely said to me: “Only some people are born for the big things, but we are all born for something. Whatever we do in life, we
should strive to be meaningful not what we
perceive to be great or famous.”
So there it is Lord, I hear you. Whatever you would have me do with my hands, I shall rejoice in You and not ask for those things that I perceive to be better. Instead, I shall do what you place before me and be content with what I am given─and do it to the best of my abilities. As Ecclesiastes 9:10 says: “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might…”
One day I hope to hear my Master say: “Well done, good and faithful servant!…” (Matthew 25:21)