Northwestern’s A cappella Choir will travel to Europe this spring break to perform for and minister to the people of the Czech Republic, Austria and Poland. Seventy choir members and three professors will begin their journey on Feb. 27 and return March 9. The choir will be touring under the guidance of Christian Outreach International, an agency that has worked with NW’s Symphonic Band, football and wrestling teams in the past
The choir was able to raise $42,000 with the help of family and friends before Christmas Break began. According to Assistant Professor of Music Thomas Holm, conductor of the A cappella Choir, “We started working at the beginning of the semester, soliciting for both prayers and financial support. People know these students, and we presented the trip as not only educational but a ministry opportunity. We can in fact make a difference.”
“[We] will perform to the best of our ability,” said junior choir member Nathan Willems. “God will be honored and glorified though it and hopefully reach the Czech people with the gospel.”
The choir will be collaborating with two different choirs in the Czech Republic: the Pardubice University Choir and the adult choir of Chrudim. “Each choir sent us a piece that they really loved,” said Holm. The Czech choirs will be performing pieces in English, while the A capella Choir will be performing songs in Czech.
The group plans to visit a children’s home where Holm hopes that the choir will be able to “provide an hour of entertainment, acceptance and the presentation of the gospel” for the many children who live in the facility. The group will also visit a refugee camp, where men and women live in fear and distrust of armed guards as they wait for someone to sponsor them and help find homes.
“Doors are open to us that are not open to Christian ministries because we are a choir,” said Holm. “Through decades of Soviet rule there was no money or sporting events, but people were still able to sing and play instruments. Music held people in ways few other things did.”
The choir plans to entertain and share the gospel with these audiences through dramas and choral performances, yet the choir members know that their message might not be accepted.
“My attitude is not just to lay out the gospel,” said sophomore Katy Keese. “I hope that people will see Jesus in me. I want just to communicate God’s love through my interaction with them.” According to Keese, Professor Holm has given choir members lists of phrases so that they will be prepared to communicate with the Czech people.
The group also plans to visit the Auschwitz death camp. “Being in a place like Auschwitz is going to shake people,” Holm explained. “We see lots of violence in movies, but this violence is at least one generation removed. Standing next to bins of shoes or seeing the gas chambers where people were herded like cattle to be asphyxiated [causes] people to come to grips with the darkness of the enlightened man.”
“We pray for [the trip] every day. We’ve already seen God provide in terms of our financial support and there is no reason not to expect him to provide for the other things we’ve been praying for,” said Willems.
The trip, according to Holm, will require spiritual preparation and has challenged the choir to “not compromise their Christian faith.”