A Little Recognition

Very appreciated, but not always properly recognized, the University Singers’ Noah Cromer does his job with pride. He is the team’s sound engineer. His job is to control the mix of the various microphones and speakers used by The Singers in their many performances. And though the audience can hear the difference that he makes, they very seldom realize it. So here, for everyone’s benefit, is a brief profile of Noah Cromer.

Photo By: Zack Adams
Photo By: Zack Adams

A former homeschooler from Temperance Michigan, Noah is a freshman of Southern Wesleyan University, double majoring in piano and ministry. Unfortunately, while with the Singers, he is not often able to flaunt his excellent piano proficiency. He is also very successful academically.

To everyone’s advantage, though, Noah is able to use his great musical talent with The Singers. Having a good auditory acuity is vital in sound mixing. Noah said, “Probably the hardest part of running sound is trying to listen to all of the different parts. . . other than that, it’s pretty easy.” He also sings with the group on several of the concert selections. His ministry with the OFC team also spans beyond their music. While at Aviano Air Force Base, we all watched in tender amusement as he played with a group of small children. He was ministering even as the rest of us were hungrily engaging the marvelous dinner provided by the chaplain.

So, all things considered, Noah’s musical talent does not supplant his other ministry. However, it does not always receive all of the recognition which it deserves either. Still, he uses his gifts for God’s glory; and that, dear reader, is all that really matters.

Reporting from Italy,
Aaron Brickle

Small Person, Big Voice 

A small person with a big voice! Caitlyn Gardner is truly a gifted person with an amazing voice. The only way she can best describe how blessed she is her gifts are for the Lord. On the inside, she says she is just singing. On the outside, it can fill the room with wonder and great vocal runs.

How did this amazing singer become inspired to join the University Singers? She explained that her impression of the singers alone was enough.

“I fell in love with the team when they came to my church”. When she was a little girl”.

She is currently a rising junior from Kannapolis, North Carolina. She is majoring in Human Services and plans to make music her minor. Caitlyn has a gentle heart for people, is kind and most of all gregarious! Ideally, she would like to find a job in Human Services but wants to continue to sing. If she could guarantee a successful career in music, she would travel the country singing Jazz or Gospel.

Caitlyn Gardner has this soulful centered voice that can accompany any good jazz music. Considering Jazz, she is also a part of the Jazz Band at Southern Wesleyan University. Her vocal range is incredible! One song that stands out from all the rest is, ” When God Dips His Love” as Caitlyn performs a dynamic solo with powerful backup vocals. When all the singers come together, it fills the room! She explains,

“When I sing, that is my worship. There is something so deep in me that it’s as close as I can get to the Lord. “

Examining Talent,
Levi Roach

Thou O Lord

This rendition of Thou O Lord by the University Singers is from their performance at Garmisch Air Base USAG chapel service. The song communicates the message of relying on God for strength and protection. God has provided the Singers with the strength and energy they’ve needed to take on a rigorous travel schedule to share Christ with many military families. Listen to the University Singers make a joyful noise to the Lord and enjoy some  of the sights of God’s beautiful creation that the Singers were able to see.

Great is Thy Faithfulness

A gorgeous arrangement of the classic hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness, this song shows the dedication of the University Singers to both musical and spiritual excellence. The lyrics speak of God’s unfailing faithfulness, and the photos and video show the  work of The OFC Team while in Europe. We hope you enjoy.

Never Once

“Never Once” is a new song in the University Singer’s repertoire. The lyrics relay a strong message of God’s constant presence through our earthly battles. This song has had a powerful imact on our team and their audiences. The pictures and videos display our experiences traveling and worshiping together during the first three days.

Kacey Blackwell

Golden Dream

The ministry of the University Singers has been to mainly military personnel. In this video the Singers ministered to Army and Air Force men and women through Disney’s Epcot theme song, “Golden Dream”, the Singers most difficult a cappella piece. It has taken us a few days to work on it, but I am excited to show you the incredible ministry you have contributed to through financial and prayer support.

Vincenzo and the Crash of ’15

It was a pretty normal day. After the exhilaration of a morning spent touring in Venice, the OFC team had settled back for a long bus ride to Florence. As has become typical on these extended trips in the bus, the occupants of the last two rows were throwing themselves into a comical uproar. Tanner Lambert, the Univertsity Singers’ highest tenor, was merrily leading us on a verbal “tour” of Italy. Sides were split was he described his adventures in the “Dojo’s Palace.” Then, just like that, our cacophony of raucous laughter came crashing to a halt, just like the cars in front of us.

Now, it is high time we recognized the most important, unofficial member of the OFC team: our driver, Vincenzo Pedonta. Without the services of this colorful man, Operation Freedom’s Cadence would have gone nowhere fast. As the cars in front of us collided and swerved, he dodged left with incredible swiftness, and impeccable skill. While the rest of us froze in our places, unsure of what was happening, Vincenzo’s constant awareness prevented a situation far worse than the one which actually occurred. 

All of this took place in seconds. Not twenty seconds after the accident, we had pulled over – assessing the situation. Debris littered the highway behind our bus. A black car, the original size of which we could no longer tell, sat motionless and completely backwards against the now misshapen guardrail. In front of us, the small van which had been involved had slid to a quiet stop.

It was scary.

Next, came the noisy morass of questions. We blew a tire, right? Did we just hit that car? What happened? Is everybody OK?!?

Relief came as we saw the passengers of the mangled black car step out of their vehicle – especially as we saw the one coming from the driver’s side. The driver of the little van had also gotten out, and was inspecting the damage to his own car. Dr. Carr, the team’s veteran military chaplain, came towards the back of the bus, guiding disturbed students through the shock of witnessing such a violent crash. Fortunately, everyone seemed to be just fine, and after a short stop, we were on our way again. We talked about it, we prayed about it, and we overcame the adrenaline of it. And Vincenzo… Well, he just keeps on “truckin'”. 

Still alive (Thank the Lord),

Aaron Brickle

Omnipotent, Omnipresent Intimacy

How can such a big, all-knowing God be with everyone at all times and yet orchestrate and bless every detail of our individual lives? It’s a mind-blowing reality that whether we are home or in Europe the Holy Spirit shows Himself mighty often, in our eyes, in insignificant ways. If we could be honest with ourselves, there are circumstances in life that we would not choose, but I am continually reminded that “God works all things for our good and His glory”. Singers and Media students from a small university in Central, SC traveled to Europe and are seeing God work in miraculous ways.

The Operation Freedom’s Cadence (OFC) team previously visited Landstuhl Army Base in Landstuhl, Germany and Regional Medical Center along with Spangdahlem Air Force Base in Bitberg, Germany. Sunday morning, May 17th, 2015 we began our mission in Landstuhl. Upon our arrival the University Singers set up their equipment in preparation for the 11 o’clock chapel service. All who came were blessed by music and testimony and we were blessed by their hospitality. After the service we were treated to lunch at Bruno’s, an Italian Restaurant on base. We were privileged to meet and fellowship with military personnel and their families. Kaycee Blackwell and I met Chris, his wife Tammy and also U.S. Army Officer Monique, a woman who once served as a Drill Sergent. We loved hearing about their families and the different bases and jobs where they served and were sad that we had such a short time with them. Shortly after lunch we headed to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center.

Landstuhl Regional Medical Center is the largest hospital in Germany and cares for our troops and their families, Afghanis, Africom, and others. Our first bit of news at the hospital was that actor and comedian, George Lopez, was inside visiting with patients. As exciting as that was, nothing could compare to what we were about to experience. Only part of our large team was able to go inside but, thankfully, I was allowed to be the photographer and videographer inside.

First, we sang to a young soldier being treated for his pancreas and who appreciated the music and prayer by retired Navy Chaplain, Gary Carr. We then moved to another ward were we met a favorite of ours, April. We found out that April is from South Carolina, not too far from Southern Wesleyan University. She shared that her tour was over because of her medical condition and would be heading home soon. Reverend Gail Kerstetter asked if the University Singers could sing for her and she consented with a request for something peppy. The University Singers followed with, “When God Dips His Love in My Heart”. April clapped along and enjoyed the music and toward the end became emotional. She mentioned that she streams her church services online and hadn’t missed a Sunday yet. After, she expressed her appreciation for the special music. After sharing our thankfulness for her and her courage and sacrifice, we proceeded throughout the hospital and headed back to the bus. While at the hospital we met two people from right in our back yard and were encouraged to see God’s hand in the mission He has sent us on.

One of the most memorable moments happened after we left the hospital and were on the bus. Assistant Army Chaplain Sergent King rode with us to the entrance of the base and before leaving began to tell us of a recent mission he had been a part that which included sixty fallen heroes. He told us that those situations are the hardest part of his job. He then explained about the flags that are draped over the fallen soldiers between the battlefield and home. He informed us that there are about six or seven different flags that are draped over the caskets and the last flag is the flag presented to the family at the burial. The other flags, after use, are considered soiled and are properly disposed of. In his hand he held three cut-out stars from a “soiled” flag and presented them to retired Navy Chaplain Gary Carr and Reverends Bob and Gail Kerstetter. Chaplain Gary Carr shared his thoughts about receiving a star:

“More important than the star itself is the life it represents. Receiving that gift from Sergeant King was not only a great honor but also a humbling experience, because the joy of receiving the gift is only exceeded by the sadness of what that gift cost. One of our finest Americans gave his life for freedom.”

Although there are more stories to share from yesterday, I hope you can see the hand of God active and intimately involved in Operation Freedom’s Cadence. We consider OFC and honor and a privilege to be a part of The mission of our Commander and Chief Jesus Christ. Thank you for your prayer and support.

We Hit The Alps

Eight hours a day in planes, trains, and automobiles has left the team in a stupor. With 4000+ miles of confined spaces and expensive visits to the restroom, we have learned the truth about the morose tedium of international travel. Fortunately, our team has managed to bear our “great burden” of jet-lag, hard work, and early mornings with good humor. Mirth, happiness, and, frankly obnoxious, spurts of laughter, filled our bus ride across Germany. Then… We hit the Alps.

A mad dash ensued; everyone scrambling for cameras and views of God’s finest wrinkling of the earth. It was a sight to behold: the frenzied hunt for the perfect picture, that is. Many “wow!”s were voiced; many praises to God were spoken. And in the end, the plethora of gorgeous photos taken outweighs the many near death experiences faced by the brave photographers. The environment looked like a green screen; like something out of a movie. Blacks, greys, and whites formed a perfect picture of God’s creative glory.

The singers finished the day with a beautiful performance at the chapel of the US Army base in Garmisch, Germany. Nestled comfortably at the foot of a massive mountain, the venue was perfect, inside and out. And while the concert’s attendance was not as great as others, it was definitely the most musically solid performance the group had yet put on. No doubt, every soul present was touched by their beautiful ministry… and the view…

Reporting with wonder,
  Aaron Brickle.

Serving through Worship and Fellowship!

Serving the military through worship provided a new perspective for The University Singers. They began a busy day with three back to back concerts. They first traveled to Landstuhl Army Base where Gail Kerstetter led The Singers in a worship service that incorporated different genres of songs from contemporary worship to hymns. After a great service, the team met some military families and pastors, who later shared lunch and an opportunity to fellowship with one another.

The next stop was the base hospital, which is the biggest military hospital in Europe. The Singer performed for and ministered to select patients who were truly touched by there message of worship. Following the hospital stop, the team ran 45 minutes late getting to our last concert at Spangdahelm Air Force Base. After setting up equipment and  singing to a large crowd, the children’s pastor spoke to one of the singers. She expressed how grateful she was that the Singers were running late because she never gets to hear the service but she got to hear two songs that, “blessed [her] heart.”

Romans 8:28 says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.”

The University Singers had a purpose to fulfill that day and being late allowed them to do so.

Coming to you from Europe, until next time
Kaycee Blackwell