While most traditional SWU students were enjoying their last days at home for winter break, The University Singers gathered back to SWU campus on Wednesday, January 6, 2016 to rehearse for our upcoming engagement for NCMAF (National Conference on Ministry to the Armed Forces) in Washington DC. First stop however, was New Life Church in La Plata, MD where we led worship for New Life’s 4 services. The Singers were received warmly by the congregation and were hosted by Mike and Tina Hilson; pastor and wife. Following the Sunday services the team headed further north to Alexandria, VA where the NCMAF conference would be held.
Monday’s agenda included an exhilarating morning tour of the Pentagon where the team concluded with a medley of songs about our American Flag. Army Private First Class Nick Frazier who had led the tour was very moved and grateful for the musical gift.
Monday afternoon the team ventured on the Metro (first time experience for a number of the members) to Arlington Cemetery, Arlington House, The Changing of The Guard and the final resting place of John F Kennedy. Seeing all the pure white stones of Arlington was a moving experience, knowing that many of those resting there gave their last full measure of devotion to our country for the freedoms we enjoy.
Monday night the team, along with Military Chaplains and Chaplain Endorsers headed to the National Cathedral for a magnificent private tour. At least five of our team had never even been to Washington DC, so this was quite a treat. Following a multi-faith prayer service, we sang a patriotic A Cappella set in the beautiful Bethlehem chapel for the Chaplains and Endorsers. We found out quickly that God Bless America was a favorite of these congregants as they sang LOUDLY with us! I do want to thank the drivers on our team for getting us to the National Cathedral during rush hour ON TIME!! No small task!!
Tuesday brought new opportunity and surprise! We sang 45 minutes for the NCMAF attendees at a luncheon at the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center. We shared our stories with this group about our military involvement and our most recent overseas mission: OPERATION FREEDOM’S CADENCE. It was very humbling to speak with them afterwards. We were in the presence of those who had many deployments under their belts; many days away from family and the daunting task of taking care of our troops! And yet they were so very grateful for the small part in which we had played in the lives of our US military.
Tuesday night we enjoyed a delicious banquet hosted by the NAE (National Association of Evangelicals). We had the opportunity to speak with folks prior to the banquet and a number of them had remembered us from two years ago when we sang at the same event. Army, Col. Schumacher having heard the group previously was so excited to see us! He shared that he had never felt the presence of God more strongly in music than when he listened to us sing! WOW!! Chaplains Commission Director, Steve West was our contact for the NAE Banquet. He was very moved by our singing and displayed his gratitude in military style by presenting each team member with the NAE coin by placing it in the palms of our hands through a handshake. Eight of our 15 member team were first time recipients of such an honor. Those of us who had previously received military coins were no less enthralled. Director Steve West also gave me his personal coin from The United States Chaplain Corps, Langley Chapel, 633d Air Base Wing. I have to tell you that when a coin is placed in my palm it is the most humbling experience you can imagine!
While there were many new faces at NCMAF, there was one in particular that took my attention; beautiful 28 year old Chaplain Candidate, Maggie La Rocque.
In the concert that evening we shared testimonies of how God used us overseas and I quoted several lines from the song “When God Dips His Love In My Heart” prior to singing it. Following the evening’s events Maggie introduced herself to me with great emotion over our ministry and particularly the song we had shared. It was great to connect with a lovely young Christian women who had dedicated her life in service to her true King and country!
The University Singers also have a coin to give in appreciation to serving individuals. We had the pleasure of bestowing coins upon Col. Schumacher who gratefully received it with giving warm hugs back and to Chaplains Commission Director, Steve West who upon receiving the coin, giggled and said “I love getting these!”
God has once again given us an amazing experience with amazing people! We are so grateful to the “GOOD PEOPLE OF GOD” who continuously give of their resources so that we may bless and serve those who serve us!