From the heart of – Gail Kerstetter, Director of the University Singers
Our first Sunday to sing on a base! Aviano Air Force Base was somewhere we had visited on OFC 2015 and thoroughly enjoyed. Caitlyn Gardner, Zach Ford, Katy Dyches, Bob Kerstetter, Karl Westfall and myself were all on OFC 2015, and we were very excited to return! We arrived in plenty of time at the gate, and our Chaplain soon came to greet us. However, our names had somehow gotten confused with another celebrity concert that took place on Friday and they cleared us for that day. So, instead of being listed to sing at the Base Chapel for Sunday, we were listed as coming in with Trace Adkins on Friday! They had to rerun all our passports for clearance again! After what seemed like a long time in a hot bus, we were finally cleared and escorted to the chapel area with our Base Chaplain, Kenneth Johnson, who was such a precious soul! It was Mother’s Day and he prepared a wonderful message. We sang one A Cappella song at the offering time, “When God Dips His Love In My Heart.” The people really enjoyed it! It whet their appetite for the concert that we would be giving at 6:00 pm later that night on base.
For lunch, we went back to the hotel, changed our clothes and roamed the streets of Pordenone. We split up into small groups and ventured out to see what we could find. Most of us ended up with stories of pasta and pizza, but the Westfalls and the LT COL had Japanese! Haha!!
We went back to Aviano and this time got through the gate easily, since Chaplain Johnson gave us each 3 day passes. We arrived at the base that sits at the foot of a beautiful mountain range. While we were waiting for the doors to open, a thunder storm rolled through – right when we were trying to dash from the bus to the chapel! Anyway, we got in and began to set up. What was a challenge for us the last time was still a challenge for our first set up… sound, but more specifically, converting 110 voltage to 220 voltage. Another difference in this 2017 mission is that we brought a keyboard to be able to do live music and an EQ mic to try to help with the quality of our sound. There was a very helpful couple, named Matt and Kara, who offered to show us what to do with media and sound, what to plug in where, and advice for our future events in Italy. They also allowed us to plug into a large transformer, and that made things very easy for us!
The concert went very well, and our sound system was amazing – thank you LORD! We were able to sing with worry-free hearts, and the people were very receptive and appreciative. We showed our recent Ft. Benning video for those to see what we do at basic training with our troops. We had noticed a number of children in the congregation, so after we had completed our concert I decided to throw in a rendition of “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen. There were children all over the chapel singing their lungs out! So cute to see! One particular little blonde headed girl came up to us afterwards and cried tears of joy that we had been there and sung “Let It Go!” She danced while she sang along with us!
We had a wonderful time visiting the people at the Base Chapel. There were many conversations all over the chapel afterwards between our students and the troops and their families.
We had a pleasant surprise; Chaplain Monagle, the Wing Chaplain who previously thought he would be out of town, was present. He talked with me for quite a while, asking where we had been, how we had come to do this and then was very sincere in offering his thanks for coming and making the effort to come to the deployed troops. It was his decision to allow us to come to Aviano. One of our Wesleyan Chaplains, Col John Ditter had contacted him and recommended that we come. Chaplain Monagle said that was the reason he agreed.
Chaplain Kenneth Johnson and Chaplain Monagle asked us how they could pray for us, and we asked if we could pray for them. The team circled these two precious servants and prayed over them for God to protect, give guidance and wisdom. We truly fell in love with these guys!
And here we were! Our team had their first European on base experience! What God had called us to, we were seeing it come to fruition! Praise God!!!
And there was morning and evening of the fourth day.