From the heart of Gail Kerstetter, Director of the University Singers
This morning we were able to sleep in a bit, which was great since the fiasco with the lighting situation the night before. We had a 10:00 am call time with equipment and met our new bus driver Dominigo. He’s also perfect in his Italian! And speaks about as much English as Fabio did. Anyway, we have prayed for the Lord to interpret for us!
Our destination today was Darby DOD school in Livorno, Italy for a 12:30 pm concert. Principal Kenneth Kirk met us at the gate today. The Italian guard made us open every one of our sound cases to investigate their contents. Even with this we were way ahead of time in comparison to the other bases. We were able to drive right up to the school and unload all of our equipment. This school had American plugs, so we had better sound here. We had an hour and a half for set up and rehearsal which was great since we hadn’t been able to rehearse at our hotel for this program. This was our long program, which included “America’s Songbook,” highlighting a number of styles of music original to America; barbershop, jazz, folk/country, pop, patriotic and songs from Disney. We featured as many voices as possible. We also do a rendition of Row, Row, Row Your Boat where each vocal part sings different words and melodies. After we demonstrate it for the school we invite some of their students to join us on the stage to sing it again. We also recruited a soldier in uniform to join in with the bass section. The kids ALWAYS love that part.
Before we begin the program we put our team cards out for the students. So then after the concert most of the kids want the University Singer’s autographs! It’s really cute!! We finished the concert, loaded up and realized that we hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast, which for some of us was at 7:00 am, and by now it was 2:00 pm. We were scheduled for a tour of Pisa, which was to be a 2 hour tour. However, we arrived to meet our city guide and were an hour and a half late. We hit traffic at the wrong time and then waited for a train. The tour guide was so very nice. She said our schedule was most important. By now it was 3:00 pm and we still hadn’t eaten so the team looked liked wilted flowers! Haha! She told us to go eat and then we would have about 30 minutes with her. We all scattered to different sandwich and gelato stands. Wow, does eating make a difference in this team’s attitude!
After leaving Pisa, we traveled back to the Base Chapel where we would set up and sing a concert tonight. This base had a beautiful white chapel with very large windows that opened (YAY), because they didn’t have air conditioning. The sound set up went smoothly tonight despite still not being able to EQ the room or use our own piano. They had a lovely digital piano that we played and it all worked out well. In fact, the sound seemed the best that it has been since we started the tour. We were also able to show our Ft. Benning video to the deployed soldiers and their families.
In tonight’s service, I told a very special story of giving and sacrifice. Earlier this year, after a concert, the youth pastor of the church where we were singing came up to me and said there was something very different in the offering that had been collected for the singers. He had been sitting next to Scarlette, a 13 year old girl, who had given her heart to the Lord only a week before. She wanted to give to the singers to support our upcoming mission to Italy, but she said she didn’t have any money. Around her neck was a beautiful turquoise cross that had been given to her just that morning by a woman from her church, to commemorate her saying yes to Jesus. This necklace must have been very special to her, but she placed it in the offering plate as her gift to us! That necklace has been with me everyday since, and has come to Italy as a reminder of the selfless giving of everyone supporting this mission.
There were several families there tonight with children that had seen us at the school that afternoon, who wanted to come to the concert and hear gospel music. One of the little girls, Audrey, drew us a sweet picture and thank you note. The moments that we spend talking with the families before and after the service are so meaningful. Tonight I met a family on their first deployment from Texas. They had only been here 4 months. I could tell by the way the wife talked that it was a tough adjustment and they missed their families. Other families I have met were 16-17 years into their careers and you can certainly tell a difference as those folks are well adjusted to the “moves of the military” and were able to appreciate the different cultures they found themselves in. I can’t tell you what a privilege it is to serve these people. You may never meet these folks or ever know their names, but these are those who are here giving a great sacrifice on our behalf.
By the way, we talk about YOU, the GOOD PEOPLE OF GOD, everywhere we go! It’s an honor to be here at the blessing of your resources. My heart is full!
And there was morning and there was evening of the eighth day.