Buckets of soapy water and
frozen candy bars are not the usual tools of a touring youth choir that more
typically ministers with their voices.
But on July 21, 68 choir
members and 11 adult leaders of the North Carolina Baptist All-State Youth
Choir literally washed the feet of street people in sweltering downtown
Raleigh, distributed hygiene kits, free shoes, new socks, bottled water and
frozen chocolate bars before their evening concert.
In just three days choir
members memorized 13 songs, several of which they performed for grateful
loiterers at Moore Park on an afternoon that reached 98 degrees. Choir members
each brought six pairs of new or gently used shoes when they came to their
first practice July 18 at Campbell University, where they practiced and stayed
Their first concert was July
20 at Campbell’s Butler Chapel.
“We have been working hard
since we arrived,” said Phil Campbell, this year’s tour coordinator, from First
Baptist Church in Lincolnton. “All of us are very excited about our tour.”
“We have kids from the
mountains to Wilmington,” said Campbell. “That is why this group is so
fantastic to work with.”
The choir learned their
diverse 13-song program with ease. Songs include classic hymns, current hits
and even an African language song of encouragement.
“The group has a lot of
different types of singers, which makes it tougher to get them on the same page
than ‘normal’ choir, but this group has done a wonderful job,” said Clif Harris,
Harris is associate pastor
of music at Winter Park Baptist Church in Wilmington. Even though he has been
involved with church music for 20 years he still gets excited whenever he
“Music is a great way to
spread God’s word, and that’s what we are trying to do on our tour,” said
Harris. “It is even more special and exciting when I get to direct the best
singers from around the state, so I am very blessed.”
“I have been doing service
projects with the choir for a few years, but this year when they told us to
bring three pairs of shoes I was prepared for anything,” said singer Charles
Parker from Snyder Memorial Baptist Church in Fayetteville.
In addition to distributing
shoes and socks, students gave out “survival kits” containing hand wipes, band
aids, toothpaste and other essential items. The group toured and learned about
the ministry of the Raleigh Rescue Mission, just across the street from the
“I love being a part of the
choir. The singing and the friendships are great, but what I love the most are
our ministry projects,” said singer Carter Benge from Snyder Memorial. “It is
just great to go out and help the less fortunate and spread God’s word.
Anything that we can do to help, we will.”
When asked earlier if the
idea of handling other’s feet bothered him, choir member Zachary Barham of
Greensboro said, “I don’t think so, but I guess I’ll see tomorrow. It is all
for God, so I’m sure I’ll be able to handle it.”
Karen Hoffman, church and
community relations director for the Raleigh Rescue Mission, oriented students
on each of two buses before they disembarked in Raleigh.
“We don’t wash people’s feet
just because they’re dirty,” she told apprehensive, but excited choir members.
“We wash them because we are the hands and feet of Jesus. Your faith compels
you to do as Jesus did.”
Under the watchful,
expectant eyes of park regulars, choir members set up distribution stations and
ate a white bread sandwich much like the lunch of most of their audience.
Once they started washing
feet the line quickly formed, men on the right, women on the left. They were
not bashful to doff their shoes and dip their toes in the soapy water.
“We’re doing what Jesus
would do,” said fourth year choir member Emily Johnson, from Woodlawn Baptist
Church in Conover. “This is putting away your own pride, realizing there are
people out there for whom this is the best thing we could do for them … they
won’t remember my face or my name, but I made a difference.”
After a concert that night
at Forest Hills Baptist Church in Raleigh, the choir was to perform on
succeeding nights in Lumberton, Durham and Wilmington.
“I think it will be hectic
and crazy with all the traveling, but I am really having fun,” said veteran
member Shelby Ludlum of Scotland Neck. “I just want to spread God’s love in any
way I can.”
“Any way I can” now includes
for North Carolina Baptist Youth Choir members washing the feet of others —
just as Jesus did.
(EDITOR’S NOTE — Nussbaum is a communications
student at Campbell University. BR Editor Norman Jameson contributed to this
story from Moore Square. Follow the blog.)