Feb 16, 2010

Bridging the gap: a choir with a distinctly multicultural flavor is uniting students and crossing borders

by Camille Smith

International students at Liberty University have thousands of miles separating them from their families and friends. A different language can be challenging, and a new culture can be a difficult adjustment. However, there is at least one thing that can remain familiar — music.

The Timothy International Ministry (TIM) student choir was created in fall 2009 by Linda Barkley, an international student advisor and Rev. Harold L. Roberts of TIM, or as he is referred to by the international students, Pastor Rocky.

“Last summer, I believe the Lord inspired the idea of forming an international choir — a choir that could reach out to churches in the Lynchburg area,” Barkley said.

She believes the choir, while giving congregates a firsthand perspective of students from other parts of the world, challenges listeners with testimonies through song.

Barkley, having traveled with the Lynchburg Baptist College Chorale when she was a student in 1972, believes the Lord has given her the gift of music. That, paired with her position at Liberty working with international students daily, inspired the idea of the choir.

“Many of these young people are the first fruits of decades of missionary work and return on investments made by churches who supported the missionaries,” Barkley said.

Barkley went to Roberts with the idea of the choir, and they agreed it would be successful. There were over 45 in attendance at the first informational meeting.

“This is the first truly international choir of Liberty University,” Roberts said. “We have a lot of talent.”

The requirement to audition for the choir is a passport from another country. However, exceptions have been made for first generation American students. There are currently about 40 international students from 20 different countries singing in the choir, and there are still a few openings for the spring semester, according to Barkley.

“We are trying to introduce some music that they can sing in English with an international flavor to it,” Roberts said. “At this time, they are learning pretty traditional choir type music, and their voices are superb.”

Both Barkley and Roberts have engulfed themselves in the ministry of the international students at Liberty. As an international student advisor, Barkley’s role is similar to a student advocate with the added role as a government liaison. She helps students stay in status with their passports.

“It has been a wonderful opportunity to see the world through the eyes of our international students — to be exposed to their culture and languages,” Barkley said. “The international students at Liberty are so amazing.”

Roberts and his wife work independently, but have been closely affiliated with Liberty since 1996. They have an adopted Micronesian daughter in addition to six daughters of their own and consider themselves an international family. Having spent more than 25 years as missionaries overseas, they were challenged to use their cross-cultural experience working with international students on college campuses.

“I’ve never really felt more satisfied in any other ministry than when working with these international students,” Roberts said. “They are sharp, super kids, and we are really proud of them.”

Contact Camille Smith at

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