LU Praise shares the message Christ through song during trip to China
- Members of Liberty’s gospel choir performed at the 2017 Hainan Choir Festival, before Chinese Communist leaders and Christian churches.
- As the group was gone over Thanksgiving break, a missionary family prepared a Thanksgiving meal for the choir and faculty.
LU Praise, Liberty’s gospel concert choir, returned Nov. 27 from a trip to perform in front of the Chinese government in the 2017 Hainan Choir Festival on Hainan Island in China.
While the trip lasted only 13 days, it provided opportunities for the choir to perform at a state church, an underground church, two universities and before 60 of the nation’s communist leaders. The group consisted of 30 students, the dean of the School of Music Dr. Vernon Whaley and his wife, and provost and chief academic officer of Liberty University, Dr. Ronald Hawkins and his wife.
According to Whaley, one of the most impactful moments occurred when the choir performed before 60 of the nation’s leaders. They were given the unique opportunity to sing about Jesus in a communist nation, sharing Christ to many who had never heard it before.
“All of our songs we sang were about Jesus, without exception,” Whaley said. “We just got up and sang about Jesus, and they were like, ‘Wow.’ And they were singing what we had just demonstrated.”
LU Praise also sang at Hainan University, which, according to its website, has an enrollment of 37,900 students. Whaley also had the opportunity to teach a lecture to hundreds of their educators. He shared his experience there, telling how it affected him deeply.
“This group gets around me and a lady leans over and she says, ‘I want you to know, I love Jesus too.’ And she says, ‘So does my family, and so do all of us right here,’” Whaley said. “It was one of the most moving moments of my life. I almost just broke down and cried. It was so moving to see how bold they were about their faith.”
Another moment that impacted the choir and Whaley came, not from what the team gave, but from what they received. The group’s trip took place over Thanksgiving break, and, because of that, they were planning on skipping the holiday. Whaley tells how God rewarded the group’s sacrifice.
“I get a telephone call on Wednesday, and it was (a) missionary family asking if since, ‘We know you’re gone for Thanksgiving, we would like to fix Thanksgiving dinner for you,’” Whaley said. “They had a friend and he has a meat store, and he’s willing to cook the turkey and the ham.”
LU Praise member and senior Samuel Petty also recalls how this small act of kindness expressed to him the love of Christ.
“They offered to make us a Thanksgiving dinner from what little money they had,” Petty said. “It wasn’t a lot of things but the fact that it came from a couple who loved Jesus, who was sharing the gospel thousands of miles away from where that same level of Christ that’s evident on campus, that’s evident in Lynchburg was also evident in China. That was probably one of things that really just touched my heart.”
Whaley also explained why the choir was able to be such a light in a communist nation with religious restrictions.
“The Chinese government has invested $1 billion to teach the Chinese people how to sing western choir,” Whaley said. “The reality is they have found that western choir helps build community…They see the value of how the children, when they learn how to sing choir together, learn how to get along together. They learn how to sing together (and are) not selfish as they were before.”